Thanks to a third place finish in a tightly packed Big Ten, the Maryland Terrapins are one of the four conference teams to earn the coveted double-bye this week. In addition, Maryland appears to have the softer path to Sunday’s championship than the other side of the bracket—where Purdue looms large.
Maryland is led by point guard Melo Trimble, who was just named to the All-Big Ten team Monday. Trimble is the heart and soul of this team (both on and off the court) and by now, surely recognizes that his team goes as he does.
As of now, Trimble’s NBA draft stock hovers around a late second round pick. Surely, Trimble’s chief interest remains the well being of his team, but these next couple weeks could be the difference in whether the junior guard earns a spot on a NBA team, packs his bags to head overseas or possibly even return for his senior season.
Freshmen duo Justin Jackson and Anthony Cowan trail Trimble for the team lead in scoring with 10.7 and 10.4 points, respectively. With the majority of attention going to Purdue, Minnesota and Wisconsin lately, Maryland is faced with the perfect opportunity to swoop in as the tournament’s dark horse.
Let’s take a closer look.
Maryland will wait until Friday night to play its first game of the tournament. Mark Turgeon’s club will either face a program playing its third game in as many nights or Northwestern.
Most likely, it will be the latter. If Maryland’s opponent does indeed end up being the Wildcats, the matchup would only be the second of the season between the two teams. On Feb. 15, Maryland beat Northwestern 74-64 in Evanston.
In that contest, Trimble poured in a career-high 32 points on a dazzling 12-for-17 shooting display. Northwestern is not a team that will thrive in shootouts, and it relies heavily on strong defense.
I like Maryland’s chances to advance.
If They Advance
If Maryland advances to Saturday, the Wisconsin Badgers would likely be its opponent. The Badgers are one of the most confusing teams in the nation with their sporadic performances but appear to be on the upswing after a commanding victory over red-hot Minnesota.
Wisconsin and Maryland played their sole contest of the season Feb. 19, where the Badgers beat the Terrapins 71-60 behind strong scoring outings from Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ.
Trimble scored 27 points on 9-for-17 shooting, but the supporting cast provided no help in relief. The other four starters combined for just 16 points on 4-for-17 shooting.
If Maryland wants to advance to the championship round Sunday, it won’t be on Trimble’s shoulders, but, rather, those around him.
An overachieving season landed Maryland in a favorable spot as the No. 3 in the tournament. Projected to be anywhere from a No. 7 to 10 seed in various NCAA tournament bracket predictions, a strong showing from the Terrapins could surely help improve their case with the committee.
Expect Trimble to lead the team as always, but keep an eye on the young freshmen to see how they operate under the pressure in D.C.