The 2015-16 Maryland Terrapins will go down as one of the most publicly hyped up teams in school history. After trying to figure out how to move forward from sophomore guard Dion Wiley's season ending injury, to developing the necessary team chemistry for a successful season, the Maryland Terrapins have found themselves in the midst of the sweet 16 for the first time since 2003.
Maryland was the talk of a possible contender for a first round upset. All of the pieces fit that argument. They fell on the dreaded 5-seed line which is notorious for being upset in the first round, and their best player, Melo Trimble, was trying to figure out how to get out of his shooting slump which plagued him late in the regular season and into the conference tournament.
With two wins under their belt in the Big Dance, the Terrapins are clicking and brimming with confidence as they head to Louisville to take on the No. 1 seeded Kansas Jayhawks. Taking on the Jayhawks will be a daunting task, as the Terps opened up as a 7-point underdog in Thursday's contest. If the past weekend is any indication of what's to come for the rest of the tournament, absolutely anything is possible, and if Maryland can play like they did in the second half of their round of 32 game, this is a Final Four caliber program.
Here's a look at what Maryland's path to Houston could look like.
After taking care of South Dakota State and Hawaii in the first two games of the tournament, the focus now shifts to the Kansas Jayhawks, a program where Mark Turgeon seemingly developed his basketball roots. Not only will Turgeon's history with his Alma Mater be a storyline throughout the week, but so too will the individual matchups on the court.
The Jayhawks will undoubtedly be Maryland's toughest test yet. Like the Terrapins, Kansas is one of the most balanced offensive teams in the country, as four players boast a double figure point per game average. They use a dual point guard attack with Frank Mason III and Devonte' Graham. The two guards combine for 24.2 points, and can both orchestrate a half court offense or lead the fast break.
The Jayhawks don't boast a plethora of first round NBA talent on their current roster, but their steady play - led ultimately by senior Perry Ellis - allows for the Jayhawks to always stay in competitive against any opponent. Their upperclassmen and a balanced offensive attack can be troublesome. Offensively, the Jayhawks are second to none when it comes to putting up impressive numbers. Kansas shoots just south of 50 percent from the field, 71 percent from the charity stripe and 42 percent from the perimeter. The Terrapins will need the defensive effort that was on display during the second half of the Hawaii game to be in full effect for 40 minutes on Thursday if they wish to move on to the Elite 8.
If They Advance
Defeating the deep, balanced Jayhawks is not going to be an easy feat, but for hypothetical reasons, let's project the possible opponents for Maryland in the Elite 8.
The Miami Hurricanes feature a bevy of experienced players - out of the nine players who average at least 10 minutes per game, only three of them are sophomores or freshmen. They're led by senior guards Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez who can both break a game open with their scoring acumen.
Maryland could have an advantage playing the Hurricanes, as they matchup with them well on the glass. Both programs average 35 rebounds per game, per ESPN, and have big, physical frontcourts that would attempt to shut down the paint defensively.
The other possible opponent in the Elite 8 could be the Villanova Wildcats. Jay Wright and company made short work of Iowa on Sunday with an 87-68 victory over the Hawkeyes. The Wildcats have a brand of basketball that could be problematic for the Terrapins. With a four guard lineup and solid big man, Villanova would be reminiscent of playing the Indiana Hoosiers.
Think of lights out three point shooters to go along with a big man who averages a solid nine point and seven rebounds. Those aren't overwhelming stats, but Daniel Ochefu can be a physical defensive presence who can take Diamond Stone out of the game. Throw in the fact that they too can use two point guards simultaneously, the road to Houston become that much harder due to a variety of offensives that the Terps would have to contain.
Maryland has the potential and pieces to cut down the nets, but facing smaller, quicker lineups could be the reason their season comes to an end. Facing a team like Kansas will be an interesting barometer to see where Maryland truly stacks up as a nationally elite program. They're certainly in that category now being in the sweet 16, but can they sustain their success with a solid showing in the late stages of the tournament is the real question.
If they get past the Jayhawks, Miami would be the preferred matchup in the Elite 8. The Terrapins matchup better with their size and won't have to worry about a smaller, four guard lineup that Villanova would put on display. Anything can happen at this point, so if the Terps can string together solid offensive and defensive performances without Melo Trimble getting into foul trouble, Houston will be waiting for the Terrapins.