Maryland will only have three possible games in its first trip to the Big Ten tournament. As one of the top four teams, the No.2 seeded Terps have a bye in the first and second rounds, giving them a jump directly to the quarterfinals. As Maryland sits comfortably in the second spot in Big Ten standings and eighth in the AP and USA Today Coaches polls, the Terps have all but officially secured an NCAA tournament bid.
In regards to the Big Ten tournament this week, Maryland is among five Big Ten teams merely looking to improve their seeding in the Big Dance. The other teams include Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa.
Maryland will face either Indiana or Northwestern in its first game. In the regular season, the Terps split the series with Indiana. Each won respectively on their home courts. Surprisingly, Northwestern plowed into College Park. The Terps did finish with the 68-67 victory, but the Wildcats gave them a close run for their money.
Though Northwestern recently beat the Hoosiers, Indiana is expected to win its second round matchup. This should be the third game in a very fun series this season featuring two of the best backcourts in the nation with James Blackmon and Yogi Ferrell for Indiana and Melo Trimble and Dez Wells for Maryland. There would likely be a lot of offense in this one, but Maryland would appear to be the favorite against a reeling Indiana team.
Should Maryland then win its first ever Big Ten tournament game against Indiana or Northwestern, it would move on to play Michigan State, Ohio State, Minnesota or Rutgers. No. 6 seeded Ohio State will play the winner of No.11 Minnesota and No. 14 Rutgers on Thursday at nine o'clock. No. 3 Michigan State will play whoever comes out on top of that bunch.
The most likely matchups for Maryland in the semi-final would be either Michigan State or Ohio State on Saturday since the Buckeyes beat both Minnesota and Rutgers during the regular season and would be favored again. However, the Ohio State and Michigan State matchup would be one of the more unpredictable games of the Big Ten tournament. Michigan State has won six of its last eight games of the regular season, including an overtime loss at home to Minnesota and a down to the wire win at Indiana. The Buckeyes have won three of their last four games. Ohio State traveled to East Lansing on February 14. The Spartans outscored the Buckeyes by three points to take the victory.
Maryland beat Michigan State twice in the regular season. The first was a double overtime, two point victory on December 30 in East Lansing. The other was an easier win for Maryland, as it took down Tom Izzo's team 75-59 on January 17 in College Park. In its trip to Columbus on January 29, Maryland lost to Ohio State 80-56. On paper, either matchup would be very challenging for the Terps. On a single game basis, the Buckeyes would appear to be the bigger challenge, but considering that they would need to win back-to-back games to even reach the semi-final, facing them on tired legs could be advantageous for Maryland and the better matchup, despite the challenges that D'Angelo Russell gives opponents.
Overall, Maryland should not have too much trouble getting past its quarterfinal against either Indiana or Northwestern. However, it will have to prepare for both Michigan State and Ohio State in a possible semi-final that could be a complete toss-up. The good thing for the Terps is that regardless of their success in Chicago, they will be in the NCAA tournament.