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Mid-Atlantic College Hoops Power Rankings: Get familiar with the Liberty Flames

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Mid-Atlantic College Hoops Power Rankings: Get familiar with the Liberty Flames

Only a handful of teams in the Mid-Atlantic area will be able to dance in March. 

One of those teams will likely be the Liberty Flames who are having an incredible season after nabbing their first NCAA Tournament victory a year ago. Over halfway through the season there is only one loss to the Flames name - a road loss to ranked LSU. As such they have risen to No. 2 in these rankings. 

Under the direction of Ritchie McKay in his seventh season, he has directed Liberty to their best start in program history. He instills a tough defense with a traditional offensive flow that tripped up No. 5 seeded Mississippi State last year. 

After that success and being the class of the Atlantic Sun this season, their record has drawn attention across the country. 

Six players averaging more than eight points each has Liberty as one of the most balanced offenses in the entire country. Senior forward Scottie James is who everyone remembers from last season (10.1 points, 7.3 rebounds this year), but they now have other weapons to utilize. 

Aside from their trip up at LSU, the Flames have rolled all season long. In conference play, no one is getting close to them. If you're unfamiliar, they're a lot like Virginia and even though the scores may be close, it doesn't mean the game was. 

If Liberty keeps up this pace they may not need their conference's automatic bid to even make the tournament. It also helps there is a slight cachet with the program now. 

Liberty will be a team no one wants to face in the first round of the tournament. They'll also be a popular upset pick.

Mid-Atlantic matchups to watch: 

Virginia vs. No. 19 Florida State - Wednesday, January 15th at 7:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
No. 25 Creighton vs. Georgetown - Wednesday, January 15th at 7:00 p.m. (CBSSN)
Purdue vs. No. 17 Maryland - Saturday, January 18th at 2:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
Marquette vs. Georgetown - Saturday, January 18th at 2:00 p.m. (FS1)
Richmond vs. George Mason - Saturday, January 18th at 2:30 p.m. (NBCSN)

Mid-Atlantic Power Rankings

1. Maryland Terrapins (Big Ten):
Record: 13-4 (3-3)
Last Week: #1 (N/A)

Two sides of the coin for Maryland this past week. A clear-cut, season-defining victory over No. 11 Ohio State, who Mark Turgeon considers a national championship contender. Their defense held the Buckeye to 31% and 18% shooting from the field and behind the arc and led by 10 points for the near entirety of the second half. 

Then came Iowa and all the other reasons why Maryland has been questioned throughout the season. The defense stood tall, but the offense could not keep pace. They were down by 14 at the half and never got much closer. Only Jalen Smith reached double figures. Rinse and repeat against Wisconsin, yet the offense did wake up but not enough.

Just when it seemed like Terps had turned a corner and were having fun, they turn to be exactly who everyone thought they were: a good team with a lot of question marks on offense.

2. Liberty Flames (Atlantic Sun):
Record: 18-1 (4-0)
Last Week: #4 (+2)

There are only two teams in Division I that have a better record than the Flames, undefeated San Diego State and Auburn. 

Most recently they knocked off Jacksonville by 27 points and are dominating the opposition in the Atlantic Sun.

In a year predicated on the lack of elite teams in the sport, Liberty could be a team to rise to the occasion. Their mindset is quite similar to Tony Bennett's Virginia crew that won a national championship a year ago - play stout defensively and make every shot count on offense. 

They haven't really been tested but have beaten every opponent minus LSU. Still, they're up to a No. 11 seed in Joe Lunardi's latest bracketology and will face an unsuspecting Power 5 team in the NCAA Tournament. It's the prime position for a Sweet 16 run if they can hang in there. Honestly, they probably don't want to be seeded any higher either.

3. Virginia Cavaliers (ACC):
Record: 11-4 (3-2)

Last Week: #2 (-1)

Alright, now it might be time to realize that Virginia is not as good as everyone thought they were. It is rather shocking at how bad too. 

The Cavaliers' offense is 229th out of 353 teams in adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom. A year ago only Gonzaga had a more efficient offense in the entire country. Back-to-back losses to Boston College and Syracuse, neither of which are in consideration for the NCAA Tournament makes it worse.

Part of their deficiencies is due to the lack of depth. They have three players, Kihei Clark, Mamadi Diakite and Braxton Key that had a significant role in their 2019 championship. After them, there is a big drop-off. 

This should have been addressed in nonconference play, now it is costing Virginia. Cavaliers are unranked for the first time in over two seasons.

4. VCU Rams (A-10):
Record: 12-5 (2-2)
Last Week: #3 (-1)

Uh, what happened VCU? This was the prime week to break into the top-2 of the rankings.

The offense (sensing a theme?) went quiet as Marcus Santos-Silva struggled against the lengthy Rams, notably Cyril Langevine. It was only the third time this year that they failed to score 60 points. 

A loss though catapults the VCU Rams in the at-large picture. Without an ironclad nonconference resume, the last thing they could afford was an Atlantic 10 was a home loss to any team other than Dayton. 

