Here’s a trend that has played out in College Park every year over the last several seasons:
- Maryland plays a fairly good non-conference schedule; achieves a respectable won-loss record….and an impressive RPI ranking.
- During the conference schedule, Maryland struggles and slowly drops down through the conference standings and onto the NCAAT bubble.
- Maryland’s post-season destination then comes down to the ACCT. In 2004, UMd came through in a big way winning the entire tournament. However, their performance has not been impressive at all over the last two years.
- The trend of mediocre performance in the conference schedule continued last night with a poor performance in Tallahassee.
For those that like numbers to support conclusions, here is a quick summary of Maryland’s last several seasons:
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I seriously doubt that many of our regular readers are losing any sleep over Gary’s troubles in College Park, but I thought that this was interesting enough to watch during the last month of the regular season. In addition, UMd’s struggles the last two years illustrate two other points that we have discussed before:
The Importance of the ACCT
For teams on the bubble, the conference tournament provides the last chance for teams to improve their resume for an at-large selection for the NCAAT. I am working on a separate entry on “Clearing the Bubble”, but Maryland clearly illustrates the importance for bubble teams to perform during their conference tournament.
In 2003 and 2005, State was clearly a bubble team heading into the ACCT. Unlike UMd, State feasted on cupcakes throughout the OOC schedule….which is supposed to hurt a team’s chances of making the NCAAT. However, an upset win in the ACCT propelled State into the NCAAT, while UMd’s performance in the ACCT landed them in the NIT.
I have mixed feelings about the way that the NCAAT Selection Committee apparently weighs conference tournaments. On one hand, a good performance in a conference tournament shows that the team in question is playing well at the end of the year. It also shows that teams can still control their own destiny by performing well….which maintains focus on the ACCT.
On the other hand, the NCAAT Selection Committee appears to be saying one thing (teams should play harder OOC schedules) while not specifically rewarding bubble teams that do play a challenging schedule. (Note that NCAAT seeding can be shown to reward successful teams that play tougher schedules and thus earn higher RPI rankings.)
The Value of the OOC Schedule
Many people claim that playing a tough OOC schedule “prepares your team” for the ACC schedule and ultimately the NCAAT. I don’t believe that a team’s opponents have much to do with good performances in ACC conference games. Winning in the ACC depends on having a good coach and good players…not who you played in the OOC schedule. Maryland is a perfect example to illustrate my point.
The schedule does not produce good teams….it reveals them. Great teams prove that they deserve that title by beating “good” teams. It is up to the head coach to produce great teams.
There is no better correlation anywhere between good coaching and winning than there is in college basketball. The head coach hires his assistants (only 3) and recruits his players (only 13). If the team isn’t winning (or winning enough), it is a pretty short connection to the head coach….regardless of how many State fans tried to separate the previous coach from losing.