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Big Ten's rough start to season could hurt Terps' NCAA tournament resume

Terps basketball coach Mark Turgeon.
Terps basketball coach Mark Turgeon. (Evan Habeeb, USA Today Sports)

This has not been a stellar start to the season for the Big Ten.

Aside from winning its annual interleague competition with the Atlantic Coast Conference despite its ranked teams going 1-5, Maryland's new basketball breathren have not exactly lived up to their reputation among the nation's best.

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The question is, could this eventually hurt the Terps?

Maryland (9-1) is ranked 19th in the latest Associated Press poll, largely on its win over then-No. 13 Iowa State two weeks ago. That the Terps went up from No. 21 even after losing last week speaks to the fact that other previously ranked teams have fallen out of the Top 25.

In terms of its ranking, it doesn't hurt Maryland that it's one of only three Big Ten teams ranked in the AP Top 25 this season and one of five in the USA Today poll.

That will change after Nebraska, No. 25 in the USA Today poll, lost at home Wednesday night to the University of Incarnate Word, a loss as shocking as then-No. 16 Michigan losing Saturday at home to New Jersey Institute of Technology.

A number of the Big Ten defeats have come to what the late Jim Valvano used to call "directional" schools: Purdue lost at home to North Florida, Indiana lost at home to Eastern Washington and Michigan followed up one disastrous home loss with another, this time on Monday to Eastern Michigan.

Though Rutgers hasn't lost to a directional school, it has been blasted by two local schools, St, Peter's (68-50) at home and Seton Hall (81-54) in Newark.

Maryland's win over Iowa State is the only one by an unranked Big Ten team against a ranked opponent this season. In games involving two ranked teams, the Big Ten is 0-6.

The Big Ten's early season skid likely means that the Terps are going to get fewer games against ranked teams when the conference season begins Dec. 30 at Michigan State, which is now unranked in the AP poll and hanging on at No. 23 in the USA Today poll.

The Terps are in an interesting situation in regards to Friday's Iowa-Iowa State game. A victory for the Hawkeyes over the Cyclones (No. 14 in AP poll, No. 13 in USA Today) will help Big Ten schools. A victory for the Cyclones probably helps Maryland more than it hurts the Terps.

The Terps have a potential trap game Saturday against USC-Upstate, which won Monday at Georgia Tech, and what likely will be a tough road environment at Oklahoma State on Dec. 21.

According to the NCAA's current RPI, the Terps are ranked 61st, down from 53rd last week. They're a bit higher in ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi's RPI, at 46, behind Wisconsin (16), Ohio State (17), Illinois (38) and Penn State (39). (Maryland is also one spot below Incarnate Word.)

It means that victories in the Big Ten are not going to be valued as much as in previous seasons, and losses could be more damaging to a team's NCAA tournament resume.

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