Certainly Maryland's recent run of strong play -- highlighted most recently by their buzzer-beating home win vs. Ga. Tech on Saturday -- has made them a team that feels deserving of being ranked in the Top 25.
Yet when the polls came out on Monday, Maryland was stuck near the top of "others receiving votes," hands pressed against the window, on the outside, looking in. That likely won't be the case when NCAA bids are passed out come the third week in March. With their current 9-3 mark in the ACC, Maryland has already won 2 more league games than it did last season, when they advanced to the round of 32 after winning a few nice games in the ACC tournament.
But back to this discussion of the Top 25. Today the Baltimore Sun's Jeff Barker reported that Gary Williams said, "We should be ranked."
If I was Gary, I would probably think so too. After all, Maryland sits alone in 2nd place in the ACC at the 3/4 mark of the league season. The ACC is typically regarded as one of the top 3 best conferences in the country. And if you're good enough to go 9-3 so far in the ACC, then you damn well ought to be considered one of the 25 best teams in the country.
I kinda like Maryland being kept out of the top 25 for now. Keeps em hungry. Keeps em feeling doubted and disrespected, and there's no better motivation to a player than to tell them that no one thinks they are any good. (unless, of course, you are former Terp big man Braxton Dupree, who wasn't any good).
Anyway, here are five reasons why Maryland should be ranked:
1. They've been smoking teams all season long. When Maryland gets a nice lead this year, they put teams away, big-time. Terps have defeated UNC, UVa, N.C. State, B.C., and Miami and a bunch of early season patsies by 15+ points in games that weren't ever close. That's the mark of a good team.
2. Maryland's 76-74 win over Ga. Tech on Saturday was electrifying. It's the kind of win that makes people take notice and often can/should/will propel a team playing well into the top 25. Didn't happen. Kinda weird.
3. Terps are .500 on the road in the ACC and perfect at home. That's the prescription for success and, in just about any other season, a top 25 ranking. Maybe top 15.
4. Because Maryland is good enough to beat any team in college basketball right now.
5. Because, as I wrote above, they are alone in second place in the ACC three-quarters of the way through the season. ESPN's bracketologist says 7 ACC teams should make the tournament, but the one alone in second place isn't ranked?
And here are five reasons why Maryland doesn't belong in the Top 25 and haven't don't squat yet:
1. Terps are 0-3 against Duke, Clemson and Wake. Those are 3 of the top 5 teams in the league (Maryland plays at Va. Tech Saturday, big game to see who will be #2 or if Maryland will have a chance to knock Duke off at the top).
2. Maryland lost, at home to William & Mary. I know William & Mary is having a good season and was hot at the time. It's still inexcusable. You don't lose at home to William & Mary.
3. Maryland lost to every decent out of conference team it played this season. 0-3 against Wisconsin, Cincinnati and Villanova (and you can throw in William & Mary if you feel like it). Wisconsin and Villanova are both very good, but Cincinnati is 6-8 in the Big East and a bubble team at best. Maryland just didn't beat anyone good... until the ACC started.
4. Maryland didn't even give Duke a game. I know Duke is really tough to beat at home. But if you're legit, you don't just get pummeled from the tip and allow that stiff Greg Zoubek to have the game of his life.
5. The ACC is down and Maryland is benefitting from playing weak competition. It's a fact that this week is the first time in 33 years that only one ACC team - guess who - is ranked in the top 25.
So, what's this all mean? Not a thing, really. Being ranked is just something to keep fans interested and provide some semblance of a pecking order among 300+ teams until the NCAA tournament starts.
For decades now, college hoops has been all about the NCAA tournament. Certainly regular season wins, and league championships matter, but they all pale in comparison to what happens in the tournament.
Did you make it?
How many wins did you get once you got there?
More than anything, what's been nice about this year's team is that they look like they belong. Early season losses aside, Maryland has been very good in 2010 and it's the second half of the season that matters. Maryland has a bona fide superstar in Greivis Vasquez, the kind of guy who can throw a team on his shoulders (he can also make you want to throw your shoe at the TV, but less and less).
So... here we go. Down the stretch ... home against Clemson, at Va. Tech, home against Duke, then at UVa to close it out before the ACC tournament. 2-2 will be good enough. 3-1 would be great. 4-0... and Maryland could earn a 3-seed.
The last chapter for Greivis Vasquez and company has yet to be written in Maryland basketball history. The view from here says we are going to do some celebrating this March. I'm looking for 12-4 in the league, a finals appearance in the ACC tournament, and a run to the Sweet 16. That would make for a GREAT year, top 25 or not.