The Maryland Terrapins may have one of the toughest paths to Houston out of any program in the field. For starters, the cross country trip from College Park to Spokane will serve as an early test to ward of any jet lag with the time zone switch. Next, the south region as a whole is one of the most talented regions in the tournament. Maryland and California offer two of the most NBA draftee laden lineups. Kansas, Villanova, Miami and even Wichita State could pose problems for the Terrapins on their road to Houston.
South Dakota State can serve as the first problem for Maryland. The Jackrabbits come into Friday's game with a 26-7 mark and will look to use a small lineup to stymie the monstrous lineup of the Terrapins.
Here are three key points to this game, which is scheduled to tip off at approximately 4:30 p.m. ET on Friday, March 18 on TBS.
How will the Terrapins defend Mike Daum?
It's not very often that a program's best player is a true freshman, who comes off the bench and only plays 20 minutes per game, but in the case of South Dakota State, Mike Daum should be priority number one for Maryland. The 6'9, 245-pound forward took the Summit League by storm by averaging 15.2 points and about six rebounds per game in just 20.5 minutes per contest.
His offensive versatility is one that could pose multiple problems for Diamond Stone, Robert Carter Jr. and Damonte Dodd. Daum does most of his damage inside the 3-point line, as he shoots an efficient 56 percent from the field and averages five made field goal attempts to nine shots attempted. He isn't prone to making multiple 3-pointers, but can step out and make them on occasion as he averages 45 percent from distance. Due to the multi-faceted skill set of Robert Carter Jr., it would make sense to have him guard Daum as he can comfortably stretch out to the perimeter if Daum elects to stretch Maryland's bigs away from the rim.
Can Jake Layman sustain his momentum from the Big Ten Tournament?
All throughout the regular season, Terrapins fans used senior Jake Layman as a scapegoat during the rougher stages of the season. Perhaps those fans are feeling differently about Layman's impressive Big Ten Tournament performances. Layman totaled 35 points and nine rebounds in the two games played at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Layman was one of five double figure scorers for Maryland this season, but when he consistently elevates his game to the level of his conference tournament play, the sky is the limit for Maryland. Melo Trimble's shooting woes could also be cause for Layman to step up on Friday.
Can the Jackrabbits win the rebounding battle?
Looking at the two teams on paper, it would be clear to think that the Terrapins would easily win the battle of the boards with their towering frontcourt. Diving into the statistics, the Jackrabbits out rebound Maryland by an average of three per game. Although the Jackrabbits' tallest player who averages significant minutes is Daum at 6'9", they do a great job of team rebounding. The Jackrabbits boast five players who average at least four rebounds per game.
This could potentially be a dangerous game for the Terrapins, as the Terps struggle with winning the rebounding battle. Out of their eight total losses, Maryland got out rebounded in five of those contests. Having tremendous guard play in the NCAA tournament is critical, but rebounding is always pivotal whenever a game is played and Maryland will need to block out at all five positions in order to prevent an early exit in the Big Dance.