First of all: GO TERPS! (and having got that out of the way)-here is one person’s opinion of how the Terrapins will fare in the NCAA Tournament.
It appears that the selection committee has put Maryland into the most dangerous region in the entire tournament. With the likes of overall #1 seed Kansas, Big Ten champion Ohio State, a Georgetown team that has the capability and the talent to make a deep run, and Tom Izzo’s don’t count-them-out Spartans at the #5 seed, the top half of the bracket is not lacking for talent or quality teams. Some intriguing teams also lurking in the Midwest region: a Northern Iowa squad that many pundits are picking as a sleeper, the two teams that have beaten Kansas this year (Tennessee and Oklahoma State), and a Georgia Tech team that just beat the Terps in the ACC Tournament. The Terps will begin the tournament late on Friday night with an opening round game against the #13 seeded Houston Cougars, the winners of the Conference USA tournament. Tom Penders, the Cougars’ coach, is a veteran of the NCAA wars, having taken four different schools to the tournament and has a veteran backcourt at his disposal in Aubrey Coleman and Kelvin Lewis. Coleman is the nation’s leading scorer and Lewis is the team’s best 3-point threat. You can bet that Gary Williams will have his charges focused on those two players in particular. Maryland can and should win this game, but it will need to play good defense and rebound well. Both offenses should score points in bunches, but I think the Maryland D should be the difference.
With an opening round win, the Terps will look to take on either the Spartans or the Aggies of New Mexico State. A date with the Aggies would be more of the same for the Terps, with another team that likes to get out and run and score points, but not so great defensively. On the other hand, Michigan State presents a formidable foe. Though not as consistent as some of Izzo’s better Spartan teams, this team is not devoid of talent. Kalin Lucas was last season’s Big Ten Player of the Year, and Raymar Morgan and Delvon Roe are big bodies who can bang down low. A trademark of Izzo teams are defensive intensity and rebounding. If Maryland wants to beat the Spartans, it will have to match the intensity and make shots in a grind it out type of game. Should the Terps survive the second round, I’m pretty certain Kansas will await them in the regional semifinals in St. Louis. The Jayhawks appear to be the most balanced, the deepest and most well-rounded team in the entire tournament. Their season has been nothing short of dominant, save for two losses to Tennessee and Oklahoma State (both of whom are in this regional). I believe, should the Terps get this far, it would take the perfect game to derail Kansas.
So I believe the Terrapins have what it takes to get to the Sweet Sixteen, but not further. But it will take two good to great efforts, with great shooting, determined defense and the experience that a senior-led backcourt can bring to get them there. After that, who knows…an upset over Kansas is the type of thing that makes March great. I just wouldn’t bet the house on it.