The NCAA women’s basketball selection committee released its first top-16 rankings for this year’s tournament, and Maryland wasn’t included.
The Terps haven’t been ranked lower than 15th in either the AP or Coaches Poll all season, but their resume wasn’t enough to impress the committee. Despite being 14th in the most recent AP Poll, Maryland has an RPI of just 35, which is sixth in the Big Ten and 21 spots below any team ranked above them this week.
UConn sits atop the first rankings, while Mississippi State, Louisville and Oregon rounded out the top four seeds. Defending champion South Carolina debuted at No. 8, and Big Ten foes Ohio State and Rutgers checked in at No. 10 and No. 15, respectively.
Like last year, the Terps are hamstrung by a lack of quality wins and a less than impressive non-conference schedule. Maryland has three wins against the RPI top 50, but none against the RPI top 25. Iowa was in the top 25 when the Terps beat the Hawkeyes at the Xfinity Center on Jan. 4, but have lost two out of three since to drop to No. 29.
Unlike last season, when Maryland’s only chance to pick up a quality conference win was against Ohio State, there will be multiple chances for resume building wins before the selection show on March 12.
The Terps host No. 8 Ohio State on Monday, have two games remaining against No. 25 Rutgers and will travel to No. 19 Michigan on Feb. 22. Maryland will probably have to beat Ohio State and win two of those other games to be in good position for a top-16 seed.
Though Maryland’s non-conference schedule is an improvement over last year, it still isn’t good enough. Although it played South Carolina and Connecticut in November, the Terps still played six opponents with an RPI greater than 200. The result is the 68th-best schedule in the country, and the only top-16 seed to play an easier schedule so far this season is Baylor, who has an SOS of 102. Take out Baylor, and Maryland’s strength of schedule is 16 spots below any other team in the top 16.
The committee will also consider how the Terps look without Blair Watson, which has been less than impressive so far. If the results continue to be different, the committee will value the team Maryland takes into the tournament more than its body of work over the whole season.
Barring a shocking collapse, the Terps should still advance to their eighth straight NCAA Tournament. The question is whether they will be able to spend the first weekend in College Park.
In other news
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