Maryland softball is entering the final week of the regular season with its NCAA tournament hopes fading. A once promising forecast has turned cloudy, as the Terps sit on the edge of the bubble.
Traveling to Illinois this weekend for the regular season finale, coach Mark Montgomery is unsure if a series win over the Fighting Illini will be enough to get Maryland into the tournament.
“I mean, for us to earn an at-large bid, we’re probably going to have to win, assuming we can play them, five of our next six [games],” Montgomery said.
The Terps are one of the first four teams out in D1Softball’s projected 64-team field, placing them squarely on the tournament cutline.
RPI is commonly used by the NCAA selection committee as a key factor in determining the 64-team field, leaving Montgomery confident in his team’s playoff resume. But the Terps are ranked 49th, and are the eighth-best team in the Big Ten in that metric. Historically, that’s too low.
Seven teams in the conference were selected last season, the most since 2016.
“I think [the Big Ten] will get six,” Montgomery said. “Seven is a possibility. Eight’s a stretch. I think there’s five teams that are a lock. And then six, seven and eight are … probably Ohio State, that’s probably Penn State, that’s probably us to an extent.”
The Terps were also on the tournament bubble last season, but their resume was more comprehensive. Three teams that fell behind Maryland in conference standings made the NCAA tournament — Wisconsin, Ohio State, Minnesota.
Detrimental losses to Stetson, UNC Greensboro and Central Michigan tarnished the Terps’ resume a year ago.Despite a good conference record, those losses dragged Maryland down in RPI rankings, ultimately leaving them out of the postseason.
“We had several really bad losses that were costing us serious penalty points and we just weren’t going to get considered, no matter how well we did in conference,” Montgomery said.
Maryland has nearly flipped the narrative of its season. While the Terps Big Ten record — sitting at 8-11 and tenth in the conference — is poor, they’ve managed to avoid any losses that heavily blemish their resume.
The Terps also collected two valuable non-conference victories with wins over then-No. 3 Oklahoma State and then-No. 22 Oregon.
The Terps are firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble. But they still have time to reach their first postseason since 2012 with three more Big Ten games and the conference tournament remaining.
“We just need to win some games,” Montgomery said. “Get up there in the conference a little bit, maybe win a game in the conference tournament. We can actually play ourselves into this tournament.”