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Should Mark Turgeon wear a tie during Maryland’s Big Ten tournament games?

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An in-depth answer to a very important question.

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

The story of the 2017-18 Maryland basketball season is almost entirely written. The Terps entered the season with a young and promising team that was on the cusp of the top 25 early on. But turnovers, injuries and a preposterous inability to win on the road changed Maryland’s fortunes for the worse. The team posted its worst Big Ten record since joining the league, and if the Terps don’t win this weekend’s conference tournament as a No. 8 seed, their streak of three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances will be over.

In the midst of all this, one of the most noticeable yet rarely referenced sublpots of the season has been head coach Mark Turgeon’s wardrobe. For most of his Maryland tenure, Turgeon has worn a full suit and tie on the sideline. This season, he turned to a more casual look, keeping the jacket but ditching the tie, instead coaching in shirts of several different colors. But he switched back to a tie when the Terps visited Purdue on Jan. 31, and he only reverted to the popped collar once after that.

Nobody has asked him about this. I thought about it roughly 20 different times myself, but each time decided a press conference was not the time or place for such discussion. But the conundrum is clear. Maryland needs to win the Big Ten title this weekend, and Turgeon will need to wear what’s worked best.

To solve this problem, I looked at how Maryland has fared in each game since the new year, then compared results with and without a tie. I used the new year as the cutoff for two reasons: Maryland has played entirely Big Ten teams since then, and the roster has largely stayed constant for all of those contests (both Justin Jackson and Ivan Bender suffered their season-ending injuries in December).

The games

Date Opponent Tie? Result Off. Eff Def. Eff.
Date Opponent Tie? Result Off. Eff Def. Eff.
Tue Jan 2 Penn St. No W, 75-69 115.3 106.1
Thu Jan 4 Michigan St. No L, 91-61 97.4 145.3
Sun Jan 7 Iowa No W, 91-73 128.5 103.1
Thu Jan 11 Ohio St. No L, 91-69 104.5 137.8
Mon Jan 15 Michigan No L, 68-67 101.2 102.8
Thu Jan 18 Minnesota No W, 77-66 114.5 98.2
Mon Jan 22 Indiana No L, 71-68 95.3 99.5
Sun Jan 28 Michigan St. No L, 74-68 105.5 114.8
Wed Jan 31 Purdue Yes L, 75-67 103 115.3
Sun Feb 4 Wisconsin Yes W, 68-63 115 106.5
Wed Feb 7 Penn St. No L, 74-70 112.7 119.2
Sat Feb 10 Northwestern Yes W, 73-57 118.3 92.4
Tue Feb 13 Nebraska Yes L, 70-66 103.7 110
Sat Feb 17 Rutgers Yes W, 61-51 100 83.6
Mon Feb 19 Northwestern Yes W, 71-64 111.8 100.8
Sat Feb 24 Michigan Yes L, 85-61 96 133.8

After running through the averages, we get:

  • With the tie: 4-3, 106.50 Offense, 107.87 Defense
  • Without the tie: 3-6, 108.32 Offense, 114.09 Defense

We’re using offensive and defensive efficiency ratings (from KenPom) to make this decision because those numbers are most effectively adjusted to the competition. Maryland played a harder schedule in the collar-popping days of January, so a simple look at the record isn’t enough. These numbers suggest Maryland’s offense was slightly better without the tie, but its defense significantly improved alongside Turgeon’s formality. The margin sits at minus-1.27 with and minus-5.77 without.

Looking at some other stats, the tie appears to maintain a slight edge. Maryland’s effective field goal percentage is slightly better on both ends, and while the Terps turned the ball over nearly 3 percent more frequently, they also forced 2 percent more turnovers on defense. There are outlier games on both sides: blowouts against Michigan State and Ohio State happened sans tie, while Saturday’s Michigan drubbing was with it. The difference isn’t massive—if we’re being honest, it shouldn’t be—but we’ve come to a decision.

The verdict

Maryland has played better all-around basketball with Turgeon wearing a tie, putting up a winning record despite the thin roster. The Terps even won an away game with Turgeon in a tie last week; their only previous road victory was against Illinois in December (no tie in that one, except at the end of regulation).

Plus, it’s New York, the business capital of the world. You can’t go four feet in the city without seeing someone in a tie. The Big Ten tournament is a rather formal event, with plenty of eyes on the league that wouldn’t be otherwise. A casual look would feel more out of place this week than any other.

So for Maryland to have a successful weekend, Turgeon will need to take a look in the mirror. He’ll need to construct a game plan for the wide and skinny ends of his tie, going under and around and through the loop as necessary. And he’ll need to have his team looking just as good as his suit Thursday and beyond.