When Maryland basketball lost to Michigan by 24 points on its home floor on Feb. 24, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Terps would not be receiving at at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Then, when Mark Turgeon’s team fell to Wisconsin (aka: Ethan Happ and a bunch of high school players) in the first round of the Big Ten tournament, the Terps seemed as far away from the bubble as my intramural team. Maryland finished 19-13 overall and 8-10 in the Big Ten, and with its best win coming over 19-12 Butler, the Terps don’t have much of a resume.
However, in an interesting turn of events, according to Ken Pomeroy’s analytical college basketball rankings, Maryland should be in the NCAA tournament.
As shocking as it may seem, kenpom.com has the Terps ranked as the 46th-best team in the country, which would make them the second-to-last at-large team to get into the tournament. Maryland would hypothetically be a No. 11 seed and play in the NCAA tournament’s First Four in Dayton, Ohio.
This may seem absurd, but Pomeroy looks at things differently than the selection committee. His rankings take into account a multitude of analytics including tempo and efficiency. For example, a team that scored 70 points in 50 possessions will be looked at much more favorably than a team that scored 70 points in 75 possessions.
One of the main reasons the Terps are so high in the rankings is they have been unlucky. According to Pomeroy, there are only 63 teams in the nation who have been more unlucky than Turgeon’s team this season. Four of Maryland’s losses this season came by one possession, and nine of the 13 came by two possessions or less.
And how good is Pomeroy at predicting the results of the tournament? Well, the two teams who met in last year’s championship game — Gonzaga and North Carolina — were ranked first and third in the country before the big dance began.
Pomeroy had the Terps ranked 46th in the country (the same place he has them now) before the tournament last season. The only difference between the two seasons is that the 2016-17 Terps (24-9, 12-6 B1G) won the close games last year.
Last season the Terps were 10-3 in games decided by six points or less (and were Pomeroy’s 39th-luckiest team). This year, they’ve dropped to just 4-9 in those games.
And if any of that was a little tough to follow, here’s the synopsis: Maryland is no worse this year than they were last year. The Terps have just been unlucky, and, according to the analytics, still have a case to make the NCAA tournament.