If Maryland is going to get to a team-record third straight NCAA post-season appearance, they need to follow a familiar path. Because the 2016 season's opponents are by and large teams Maryland has played during the previous two years. Liberty, Delaware, GWU, VCU, JMU, Towson, WVU, and Bryant are on tap in 2016.
Maryland does play an ACC school, Pittsburgh (weren't they supposed to be our rivals in the ACC????). The Panthers were not much better last year than in 2014 when the Terps travelled up there and swept Pittsburgh by a combined score of 32-6. Noticeably absent are games against real rival Virginia and potential rivals like VA Tech and NC State. Instead of the Ripken Cup being against Towson, wouldn't it be better to have Maryland and one of the aforementioned schools battling it out?
TheTerps' B1G opponents at home are Ohio State, Purdue, Illinois, and Rutgers. On the road await Iowa, Minnesota, Penn State, and Michigan State. The series at home against Illinois and on the road against Iowa will probably be the Terps' toughest tests. Unfortunately the Terps don't play Michigan, a team that could battle Maryland for tops in the B1G.
Here are what I perceive will be the non-B1G critical series in 2016:
1. Cal Sate Fullerton. The Terps came close to sweeping perennial powerhouse CS Fullerton at Shipley in 2015. The Titans ended up being an NCAA participant, and Maryland will have it's work cut out for them when they travel to Fullerton's place in March. On the west coast swing the Terps will also play a single game against the UC Irvine Anteaters. UC Irvine is a high RPI team and that will be an important OOC game.
2. Keith LeClair Tournament. This is an annual event, with the East Carolina Pirates serving as the host school. Besides East Carolina the Terps will play Tennessee and Southeast Louisiana. The toughest opponent here is NCAA tournament participant East Carolina.
3. Alabama. The Terps open up 2016 by travelling down to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama. The Crimson Tide were NCAA participants in 2014, but sat out last year despite an RPI of 45 and a SOS of 8. Alabama spent $42.6 million renovating their stadium and facilities, and the Terps will be the first opposing team to play there.
Maryland plays Bryant, High Point and Rhode Island in other three-game series. It is difficult enticing southern teams to come up to College Park to play games early in the season. Thus playing Bryant and Rhode Island are ways to get early season home games penciled in. The alternative would be to play the first 15-20 games on the road, which some teams actually do, but which Maryland wisely avoids.
Midweek games tend to get overlooked, but they can impact a team's RPI. Maryland takes on the traditionally tough VCU Rams in a home-and-home series. Last year the Rams had a great NCAA run, making it to the Super Regional round. The Terps also have a home-and-home against Liberty, and travel to Morgantown to take on West Virginia.