(EDIT: 12:55 p.m.) Mixed up one tiebreaking scenario if Maryland wins out and Florida State splits. That has been edited below.
With two games left in its final ACC regular reason, the conference tournament picture has begun to take shape for the Maryland men’s basketball team.
At 7-9 in league play, a half-game behind North Carolina State in the win column and a full game behind Florida State, the Terrapins cannot finish higher than seventh. Even if the Wolfpack and Seminoles lose out, and even if Maryland beats Virginia Tech and Virginia over the next six days, Sunday’s double-overtime loss at Clemson all but locked the Terps into either the No. 7-No. 10 game or the No. 8-No. 9 game at next week’s ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C.
Apologies for the convolution in advance, but we’ll try to make the following conditions as easy-to-digest as possible.
First, some notes:
>> If Maryland beats Virginia Tech on Tuesday night at Comcast Center, it will finish no worse than ninth in the conference. The Terps could still finish tied with Miami in such a scenario, but Maryland owns the tiebreaker over the Hurricanes because of its head-to-head win on Jan. 29.
>> North Carolina State holds the tiebreaker over Florida State and Maryland should all three finish with the same conference record. The Seminoles, by virtue of beating a better ACC team – Pittsburgh – than the Terps, hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Maryland after the teams split their home-and-home series this season.
>> The remaining games for these three teams are as follows:
Maryland: vs. Virginia Tech, vs. Virginia
Florida State: at Boston College, vs. Syracuse
North Carolina State: vs. Boston College
And now, the scenarios:
TERPS WIN OUT, FINISH 9-9
The best-case scenario for the Terps – taking care of business against Virginia Tech and scoring at top 10 upset at home in the finale vs. Virginia on Sunday – still doesn’t guarantee them much upward movement in the ACC standings. In four of the six possibilities, they finish either eighth or ninth and play either North Carolina State or Florida State in the 8-9 game at noon on March 13.
In one particularly unlikely scenario, where Maryland goes 2-0, Florida State loses out and North Carolina State falls at home to Boston College, the Terps would finish seventh and play the winner of the 10-15 game at 7 p.m. on March 13.
In another, more feasible scenario, where Maryland goes 2-0, Florida State splits its remaining two games and the Wolfpack lose to the Eagles, the Terps also finish seventh, by virtue of having beaten first-place Virginia, which would hand them the second tiebreaker (comparative win-loss record against ACC teams, in descending order until the tie is broken). This would also place them into the 7 p.m. slot on March 13.
Otherwise, a two-game winning streak to close the regular season locks them into the 8-9 game with a quarterfinals matchup against the top-seeded Cavaliers in the offing, provided North Carolina State beats Boston College on Sunday and/or Florida State wins out.
TERPS SPLIT, FINISH 8-10
A Terps split against Virginia and Virginia Tech brings an even more cut-and-dry situation. Regardless of what everyone else does, they will finish in the 8-9 game.
If Maryland goes 1-1 and Florida State goes 2-0, the Terps will play North Carolina State. If they go 1-1 and Florida State loses out, then those teams will play again in the 8-9 game, with the Terps holding the No. 9 seed.
If Maryland splits and Florida State splits, North Carolina State holds the trump card. A loss by the Wolfpack puts them at eighth and playing Maryland, while a victory puts them into seventh, leaving the Seminoles and Terps to battle it out.
If Maryland splits and everyone else loses out, it forces a three-way tie. Here, the Wolfpack will be seventh because of their aggregate head-to-head record (2-0), and the Terps and Seminoles are again slotted in the 8-9 game.
TERPS LOSE OUT, FINISH 7-11
This nightmare possibility for Maryland would mean losing to the lowly Hokies and guarantees them no better than ninth place. Here, Miami’s final two games – at Clemson and vs. Wake Forest – also come into play, because the Hurricanes could potentially leapfrog the Terps.
There are 12 separate cases here, each based on the premise that the Terps have gone 7-11 in league play.
In six scenarios, they finish 10th and play on the afternoon of March 12 against the No. 15 seed, on which Virginia Tech currently has a stranglehold.
In three scenarios, they finish ninth and play Florida State.
In three scenarios, they finish ninth and play N.C. State.
Of the 24 possible outcomes surveyed above, 16 have the Terps playing at noon on March 13 as either the No. 8 or No. 9 seed. Losing out would be a disaster, because that could mean shipping down to Greensboro for an extra day and, regardless of the opponent, expending energy for another 40 minutes in the opening round on March 12. The No. 7 seed remains in play, but it would take Maryland winning out and getting help from Florida State and North Carolina State for that to happen.