Now they have lost, which leaves pretty even less wiggle room for the Rams down the stretch. Losing an all-important game against Dayton gives them one less chance to earn that quality win they still need.

5. Virginia Tech Hokies (ACC):
Record: 13-4 (4-2)
Last Week: #5 (N/A)

Three straight wins in ACC play shows that the Hokies have a legitimate shot at NCAA Tournament appearance. They're fourth in the league as it stands with three AP top-11 teams ahead of them. 

Against Syracuse, it was an electric 21-4 run in the second half that got them in control. In all of their other contests, it was other players stepping up beside Landers Nolley II. Jalen Cone had 19 points against the Orange. Tyrece Radford had 21 in a road win over Wake Forest. 

6. Richmond Spiders (A-10):
Record: 13-4 (3-1)
Last Week: #7 (+1)

Two huge road wins for the Spiders to start Atlantic 10 play. They got two of the toughest venues out of the way by beating Rhode Island and Davidson.

However, they lost their leading scorer Blake Francis with an upper-body injury. His status going forward is uncertain.

7. Georgetown Hoyas (Big East):
Record: 11-6 (1-3)
Last Week: #6 (-1)

Mac McClung returned to his dominant self by dropping 21 points against St. John's in the first half of their contest.

And they are a team that will go as far as he can take them. There are nice pieces, but he is their heartbeat. 

8. George Mason Patriots (A-10):
Record: 12-4 (1-2)
Last Week: #8 (N/A)

Losing at home to St. Bonaventure really took the air out of what many assumed to be the best Patriots team in the Dave Paulsen era.

At least for them, their top scorer from last season, Justin Kier, is back from injury and appears to be fully healthy.

9. William & Mary Tribe (CAA):
Record: 13-5 (5-0)
Last Week: #9 (N/A)

The Tribe looks a full tier ahead of every team they've faced in CAA play. An incredible job by first-year head coach Dane Fischer that may finally get the program into the NCAA Tournament.

Nathan Knight's double-double counter check: is now 14 in 18 games. 

10. Radford Highlanders (Big South):
Record: 8-7 (3-0)

Last Week: #11 (+1)

Radford is performing as expected now that Big South play has started. Three straight wins to get them back over .500.

11. Delaware Blue Hens (CAA):
Record: 12-6 (2-3)
Last Week: #10 (-1)

Delaware beat inferior opponents in nonconference play, have drastically struggled since. Blue Hens have lost six of their last nine games.

12. James Madison Dukes (CAA):
Record: 8-9 (1-5)
Last Week: #12 (N/A)

13. Towson Tigers (CAA):
Record: 9-9 (3-3)
Last Week: #14 (+1)

14. Navy Midshipmen (Patriot):
Record: 8-7 (2-2)
Last Week: #15 (+1)

Finding a consistent offense has been a struggle for Navy throughout the years. Cam Davis has 20+ points in three of the last four games.

15. Old Dominion Monarchs (C-USA):
Record: 6-10 (2-1)
Last Week: #13 (-2)

16. American Eagles (Patriot):
Record: 6-9 (2-2)
Last Week: #16 (N/A)

17. Loyola Greyhounds (Patriot):
Record: 9-9 (1-4)
Last Week: #17 (N/A

18. Hampton Pirates (Big South):
Record: 7-9 (2-1)
Last Week: #20 (+2)

Jermaine Marrow missed some games in December but overall has had an up and down year. Against Longwood, he dropped 30 on 11-for-20 shooting.

19. UMBC Retrievers (A-East):
Record: 7-11 (0-3)
Last Week: #18 (-1)

20. George Washington Colonials (A-10):
Record: 6-10 (0-3)
Last Week: #19 (-1)

21. Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers (NEC):
Record: 6-11 (2-2)
Last Week: #22 (+1)

22. Norfolk State Spartans (MEAC):
Record: 7-11 (3-0)
Last Week: #23 (+1)

23. Morgan State Bears (MEAC):
Record: 8-11 (2-2)
Last Week: #21 (-2)

24. Longwood Lancers (Big South):
Record: 6-11 (1-3)
Last Week: #25 (+1)

25. Coppin State (MEAC):
Last Season: 4-15 (0-4)
Last Week: #24 (-1)

26. VMI Keydets (SoCon):
Record: 5-13 (0-5)
Last Week: #26 (N/A)

27. Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks (MEAC):
Record: 2-16 (1-2)
Last Week: #27 (N/A)

28. Delaware State Hornets (MEAC):
Record: 2-15 (1-2)
Last Week: #29 (+1)

29. Howard Bison (MEAC):
Record: 2-14 (0-4)
Last Week: #28 (-1)

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Mark Turgeon still frustrated with officials as Maryland prepares for next test at Minnesota

Mark Turgeon still frustrated with officials as Maryland prepares for next test at Minnesota

Riding a nine-game winning streak, the Maryland Terrapins entered Sunday’s matchup at Ohio State off as strong a month as the program has had under Mark Turgeon.

