The Washington Times - January 4, 2009, 11:11AM

OK, by now you know the drill explained here. Throughout the day, there will be comparisons between Maryland and anonymous teams that have attracted some poll support (though aren’t necessarily ranked).

Terrapins coach Gary Williams pretty clearly believes his team should be ranked based on its 11-2 start. I’m not entirely inclined to agree —- the absence of a true road game, let alone a true road win at this stage of the season is a bit of a red flag.


There’s also the case to be made that when you see a team up close every game, you’ll notice their flaws a whole lot faster than a comparable team from the other side of the country. And there’s definitely some truth to that notion.

To someone else, Maryland is an 11-2 team with a likely Hall of Fame coach, a national title in the trophy cabinet from this decade and a recognizable brand name. To someone who has seen (either in person or on TV) 10 of the 13 games, Maryland is a team still struggling with its halfcourt offense and still without an imposing defensive presence inside, though Dino Gregory is doing everything he possibly can to fill that vacuum.

Anyway, here are the hard numbers on Maryland through yesterday’s defeat of Charlotte:

Record: 11-2
Michigan State (N), Michigan (H)
Losses: Gonzaga (N), Georgetown (N)
Bad losses: None
Neutral: 2-2
Road: 0-0
Average scoring margin: +12.8

Same as it ever was. Or, at least, same as it was in the last two posts. But it’s silly to make people hop from post to post, so there the stats are again.

Now let’s bring in the third mystery team of the day.

Record: 11-2
Miami, Ohio (H)
Losses: Michigan (N), Texas (A)
Bad losses: None
Neutral: 2-1
Road: 1-1
Average scoring margin: +19.6

No, really, this team’s best victory is against Miami (Ohio). Its only victories over power conference opponents are DePaul and Oregon State, and no one’s really confused those teams as elite programs any time recently.

There is a common opponent here: Michigan. The Terps upended the Wolverines by five at home; the mystery team lost to them by three on a neutral floor. Would the results of both games been different with a change of venue? Quite possibly.

In addition to having ventured into an imposing road environment (Texas), the mystery team is also demolishing opponents by almost 20 points a game. But how much of that is a function of playing really, really lousy competition?

The record, the RPI and (with Gonzaga’s recent struggles) the losses are all pretty much a push at this point. Really the only glaring hole for the mystery team is its lack of quality victories —- a category where Maryland currently holds a nice advantage.

So who is the mystery team?

















If you said:

You’re a winner!

Given the current resumes and not taking into account things like returning talent (Darren Collison), recent history (three straight Final Fours) and anticipated results, Williams DOES HAVE a case that the Terps should be ranked right around —- if not higher than —- the nation’s No. 12 team. Granted, UCLA plays Oregon later today, but the Ducks’ struggles to date won’t exactly make that a great win if the Bruins happen to secure the weekend sweep of arguably the Pac-10’s two worst teams.

—- Patrick Stevens