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Posted at 1:22 PM ET, 01/26/2011

NCAA bracket guru: Wins over ranked teams overrated

By Liz Clarke

Having let potential victories over Pittsburgh, Illinois, Temple and Duke slip through its grasp, Maryland has reached the mid-point of the college basketball season without a single victory over a nationally ranked team.

And given the ACC’s uncharacteristically low profile this season, the Terps have only one remaining opportunity (unless fortunes shift dramatically within the conference) to knock off a ranked opponent: Feb. 2, when No. 3 Duke (18-1, 5-1) visits Comcast Center.

But according to Jerry Palm, publisher of and a respected NCAA bracket prognosticator, basketball fans and journalists tend to overstate the significance of records against ranked opponents in trying to sleuth out just which teams will — and won’t — make the 65-team tournament field.

That’s good news for Maryland.

In Palm’s analysis, the Terps still have plenty of opportunity to prove their NCAA tournament-worthiness — starting with Thursday’s game at Virginia.

“You don’t have to beat ranked opponents,” Palm said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “In fact, I think rank is a poorly used statistic or term. Not all [NCAA] tournament-quality teams are ranked. The rankings are often wrong. They're almost always referred to in terms of ‘game-time’ ranking. For example, if you beat Baylor in November, you beat a ranked team. That’s fine. But what does that really mean?”

As Palm sizes it up this week, as many as five ACC teams in addition to Duke will make the NCAA tournament. For Maryland (12-7, 2-3) to make the cut, the Terps simply must distinguish themselves from the half dozen or so that comprise the ACC’s thick middle at the moment.

In that light, Thursday’s game at unranked Virginia (11-8, 2-3) and Sunday’s at unranked Georgia Tech (10-9, 3-3) are every bit as crucial as next week’s against Duke.

“For Maryland and pretty much everyone else in the league, they need to separate themselves among the pile of [ACC] teams from two to 10,” Palm says. “Wake is dreadful. Georgia Tech is done and could play the spoiler [role]. Those other nine between Duke and Georgia Tech have to distinguish themselves.

In Maryland’s case, Palm says: “If you want to separate yourself from teams in this pile, those are the important games [at Virginia and Georgia Tech]. The [NCAA tournament selection] committee doesn’t care about wins over ranked teams.”

By Liz Clarke  | January 26, 2011; 1:22 PM ET
Categories:  Gary Williams, Men's basketball  | Tags:  Jerry Palm, Maryland basketball, NCAA tournament  
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Every game against a sub RPI 100 team is important, because the Terps can't afford to have a blemmish on an otherwise unimpressive record. Every game against a RPI 50-100 team is important, beacuse the Terps need to differentiate themselves from other bubble teams. Every game against a RPI top 50 team is important because the Terps don't have any of those wins yet.

So according to Jerry Palm, the Terps just need to win as many games as they can, because every one is important. Thank you captain obvious!!

Posted by: Russtinator | January 26, 2011 3:06 PM | Report abuse

AP Poll Rankings don't matter - at all. Thankfully we have a tournament to settle these things *cough cough college football cough cough*

Posted by: BrokenClipboard | January 26, 2011 5:26 PM | Report abuse

man, doing back flips to try and reassure the terp faithful.

Posted by: funkey | January 26, 2011 8:58 PM | Report abuse

"But according to Jerry Palm, publisher of and a respected NCAA bracket prognosticator, basketball fans and journalists tend to overstate the significance of records against ranked opponents in trying to sleuth out just which teams will — and won’t — make the 65-team tournament field."
-->A little development happened last year, they expanded to 68 teams!

Posted by: break20 | January 26, 2011 11:11 PM | Report abuse

I can't as if I agree with this. Wins over ranked teams do matter, both at the time and how they finish. It's fair criteria when comparing teams for a potential tourney team.

Posted by: break20 | January 27, 2011 12:05 AM | Report abuse

First,Liz, you left Villanova off the list. But really more to the point, this idea that games against good teams don't matter is a pile of cr*p. We all know how the committee makes its decisions. We know they look at SOC and good wins and bad losses. They may not focus on losses to very good teams, but hey look at things like NO WINS AGAINST GOOD TEAMS! This article is like the appetizer at a Koolaid party.

Posted by: petecard | January 27, 2011 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Meant SOS: Strength of Schedule

Posted by: petecard | January 27, 2011 1:03 PM | Report abuse

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