Step off the ledge

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\ Take a swarm of both fans and sports media and give them a topic they think they understand but probably do not and what do you get?\ \ \ Typically, what constitutes NCAA tournament bubble analysis for a lot of folks.\ \ \ And boy, does it seem like there was a lot of it last night at Comcast Center and on some Maryland fan message boards (including one where former Terp Will Bowers was taking questions from all comers and providing hilariously frank answers).\ \ \ Armageddon is not here. The apocalypse is not upon us.\ \ \ But a swath of harping about how Maryland’s NCAA tournament hopes were irreparably damaged last night is, to the detriment of anyone who wants truly incisive analysis.\ \ \ No one can argue a 69-65 loss to Virginia Tech was helpful. But a knee-jerk bromide foretelling doom because of a single game is worse than inaccurate. It’s intellectually lazy, and it shows zero regard for what really needs to be assessed when trying to figure this out.\ \ \ In most things in this world, there is a root from which everything else stems. How does water form? When two hydrogen atoms join with an oxygen atom. Why do cable news networks breathlessly pipe in footage of highway car chases? Because their research indicates people would rather watch that than try to grapple with a nuanced discussion of, say, banking policy. \ \ \ Why does the NCAA selection committee meet every March? To pick the 34 best at-large teams.\ \ \ Logically, that means if someone were to spout off about a team’s particular merits and demerits, that team would have to be compared to every one else in a similar situation. But whenever that step is overlooked, the validity of any argument pretty much flies out the window.\ \ \ Yes, Maryland lost this week. But so did a whole lot of their bubble brethren. Rhode Island. Baylor. Mississippi State. West Virginia. Houston. (And to be fair, Mississippi, Villanova, Miami, Wake Forest and Florida all won games of varying degrees of difficulty).\ \ \ Yesterday, there was an assessment on this blog of the Terps’ postseason hopes. I’ll stick with that. It is not a stretch to think that in jostling for position with a bunch of teams that are around .500 in league play about three-quarters of the way through the conference schedule, winning about two-thirds of the remaining games will probably be enough to achieve some separation. That’s no guarantee, but it’s not like promising the Great Pumpkin will rise on October 31, either.\ \ \ Every game is part of a far larger entity. Every game matters. But if you’re going to mix myopia, a short attention span and a memory that contains nothing older than 10 minutes, it stands to reason that sound and legitimate analysis will not be possible.\ \ \ If you’re a Maryland fan, there are definitely reasons to be concerned. The lingering issue of a hollow bench got even worse, and the Terps’ reserves were held without a point for the first time since March 7, 1997 (a span of 395 games). James Gist was a nonfactor for the second time in three games. There were more turnovers (18) than assists (15).\ \ \ Those are all things that can be pointed to and used as support for an argument titled “These Guys Are In Trouble.” But a single loss to a top-100 RPI team, all by itself with four more games and a conference tournament remaining, is not the crux for such a discussion.\ \ \ It was never going to be easy for the Terps, not after they started 6-6. And they certainly do have some flaws that probably won’t be fixed this season. But the conventional thinking about the ACC remains the same: Beyond Duke and North Carolina, everyone is beatable. Everyone. And in the last week, even the Blue Devils have shown some vulnerability.\ \ \ Miami, Wake Forest, Clemson, Virginia – all can be had. All can be lost to. Same deal with Maryland, which had been playing with fire by winning six ACC games by 10 points or less. That was true before last night, and it remains true now.\ \ \ There’s still 24 days until Selection Sunday. There’s still a lot of things that can happen, and few things are truly certain with nearly two fortnights to go before the 65-team field is unveiled.\ \ \ Don’t let anyone else tell you differently.\

\ Photo by Nick Wass / Associated Press\

\ – Patrick Stevens

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