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Top of the Arc - November 28, 2008

Nov. 28, 8:00 a.m.: Gary Williams will mention the words Michigan State in almost every press conference from now until Selection Sunday, and for good reason.

A team that The Sporting News predicted to finish last in the ACC now has a win under its belt that is a good as any by any unranked team in this young season. Only Michigan, which will visit Comcast Center on Wednesday, has a victory (UCLA) that is comparable.

Regardless of how the rest of the Orlando Old Spice Classic turns out, the Terrapins have an RPI-boosting victory that will pay dividends when the NCAA tournament selection committee convenes in a few months. If Maryland enters conference season with just a handful of losses, an 8-8 ACC record may be enough for the Terrapins to return to the NCAA tournament. Without a victory like yesterday’s, Maryland would probably need a winning ACC record. Maryland just did not have a non-conference win like this last season, not even close.

That’s all down the road. The challenge now is for Maryland to avoid offsetting the victory with the type of disappointing home losses that marred last season’s non-conference performance. Williams said almost every time Maryland was mentioned or written about last season that the second sentence would include something about Ohio or American. Even after beating North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Maryland could not shake those two non-conference losses.

I had penciled in Maryland for 17 wins before the season. That looks like it may be a little on the low side now. If the Terrapins avoid an Ohio U-like defeat in non-conference play, they will be in prime position come New Year’s. I am not ready to pronounce that Maryland will challenge the top four in the ACC, but it is uncanny that Williams can time after time get so much out of his players when so little is expected of them.

You all know what this means? Maryland and Georgetown are closer than they have been in quite some time to playing each other on the court. Who would be the favorite in that matchup?

By Eric Prisbell  |  November 28, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
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