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Buzzer Beaters: Tennessee, Maryland, and small slides

Maryland and Tennessee both were upset last week, not once, but twice, and to at least one team that was unranked. Let’s take a closer look at what has been going on lately with these two programs and why there has been a recent struggle for the Terps and Lady Vols.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Alabama at Tennessee Saul Young-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Buzzer Beater, a series of hopefully very short analytical articles whose format will change the moment I think of something better or run out of ideas, whichever comes first.

The article will be broken down into three sections: Shot Clock Off, where descriptors and real stuff about the teams or players discussed will be; Across Half Court, where the meat of the argument is, along with supporting evidence; SHOT IS UP AND–, in which I draw my conclusions. Now, you might say: do you really need to name these sections? Aren’t these just, you know, what every article has? And the answer is yes.

With this first article, I wanted to take a look at two top teams who are having a bit of trouble lately. They are the #10 Maryland Lady Terrapins and the #11 Tennessee Lady Volunteers.

SHOT CLOCK OFF

In Jeff Sagarin’s rankings, he has Maryland ranked 11th, and Tennessee 14th. The regular college polls have them at 10th and 11th, respectively. The Terrapins have won 22 games and lost five, and have lost their last two, while the Volunteers have won 21 and lost six, losing six of their last 12 games.

ACROSS HALF COURT

Tennessee has played a much, much tougher schedule than Maryland — 19th to Maryland’s 56th. The average ranking of six teams they lost to is 22nd (Maryland, having lost twice, to teams with an average ranking of 44th), and the strength of schedule of the teams Tennessee lost to is 29th, to Maryland’s 56th. Where Maryland has the advantage is raw scoring and defense; they rank 12th and 119th, respectively, to the Volunteers 21st and 177th.

One thing you might notice: both defenses, in terms of raw numbers, are pretty bad. That’s the thing that I think is holding both of these teams back, at least regarding their future March Madness success.

They’re blowing through regular season teams, beating them, by those raw scoring numbers, by an average of 14.2 points (Tennessee) and 20.3 points (Maryland), but that is going to be a lot more difficult to sustain against the Mississippi States and Connecticuts and Notre Dames of the world.

SHOT IS UP AND—

Tennessee has looked much worse for much longer than Maryland, so I’m inclined to say they’re the team more in trouble. They faced off against two of the top five teams in Notre Dame and Mississippi State, and got smacked in both games, (ND by 14, Miss State by 19), and also got beaten by some less than stellar teams like LSU (an 11 point loss) and Alabama (by 9).

Maryland, again, is only on a two-game losing streak, against admittedly worse competition, but the breadth of Tennessee’s woes, combined with traditional numbers and, frankly, the eye test, says to me that Maryland will probably have a better chance of competing, both for a conference title and the national championship.