They had to lose eventually, and Ohio State proved to have the right formula to slow down stars Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith. Behind their suffocating defense and lights out shooting night both beyond the arc and at the free throw line, the Buckeyes, held Maryland at bay just long enough to come away with a seven-point win over a top ten team.

No one on the Terrapins was making excuses after the game. They didn’t play well enough to win in the end, and their focus is fully on their next game, Wednesday night in Minnesota.

That didn’t stop head coach Mark Turgeon from making a point to call out the officiating Sunday.

Turgeon lost his most important, and experienced, player with just a few minutes left in the game thanks to a technical foul given out by the officiating crew after Anthony Cowan kicked his foot out in frustration after a no-call.

The Maryland head coach unsurprisingly came to the defense of Cowan, but didn’t directly complain about the officials in regards to the call.

What really stuck with Turgeon was the physical play the refs allowed Ohio State to get away with down low.

It’s very unlike Turgeon to so vocally complain about the officiating. Maryland has been on the receiving end of plenty of coaching complaints to league officials -- Melo Trimble’s foul rate dropping dramatically after his freshman year comes to mind -- but public comments rarely lead to anything positive.

The fact that he was so willing to voice his displeasure shows just how far Turgeon felt Kaleb Wesson and the Buckeyes were able to push the line.

It wasn’t just a reaction in the heat of the moment, either. Turgeon doubled down on his statements Tuesday as the team prepared for their Wednesday night game.

He admitted the likely futility of his comments, but Turgeon is still making a point to the officials here. The game needs to be called fairly, and referees are there to be the adults in the room. 

Turgeon is also likely looking ahead to the Big Ten Tournament with his comments. Right now, Maryland would be set up to potentially face Ohio State in their first game of the tournament, and Turgeon wants to get out ahead of the officiating in the rubber match.

With a two-game lead in the Big Ten and four games to play, the Minnesota game is an important one for Maryland. Like Ohio State, the Golden Gophers have a physical specimen in the paint of their own in Daniel Oturu.

If the officials allow Oturu to bully Jalen Smith in the post, coming across as one-sided as Turgeon felt they were in Columbus, Maryland’s head coach isn’t going to hold back again.

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Don't fret Terps fans, Maryland is still in the driver's seat for a No. 1 seed

Don't fret Terps fans, Maryland is still in the driver's seat for a No. 1 seed

Maryland missed a golden opportunity on Sunday to rise to the No. 1 seed conversation for the NCAA Tournament. But despite losing after being in a prime position, they still are the best team capable of earning the final top seed in March. 

Three of the then-projected No. 1 seeds by ESPN's Joe Lunardi lost on Saturday. Baylor lost to a fellow No. 1 seed Kansas, but Gonzaga and San Diego State both lost to teams outside of the AP Top 25. And in San Diego State's case, a team that isn't making the NCAA Tournament. 

It was a prime situation for Maryland to rise from the No. 2 line that they have been strapped to all season long. Alas, they fell on the road to Ohio State to pause the conversation for the time being - albeit in a loss that was not without some controversy

The loss, however, does not permanently remove the Terrapins from becoming a No. 1 seed. In fact, Maryland is in the driver's seat for the final No. 1 seed currently occupied by San Diego State. 

Kansas, Baylor and Gonzaga are untouchable for Maryland unless one of those teams fall down the stretch. Kansas has 11 Quadrant 1 victories, Baylor is 10-1 in Q1 chances and 6-0 in those on the road and Gonzaga is 22-0 in non-Q1 chances. No one is passing one of those three based on that alone.

The final spot is open. SDSU, Maryland, Duke, Dayton and Florida State are the last remaining teams in consideration for the final No. 1 seed. A crowded field to say the least.

None of them have what Maryland has though: four Q1 opportunities left on their regular-season schedule. 

SDSU has none, Duke and Dayton have one, while Florida State has two after beating Louisville on Monday evening.

IF the committee regards Quadrant 1 wins as much as the NET rankings claim, then logic dictates that Maryland has the best opportunity to take that spot. Quadrant 1 games are defined as a home game against an opponent ranked 1-30 in the NET, a neutral site opponent from 1-50 or a road opponent from 1-75.

Before losing to Ohio State, Lunardi said that Maryland "would [ascend] to the No. 1 seed" with a win over the Buckeyes. That would slide the Aztecs to the No. 2 seed line. And losing to Ohio State is just another Q1 loss. Of all the losses from the top teams last week, including Duke's loss to NC State, Maryland's was the second-best in the eyes of metrics. They really shouldn't be hurt from that loss whatsoever. 

On top of those four regular-season games, the Terrapins would likely get at least two more Q1 chances in the Big Ten Tournament in the semifinals and the championship game, assuming they kept winning. But all of this hinges on continuing to win down the stretch. 

Maryland would have a better resume than any team that wins the ACC (Duke, Florida State or Louisville) and definitely better wins than either Dayton or San Diego State. 

The opportunity for a No. 1 seed is still there, now they can just focus on themselves. 

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