The sweet 16 is finally here, and one of the most anticipated Maryland men's basketball seasons could either come to a close or continue rolling into the Elite 8. Kansas opened up as the seven point favorite, but the line has recently dropped to -6.5, per 247Sports. The Terps enter the KFC Yum! Center with victories over the South Dakota State Jackrabbits and Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, whereas the No. 1 seed Kansas Jayhawks cruised to victories over Austin Peay and UCONN.
Kansas boasts an impressive lineup which features a dual point guard attack in Frank Mason III and Devonte' Graham. The two combine for just south of 24 points per game and allow the Jayhawks to play at a controlled, half court pace or get out and run for fast break opportunities.
Additionally, they are also led by senior forward Perry Ellis, who accounts for 16.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Despite having a great defense overall, the Jayhawks aren't particularly dominant in any statistical defensive category - rebounds and steals per game - which have usually be Maryland's two biggest issues with each game.
In order for Maryland to come away victorious, Maryland will obviously need to improve their three point shooting - going 1-for-18 isn't ideal for any game let alone against Kansas. Melo Trimble will also need to capitalize from the charity stripe and do his best to attack off the dribble and get one or both of the guards in early foul trouble.
Maryland has the individual talent to not only compete, but win this game. If Mark Turgeon can lead his current squad against his Alma Mater, the victory will not only resonate across the rest of the NCAA tournament bracket, but for future recruiting classes.
Impact on the Bracket
NCAA Tournament Challenge brackets would seemingly shred with Kansas eliminated before the Final Four. The Jayhawks and Michigan State were labeled as the top two teams in the field to win the championship. A Maryland victory would mean that 25 percent of ESPN tournament challenge brackets would have their winner eliminated.
As far as the real bracket is concerned, a Jayhawk loss would mean that Maryland would face either Villanova or Miami for a chance to go to the Final Four. The tournament bracket is already wide open, and with a popular favorite out in the sweet 16, the remaining games could rival those from the first weekend with parity and close finishes.
Head coach Mark Turgeon has seen his share of ups and downs when it comes to recruiting for the Maryland Terrapins. Seeing five players leave the program upon his arrival, to landing star point guard Melo Trimble and current freshman Diamond Stone, the recruiting momentum is on the upswing.
The 2016 class features a solid three man group of Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter and Micah Thomas. With a solid group coming in, there is a chance for the 2017 class to be special. The fifth-ranked prospect in the 2017 class Trevon Duval is labeled as a strong possibility to join the Terp family thanks to the success of the 2015-16 season. The No. 1 recruit in the 2016 class Josh Jackson held the Terps in high esteem for quite some time before narrowing his list. Recent Alabama commit Terrance Ferguson also listed Maryland in his top list of schools once he decommitted from the Crimson Tide.
It's unlikely Maryland lands Ferguson - Jackson already announced Maryland is out of the running - but having these top prospects interested in Maryland is something that hasn't happened in quite some time in College Park. Having a successful tournament run, with a plethora of NBA prospects on the roster is a formula for success in regards to recruiting the highly regarded prospects that programs around the country covet.
All told, if Maryland can find a way to win on Thursday, it could be felt by the program for years to come.