Maryland comes into the NCAA Tournament as a six seed, a bit of a surprise considering Wisconsin got an eight seed. The Terrapins are arguably the weakest six seed in the field and could be an upset prone team. Let’s take a look at Maryland’s first-round matchup and other potential opponents.
Both teams come into the matchup on a little bit of a slide. Maryland (24-8) has lost four of its last six games. The Terps got knocked off by Northwestern in their first game of the Big Ten Tournament. Xavier (23-10) has lost seven of its last 10 games. To close out the regular season, the Musketeers beat No. 18 Butler in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals before losing to Creighton in the semifinals.
Xavier’s win over Butler was their only win over a Top 25 team this season. Maryland does not have a win over a Top 25 team, with their only chances coming against Purdue and Wisconsin.
While filling out your brackets one thing everyone should be aware of is that Maryland has been consistent in the first-round. The Terps have won 12 straight first-round games, which is the second-longest active streak behind North Carolina's 14. While history is on Maryland’s side, I still believe the Terrapins could easily take an early exit.
Xavier is experienced and the team has nothing to lose with best player Edmond Sumner out for the year with a leg injury. Also, nothing stands out statistically in this matchup, to make me think Maryland has the advantage. The Musketeers average 74.6 points a game, while the Terps average 74.2 points a game. Maryland surrenders 67.8 points a game, while Xavier surrenders 64.2 points a game.
This game will come down to the last two minutes of the game as most games do in March. Going with my gut, I like Xavier to move on. The Musketeers are tougher and they’ve faced stiffer competition in the Big East.
If They Advance
Although Xavier is my pick to move on, Maryland could very well prove me wrong and advance. The Terps will likely face Florida State in the second-round. The Seminoles play Florida Gulf Coast in their first-round matchup. Based off of narrative, that’s a bit of scary game just because of the crazy Sweet Sixteen team Florida Gulf Coast had in 2013.
For the sake of previewing the game, Maryland vs Florida State would not be a matchup that would favor the Terps. Florida State has seven Top 25 wins. Maryland hasn’t faced a team nearly as talented as Florida State is. The Seminoles have two NBA prospects in Jonathan Isaac and Dwayne Bacon, that will be a major problem for the Terps.
If Maryland wants to hang in this one, head coach Mark Turgeon will be counting on his own NBA prospect in Melo Trimble. Maryland’s best chance to get by Florida State and so on, is if Trimble is able to put together a Shabazz Napier 2014 Tournament like performance.
I’m not optimistic on Maryland’s draw. Remember Xavier was a Top 15 team back in January before Sumner went down, and this is the fourth year in a row that the Musketeers have been in the Big Dance. Florida State has been a Top 15 all season and finished tied for second in the ACC, the toughest conference.
That doesn’t mean Maryland cant get hot from three and pull off a upset or two. If that happens, the team will need more production from Justin Jackson, who has been inconsistent as of late. And obviously, the Terps will lean on the experience and stardom of Trimble.