The Washington Times - January 27, 2009, 10:53AM

Yes, it seems a little silly to include “Maryland” and “NCAA tournament” in the same sentence so soon after Saturday’s 41-point loss.

So consider this more of a theoretical exercise than anything, though with the acknowledgment Maryland is 2-3 in the ACC.

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A lot of fans would like to believe that a .500 record in the conference will punch an NCAA tournament ticket, and that 9-7 makes it a sure thing.

Not so fast.

The unbalanced conference schedule (in effect since expansion earlier this decade) has ensured that 9-7 isn’t quite worth what it once was. So while 12 out of 15 teams that have posted that record have made the tournament, the last two (2006 Florida State and 2008 Virginia Tech) have not.

Here’s the full accounting of those teams:

MISSED (3)

2000 Virginia
2006 Florida State
2008 Virginia Tech

MADE (12)

1992 North Carolina
1993 Virginia
1994 Wake Forest
1997 Clemson
1997 Maryland
2000 North Carolina
2001 Virginia
2002 Wake Forest
2002 N.C. State
2003 N.C. State
2004 Wake Forest
2004 Georgia Tech

The split for 8-8 teams is even sharper. Even though 13 of 18 have earned invitations to the NCAA field (one, 1993 Georgia Tech, won the ACC tournament), the numbers don’t look quite as good in recent years. Only four of seven 8-8 teams post-expansion have earned invites.

Two of those left home were 2006 and 2008 Maryland, which is why it is befuddling that Maryland fans would think 8-8 would take care of things. Here’s the rundown of the 8-8 teams:

MISSED (5)

1992 Virginia
1995 Georgia Tech
2005 Virginia Tech
2006 Maryland
2008 Maryland

MADE (13)

1992 Georgia Tech
1993 Georgia Tech
1994 Virginia
1994 Maryland
1996 Duke
1996 Maryland
2001 Wake Forest
2001 Georgia Tech
2004 North Carolina
2005 Georgia Tech
2007 Duke
2007 Georgia Tech
2008 Miami

Certainly, it’s possible for an 8-8 or 9-7 team to still make it based on their accomplishments. But it’s no sure thing, and no one should assume it’s a sure thing.

Patrick Stevens