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The Big Picture: Maryland's Place in the ACC Race

Not too long ago, we thought that Maryland had a legitimate shot at the ACC regular season title - an outside shot, but a legitimate one. A few developments have made that dream significantly harder to achieve, but it's holding on by a thread. Let's take a look, shall we?

Here's what the top of the ACC looks like right now, using KenPom for the Avg. Rank and Predicted Record.

Conference Record Remaining Opp. Avg. Rank Predicted Record
Duke 9-2 41 13-3
Wake Forest 8-3 40 11-5
Virginia Tech 7-3 37 10-6
Maryland 7-3 35 11-5
Clemson 6-5 29 8-8
Florida State 6-5 44 9-7

First, a few general observations: FSU is a darkhorse here. They have the easiest schedule, and they get the two remaining top 6 opponents - Clemson and Wake Forest - in Tallahassee. The fact that they have to travel to Charlottesville to face the Hoos is problematic, as is the fact that they have to play UNC in Chapel Hill, but if they can pull off a few hard road wins, they're a major contender.

Clemson, meanwhile, is pretty dead in the water unless they pull off a remarkable finish to the year. Not only is their schedule the hardest straight up, they have to travel to College Park, Tallahassee, and Winston-Salem. Bye-bye Tigers.

Virginia Tech is a team no one is talking about, but they could surprise some people; their schedule is by no means easy, but they get Wake and Maryland at home, and two of their road games are against Boston College and N.C. State, which they should win anyway.

But back to Maryland and what they need to do. I'll go with the less plausible model first: winning the ACC.

The Duke loss hurt, but was far from crippling. Maryland gets another shot at the Dukies, and it's at home this time. After seeing how Maryland has destroyed some teams at home, there's a good chance they pull off that upset. That would get them even with Duke, make up for the Cameron loss, and bring their record up to 12-4.

Assuming both teams were to go undefeated outside of that game (a probability for Duke...not so much for Maryland, but probably a necessity), they'd be tied at #1 and tied head-to-head. The next tie breaker would be record against the #3 team in the conference. If they're tied there, it'd go down to the next team, and so on and so forth, until there's a difference. It's looking increasingly likely that Wake Forest, whom Duke has beaten and Maryland lost to, will be that #3 team. Even if they were leapfrogged by any other team in the top 6, the record between Maryland and Duke would be a tie, and it would go down to the next opponent, which would eventually be Wake Forest.

In fact, the only shot Maryland has, assuming Duke only loses to Maryland, would be if Georgia Tech miraculously lost to Maryland but won their remaining four games and Wake Forest lost every remaining game OR won one remaining game and lost the tiebreaker to GT (that would get tpo complicated to predict). So, yeah, unlikely. It does make the Wake Forest loss hurt more, because GT might actually pass Clemson, and then Maryland would have the tiebreaker. But that's not the way it worked out, so that's not the situation.

Instead, to have any shot at actually winning the ACC, Duke would need to fall twice more this year (once to Maryland), and the Terps would have to go undefeated. Losing any game other than to Maryland would be a major shock for Duke - outside of MD, they have only one more top 50 opponent (VT), and that's at Cameron. So that's probably finished.

But Maryland's not out of it for second place. Again, they'd have to finish above Wake Forest - a tie would go to the Demon Deacons - but that's not impossible. Wake's schedule might look easy, but VT in Blacksburg and FSU in Tallahassee are probable losses. If Maryland went undefeated, that would be all it would take. If not, it would be a little harder and take one more loss, like N.C. State in Raleigh or the season closer against Clemson in Winston-Salem. Again, things would be made a lot easier if Maryland went undefeated the rest of the way.

But what's the big deal for second place? Isn't that just first loser? They still get a bye with 3rd place, right? Well, yeah, but it's all about seedings in the ACC Tournament. Let me ask you, would you rather play on a neutral court: Virginia, or Florida State? I assume the answer would be the Cavs, given how Greivis just demolished them. Well, that's the difference between 2nd and 3rd right now.

We'll keep track of this and occasionally check back in to see where Maryland stands, and what they're shot at winning the whole thing is.