Maryland didn't need to beat Duke last night to validate its claim to any old NCAA tournament berth.
It did need that sort of victory to have a decent case for a top-four seed.
And at this point, the Terps may well wind up with one.
That might not be the case at this second --- Maryland belongs on at least the No. 5 line, perhaps even the No. 4 line --- but it's not hard to see this playing out in a way that will help the Terps.
Imagine Maryland winning at John Paul Jones Arena (finally) and then reaching the ACC final before losing the rubber game of the three-game season series to Duke. That makes the Terps 25-8 overall, and 20-5 with a full roster complement.
They would be a 7-3 road record, 10-7 away from College Park and presumably own something like a 7-6 record against the top 50. There would be no bad losses to their name, an RPI probably in the high teens and a strength of schedule in the same vicinity.
Even without something to compare that to (like, say, the resumes of Tennessee, Baylor, Texas A&M, Georgetown and Wisconsin), that's pretty imposing.
And remember, losing to Duke wouldn't hurt all that much. Nearly everybody is going to lose once in the next 10 days.
So let's say a No. 4 seed is a real possibility under this scenario. Where, then, will Maryland head for its opening weekend games.
Well, Kansas and Kansas State seem ticketed to Oklahoma City.
Syracuse and West Virginia/Ohio State look like good bets to head to Buffalo. The leftover team of the three is off to Providence or Jacksonville.
Kentucky and Purdue appear bound for Milwaukee.
Villanova is effectively ticketed for Providence. Ditto for Duke and a spot in Jacksonville.
Same goes for New Mexico to San Jose, which is closer to the Lobos' campus than Spokane.
So what does that leave?
2. New Orleans
3. New Orleans
4. San Jose
And who is in the mix, realistically, for a top-four seed besides the Terps?
Let's see. In no particular order, there's Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt, Temple, Tennessee, Georgetown, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Baylor, Texas A&M and Texas.
Hopping over all those East Coast/Rust Belt teams for a place in Providence seems unlikely. Jacksonville is probably a long shot, but possible.
So the guess here is Maryland will wind up in New Orleans or out west. But that could change very easily in the next 10 days.