You may be asking yourself, Noah, did you just make a Game of Thrones reference that also happens to tie in perfectly with your Terrapin Title Tracker column? The answer is yes. How do I do it you ask? I wish I knew. Why do I do it you ask? Because I love my readers. And it gives me the ability to show this!
Thank you Tom McGrath!
Men's Soccer (Big Ten Regular Season Champions)
Record - 2-0. Men's Soccer won the game they needed to win against Rutgers on the road last Wednesday (they won 3-2) and won the Big Ten regular season title on the field of the Big Ten's other new member institution.
I am giving the Terps another win because they beat Rutgers again (2-0 this time) on Sunday in the Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals. The Terps will host the semifinals and finals of the Big Ten Men's Soccer Tournament at Ludwig which will be on Friday and Sunday.
Grade: A+. Maryland hasn't lost in over a month and they have been getting A+ grades from me since I started the inception of the Terrapin Title Tracker. They just won the Big Ten title. I'm not stopping now.
Games left: They have the semifinal of the Big Ten Tournament against Michigan State, who took out the four seed Penn State Nittany Lions in State College, on Friday. If they make it past the Spartans they will play the winner of Ohio State (seeded second) and Indiana (seeded sixth).
When I wrote my very first Terrapin Title Tracker column back in mid-October, I wrote that Men's Soccer's chances to win the Big Ten weren't great. They were pretty far down in the standings and they had to have a lot of things fall their way in order to get back in the hunt for the title. The one thing they needed to do most was win out. In my second column I gave them a much better chance to win (4 out of 5). The games they needed to fall their way fell their way. They needed wins and they got wins and now they wear the crown of Big Ten champions.
Hats off to the men. Like Field Hockey, Men's Soccer has won the Big Ten championship in their first season in the conference and funny enough, both Field Hockey and Men's Soccer did it after losing to Northwestern in Evanston by the score of 3-2 (although Field Hockey lost in September and had a longer winning streak afterwards). Here is the bottom line: The Terps are probably as hot as any team in the country. They are on a nine game win streak that has seen them go from 3-5-2 (1-2-1) to 12-5-2 (5-2-1). They are outscoring teams 23-6 during the stretch. They are 13th in the coaches poll and if they win their next two games in the Big Ten tournament and take the tournament title, this team should earn a #2 or #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Field Hockey beat down Ohio State last Thursday 5-0 and got past Penn State on Friday by the score of 1-0 but they couldn't get past the last team that beat them during the regular season. Northwestern dominated Maryland 3-1 in the Big Ten Tournament final and prevented Maryland from sweeping the regular season and tournament titles in their inaugural season in the Big Ten.
Now the real fun begins. Maryland is the #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. For those that are not familiar with how the field hockey tournament works, I will explain it to you. Here is the bracket. There are four play-in games to fill out the field of 16. That's right, there are only 16 teams. The play-in winners play the top four seeds. I think Maryland has the best draw of the whole freaking tournament. Maryland has already crushed Princeton, who will probably win the play-in against Monmouth.
Wake Forest poses an interesting challenge because they have the ACC Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year as well as the ACC Coach of the Year. They won the ACC Tournament but not the regular season title. The Deacs had an 11-6 record in the regular season and were the fourth seed in their conference tournament. The best thing that Maryland has going for them is both the #1 seed (UNC, Maryland's arch-rival and former existential conference nemesis) and their other soon-to-be arch-rival and existential conference nemesis, Northwestern, are on the other side of the bracket.
Those two teams (UNC and Northwestern) could be meeting in the Elite Eight, which is a complete load of crap. Northwestern isn't even seeded after beating Maryland twice, taking second in the Big Ten in the regular season and winning the conference tournament. The NCAA loves ACC teams for field hockey and there are six of them in the field. Penn State and Northwestern have ACC team match-ups in the first round (and potentially in the second round too) and Maryland could face an ACC team in Wake in the second round.
Maryland's mission is simple, win. They have won a lot of NCAA Championships under Missy Meharg and this team has the potential to win it all this year. The Field Hockey Final Four is being held in College Park and the Terps have made six straight Final Fours. I believe they will make it seven this year. Maryland starts NCAA Tournament play against the winner of Monmouth and Princeton on Saturday and if they advance they will play the Wake/Albany winner on Sunday.
Record: 0-2. Volleyball dropped two matches against two top-20 teams back to back. They lost 3-1 to #18 Ohio State in Columbus and lost 3-0 to head coach Steve Aird's former team, #6 Penn State, 3-0 in State College.
Title Chances: 0. Maryland was statistically eliminated weeks ago.
Games left: They have six games left. Ranked Purdue and Nebraska this week. Minnesota and ranked Penn State next week. Iowa and the season and Senior Day finale against Northwestern the week after that.
Maryland's first season in the Big Ten has been akin to throwing a kid in an Olympic-sized pool and telling them to do laps after only a couple of swimming lessons. This team was not ready to compete in the Big Ten and they weren't expected to be. Rebuilding will take time but every week and every agonizing and embarrassing loss is a reminder of just how far they have to go.
If you want to read about just how comical the travel schedule can be for the volleyball team, read this piece by Ben Rodeffer.
Record: 0-1. Maryland tied George Mason 16-16 but lost on criteria so Mason got the 17-16 win, shocking the heavily favored Terps in College Park.
Grade: F. A horrible start to the season for the Terps, who were hoping to establish themselves in the top half of the powerhouse Big Ten in their first season.
Title Chances: 0%. Like Volleyball, wrestling has no shot to win the Big Ten this year. I could confidently say that I don't think Maryland will win the Big Ten in wrestling in this decade or even next decade. Could they have a chance to do so? Sure. The reason I seem like a negative Nancy here is because of just how good the Big Ten is at wrestling. Penn State is the four-time defending national champions. They took that crown from Iowa who held it for two years and Iowa took it from Minnesota. You get the picture here. The last time a non-Big Ten team won the title it was March of 2007 and Avril Lavigne's 'Girlfriend' just hit the top of the charts! The top four teams in the Big Ten (PSU, Iowa, Minnesota and Ohio State) are on a different level than everyone else.
Games left: A ton. Link is here. This week, the Terps head to Madison to take on a ranked Badgers team and then head to Lincoln two days later to take on a ranked Huskers team. This is going to be life in the Big Ten and if duals like the one they wrestled against George Mason are any indication, it could be a long, long season for Maryland wrestling.
Maryland wrestled with four of their back-ups against Mason for the 125, 133, 141 and 149 pound weight classes. Head coach Kerry McCoy told me that this was done for a combination of reasons involving health and in some cases, discipline. Maryland can't afford to wrestle their B-team against decent or half-way decent teams like George Mason because they will lose. They need their best wrestlers on the mat and I expect them to wrestle this week.