The Maryland Terrapins’ (25-8) disappointing regular season came to an end when given a five-seed in the NCAA Tournament’s South Region. Following the early offseason hype of Final Four or bust and desires for a number one seed in the Big Dance, reality has hit that the Terps did themselves in by not fully utilizing their volume of talent. There is still time to make amends for the lackluster end of the regular season by making a deep run in the March Madness festivities.
Mark Turgeon believes the Terps brutal end of season schedule and the Big Ten tournament will prepare the group well for another NCAA tournament run. Despite the close loss to the Michigan State Spartans, a snubbed potential one-seed, the Maryland team is still a confident bunch.
First up the Terps will take on the No. 12 seeded South Dakota State Jackrabbits in Spokane, Washington on Friday, March 19th at approximately 4:30 ET on TBS. The Terrapins are an early 8-point favorite according to Vegas.
South Dakota State has only two players taller than 6′ 6” in their main rotation, Mike Daum and Ian Theisen who are each 6′ 9”. For all of their struggles rebounding recently, Maryland must dominate the glass against the Jackrabbits.
South Dakota State shot 35.7 percent from beyond the arc during the season and averaged about 7.5 made 3-pointers per game. The Terps perimeter defense has been in question before so they will certainly look to play it tight.
Stopping Mike Daum will be the Terps number one priority as the freshman averages 15 points and 6 rebounds a game in just over twenty minutes of action. I expect Jake Layman to draw the assignment defensively.
Mark Turgeon has already scouted South Dakota State because they were one of the team in the Cancun Challenge that the Terps won in November.
Should Maryland take care of business against the Jackrabbits, it is likely that the Cal Bears will be the next team up. That would provide an interesting game for many NBA scouts because of California having Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, the 3rd and 14th selection, respectively, in Draft Express’ 2016 NBA Mock Draft. For comparison Maryland has Diamond Stone coming in at 16, Melo Trimble at 31, Jake Layman at 43, and Robert Carter Jr. at 50. That is not to say that the Golden Bears are more talent, they are not, but Brown and Rabb likely have a better upside because of their youth.
After a couple of hiccups during the non-conference portion of their schedule, California finished strong by winning 9 of their last 11 including a home beatdown of a No. 1 seed in Oregon. The Golden Bears are led by their senior point guard Tyrone Wallace, 15.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game, and have the size that allow them to be the 30th best rebounding team in the country. Maryland on the other hand is 213th in the country when it comes to rebounding.
If the Terps are able to advance to the Sweet 16, it would probably set up a showdown with Mark Turgeon’s alma mater in Kansas. Kansas is easily the best team in college basketball right now. Since a stretch where they lost three of five, Bill Self’s has rattled off 14 straight victories including the Big 12 regular season and tournament championship.
They are a balanced team with experience. Perry Ellis (16.7 PPG), Wayne Selden Jr. (13.3 PPG), Frank Mason III (13.1 PPG), and Devonte’ Graham (11.7 PPG) have played every game this season and have a combined 12 years of experience, a rarity in college basketball.
Things that would help Maryland make a deeper run would include Connecticut, who the Terps have already beat this year on the “road”, continuing their hot stretch and upsetting the number one overall seeded Kansas Jayhawks. Mid-major Hawaii beating a talented California Golden Bears squad would also help the Terps chances of getting to the Sweet 16.
If Maryland is able to pull off a string of good performances on their way to the Elite Eight, a number of teams could be in their way to a Final Four trip to Houston. The potential opponents include Villanova (2), Miami (3), Arizona (6), and Iowa (7). Should a magical run continue and the Terps advance to Houston, heavyweights like Oklahoma, Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, and/or Michigan State could be there too.
Maryland has the ability to beat any team in the country if they can rebound, protect the ball, play defense like they did against Michigan State, and run efficient offense like they did against Nebraska. Should they be able to miraculously put all of that together I think a national championship is not just possible, but probably. However, more realistically I think the Terps put up a good fight against Kansas, but fall short in the Sweet 16.