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Terps: Team of the Decade?

Keeping that ranking up. (WaPo photo)

This was written before last night's Maryland game. It was written in all seriousness. - ed.

By Eric Prisbell

Charlotte--When I asked Gary Williams the other day what he would say to restless fans, he defended his program - no surprise - and said Maryland is among the most successful programs in the country this decade. At first, I thought that was probably a bit of an overstatement. But after further examination, with the help of tag-team partner Adam Kilgore, Williams's remark is not that far from the truth.

Adam and I gave each school points for advancing in the tournament each year this decade in the manner of a bracket pool. First, teams received five points for making the tournament, zero for missing. On top of that, they earned points for wins in accordance with the standard pool values.

After all the calculating, teams received no points for the NIT; 5 points for losing in the first round; 6 points for losing in the second round; 8 points for losing in the Sweet 16; 12 points for losing in the Elite Eight; 20 points for losing in the national semifinal; 36 points for losing in the national title game; and 70 points for winning the national title.

Here are the rankings for Team of the Decade, after the jump:

1. Florida, 204
2. Duke, 135
3t. North Carolina, 123
3t. Michigan State, 123
5. Maryland, 116
6. U-Conn., 114
7. Kansas, 104
8. Syracuse, 102
9. Arizona, 90
10. Illinois, 87
11. UCLA, 85

UCLA could rise considerably in the rankings with a third consecutive Final Four appearance this year, but Florida - even if the Gators don't make the NCAAs - should still be atop our rankings. Note that Kansas is the highest ranked team of those that have not won a national championship. Note also that Syracuse is the lowest-ranked title winner and the only champion to be ranked below a non-champion.

What would your rankings be, and what do you make of our method?

By Dan Steinberg  |  March 14, 2008; 3:44 PM ET
Categories:  College Basketball  
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This was written before last night's Maryland game. It was written in all seriousness. - ed.

That's unfortunate.

Posted by: sitruc | March 14, 2008 4:33 PM | Report abuse

The problem with defining success in this way is that it ignores other more subjective factors such as expectations, performance trends, etc.

For example, if a team is expected to go to the final four then gets bumped in the sweet 16, this may actually create a perceived success deficit in the minds of fans (even though by your metrics, this counts for x points of success). Conversely, an exceptionally over-achieving squad may be looked on with more satisfaction despite an early round tourney exit (heck, some teams would define success as simply making the tournament given parameters of program status, resources, talent level, etc.).

Also, perceived or real trends in outcomes will effect how one views a program. If Maryland wins a championship early in the decade, then gets worse as the decade progresses, I don't think it's illegitimate for fans to think this is extremely disappointing (and a harbinger of worse things to come). A struggling program will tend to get worse as the best recruits look elsewhere, creating a downward spiral of failure (see Georgetown under coach Esherick, Craig). Sometimes a new coach can make all the difference.

I say all this, btw, as someone who couldn't be more delighted by MD's recent collapses, but someone who also thinks UMD fans are not being entirely unreasonable in their restlessness re: Gary Williams.

P.S. I also understand that looking at trends over the course of 5-10 years may not be fair when, say, 20 years ago a nearly dead program was revived by a coach. (see Williams, Gary)

Posted by: drjimcooper | March 14, 2008 4:35 PM | Report abuse

That's a fascinating ranking approach. By that system even if Florida had lost in the Final Four, they'd still be at the top of the pile. It'd be interesting to see how the list compares with previous decades.

Posted by: Anna | March 14, 2008 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Wait, the difference between having the worst record in Division I (0 points) and making the Sweet Sixteen but losing there (8 points) is 8 points, while the difference between winning the title game (70) and losing the title game (36) is 34 points??

Um, your point system might be a wee bit off.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 14, 2008 6:04 PM | Report abuse

That's an excellent point, anonymous. Eric and I certainly don't believe this was a foolproof way to measure college hoops success, just one way. We were worried we emphasized titles too much, but then figured, well, isn't that the point? Also, the exercise was more to separate the cream at the top of the college basketball world, so I think it's OK that, at the very pinnacle, margins for ranking are so vast. But you're point about having the worst team and possibly ninth-best team in a season being separated by so little is a good point.

Posted by: Adam Kilgore | March 14, 2008 6:56 PM | Report abuse

1. I think there's a method to your March Madness....madness.

2. With this post, you've single handedly convinced Juan Dixon to upgrade his home Internet package, and motivated American U students to storm the WaPo offices.

Posted by: | March 14, 2008 10:49 PM | Report abuse

Lonny Baxter was just seen celebrating this post by shooting his gun near the White House...again

Posted by: JDP | March 14, 2008 11:50 PM | Report abuse

Not a bad idea, and it's hard to argue that Maryland hasn't been one of the most successful programs this decade, even if most of their success came more than five years ago at the decade's dawn.

But I do think you need to penalize (negative points) a team that misses the NCAA. It's hard to hold yourself up as a candidate as team of the decade when you've missed the NCAA tourmanent more than a third of the time.

Posted by: thediesel | March 15, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I think there need to be more points given for basic measures of success: winning 20 games, having a better-than-.500 record, etc. Also, it seems inappropriate not to give points for earning the regular-season conference championship or winning the conference tournament. And while I don't think NIT appearances should be given a lot of points, I do think they should be given one or two.

The resulting metric would give more weight to consistent success, even if that success was at a lower level, which is what Maryland fans (including myself) have been moaning about and which is a lot of what makes it fun to be a fan year in and year out.

Posted by: Lindemann | March 15, 2008 4:27 PM | Report abuse

I noticed something interesting about the 11 teams. Of the 11, at least two, and as many as four, won't make the tournament this year (Maryland, Arizona, Illinois and Syracuse). Clearly this is a down year for the "Top 11" teams of the decade.

Posted by: Zach | March 15, 2008 4:33 PM | Report abuse

p.s. There should also be a metric for Insanely Bad Home Losses to Nonconference Opponents.

Posted by: Lindemann | March 16, 2008 10:28 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: kitchenstone | May 2, 2008 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Nothing going on worth mentioning. I've just been letting everything happen without me these days. Today was a total loss. Not much on my mind recently.,

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