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What Maryland women’s basketball’s non-conference schedule means for its 2018-19 season

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The Terps’ early-season slate has some good matchups, but little room for error.

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Bridgeport Regional-Maryland vs Oregon David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

On the same day that Maryland men’s basketball released its non-conference schedule, women’s basketball did the same.

Like the men’s team, the women’s team will also play 11 games, starting with its home opener against Coppin State on Nov. 9. Before I go into detail, here’s the full schedule.

  • Nov. 9 vs. Coppin State
  • Nov. 11 vs. Dayton
  • Nov. 14 at George Washington
  • Nov. 18 at South Carolina
  • Nov. 23 Morgan State (Puerto Rico Classic)
  • Nov. 24 Georgia (Puerto Rico Classic)
  • Nov. 29 vs. Georgia Tech (ACC-B1G Challenge)
  • Dec. 2 vs. UMBC
  • Dec. 8 vs. James Madison
  • Dec. 10 vs. Loyola
  • Dec. 20 vs. Delaware

South Carolina and Georgia are the biggest attractions on a schedule that isn’t eye-popping at first glance. But when you take a deeper look, it’s an improvement over last season and the year before, when a soft schedule cost them a better NCAA Tournament seed.

Last year, the average RPI for a team on Maryland’s non-conference schedule was 164, compared to an RPI of 140 for this year’s schedule. The Terps are also playing six teams that finished in last year’s RPI top 100, just like last season. However, the Big Ten switched back to an 18-game conference schedule for women’s basketball, which means each team has two fewer non-conference games.

For Maryland, that means two fewer “cupcakes” on the schedule. The Terps played seven teams with an RPI greater than 200 last year, but only play four this year. All four of those teams are in-state opponents, which have usually dragged down Maryland’s non-conference schedule in years past.

The Terps are still playing plenty of local foes, but have decided to branch outside of the immediate surrounding area for better competition. Dayton, James Madison and Delaware are all new to Maryland’s schedule this year, and are definite upgrades over teams like Howard and Mount St. Mary’s. The Flyers made last year’s NCAA Tournament as an at-large bid, and the Dukes have won at least 20 games the last 13 seasons. The Blue Hens have not had as much success of late, but still went a reasonable 19-13 last year.

Not only does this portion of the schedule boost Maryland’s RPI, it can also help Maryland with the transition into conference play. Instead of just demolishing teams that have no chance to beat them, the Terps can see how their game works against teams with NCAA Tournament aspirations, which is similar to most of the Big Ten.

This schedule is a step up from last year, but still could come back to haunt them come tournament time. If Maryland loses to South Carolina and Georgia, Dayton may be its only other chance at an RPI top-50 win heading into a league that doesn’t provide as many opportunities for resume building wins as the other power conferences.

But if the Terps can run the table in non-conference play, the resume boost will huge. Maryland had just two wins against the RPI top 25 last season, and the Gamecocks and Lady Bulldogs will likely fall into that category this year. If Maryland wins those games, it will have as many wins against the RPI top 25 heading into conference play as it did all of last year. That could pay dividends come March.