If you’re tired of hearing about Maryland men’s basketball not playing in a postseason tournament, you’re in luck, because we have some speculation for you.
This basketball season started off well, but any speck of postseason relevance was shattered with the season-ending injury to Justin Jackson. Jackson’s torn labrum had a similar effect on his team to Tyrell Pigrome’s torn ACL, and with that, we’re taking a look at the Terps alternate universe, similar to the football season.
Jackson had high hopes and a lottery pick on the line going into the year, but playing through the start of this season with that shoulder injury took a toll on his stats. He didn’t live up to some of the lofty expectations, but Jackson still managed to average 9.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game through 11 games. The Terps were off to an 8-3 start with a 1-1 conference record.
Justin Jackson showed a variety of ways to score points on Sunday night. It’s a good sign going forward. https://t.co/pCRQ3QYKih
— Terps Watch (@TerpsWatch) December 5, 2017
Assuming a healthy Justin Jackson wouldn’t make the team any worse, we can assume all the Terps wins would stay the same. Even following Jackson’s absence, Maryland went on a five-game win streak before getting blown out at Michigan State. Granted, those wins were over some weak non-conference opponents, but two of them came over UMBC and Penn State, both of which still have postseason play, unlike the Terps.
Jackson’s presence would’ve made a huge difference in the Terps’ matchups against the top Big Ten teams, as he likely would’ve guarded playmakers like Miles Bridges and Keita Bates-Diop. The 30-point loss in East Lansing still would’ve had the same outcome, but Jackson’s additional scoring would’ve been able to help the Terps hold on in their home matchup with the Spartans.
Except for the other two lopsided losses, to Ohio State in Columbus and Michigan at home on senior day, the remaining seven losses were all within eight points or fewer. One of the biggest challenges for this team was finishing close games.
This year, the Terps were 4-9 in games decided by 10 points or less. The past three seasons — when Mark Turgeon’s team has made the NCAA tournament —the team’s record was 15-3, 10-5, and 18-2 in the same games.
March 4, 2017: Michigan State at Maryland Melo Trimble’s final game at Xfinity Center ends in iconic fashion as Maryland gets a 63-60 win in their regular season finale. pic.twitter.com/zN42kWk1Aa — Terps Watch (@TerpsWatch) November 8, 2017
Jackson’s scoring average would’ve likely been above 9.8 if he were healthy, and that point total changes the outcome of a lot of those games. Knowing Maryland basketball, the team would lose a game by blowing a lead, and knowing this team, it would have come on the road. Let’s give that loss to Purdue, as the Boilermakers were on a hot winning streak, and it’s always tough to win in West Lafayette.
That leaves us with a record of 24-8, one game better than last year’s tally. With a 13-5 conference record, the Terps are tied for fourth in the Big Ten with Michigan. I’d still give the nod to Michigan in the Big Ten tournament as the Wolverines are one of the hottest teams in the country at the moment.
With a healthy Justin Jackson, there wasn’t a question about whether Maryland would make the tournament, but about what seed they would get. I’m no Joe Lunardi, but a 24-8 record and fourth place finish in the Big Ten would probably place the Terps right around a five or six seed.
BREAKING: we have acquired an exclusive screenshot of the leaked bracket. pic.twitter.com/fQJYHe31lE
— Terps Watch (@TerpsWatch) March 11, 2018
Now, would this seeding lead to another early exit in the tournament, or would Turgeon’s squad have finally made some noise in the Big Dance?
If you can peak into that alternative universe, let us know.