Maryland is up against history.
Since it’s inception in 2011, the First Four has served as a launching pad, not a hiccup, for many a team that’s found its way to Dayton, Ohio.
Don’t believe me? I’ll show my work:
2018 — Syracuse defeats Arizona State in First Four, reaches Sweet Sixteen before falling to Duke.
2017 — USC advanced over Providence in First Four, beats six-seeded SMU in its next game.
2016 — Wichita State handedly wins over Vanderbilt in First Four, defeats Arizona two days later.
2015 — Dayton squeaks by Boise State in a de facto home game in First Four, proceeds to take down Providence.
2014 — Tennessee beats Iowa in overtime in First Four, makes the Sweet Sixteen before losing to Michigan.
2013 — La Salle defeats Boise State (poor Boise) in First Four, and little La Salle reaches the Sweet Sixteen before falling to Wichita State.
2012 — USF takes care of Cal in First Four, moves on to take down Temple in next round.
2011 — And perhaps most famously, VCU turns First Four into Final Four by beating USC before many weeks later falling to Butler.
So for the tl/dr crowd, what’s this mean for Maryland? Well if history repeats itself for the eighth straight time, the Terrapins have a 50-50 shot of falling prey to a potential Cinderella.
-No. 6 Maryland Terrapins vs No. 11 Belmont Bruins
- Time/TV: 3:10PM ET - truTV
- KenPom Spread: Maryland (-3)
Considering the time we took up top to talk about the First Four, we might as well start this game preview by looking at one of its most recent victors — the Belmont Bruins.
After losing to Ja Morant and the Murray State Racers in the Ohio Valley Conference Championship, Belmont’s bubble status remained very much up in the air entering Sunday evening’s selection show.
But after defeating Temple 81-70 Tuesday night, Belmont proved the selection committee right as it picked up its first-ever NCAA Tournament win in fairly convincing fashion.
Leading the way against the Owls was senior Kevin McClain. The 6-foot-3 guard scored 29 points on 8-of-14 shooting, including an impressive 9-for-11 from the free throw stripe. As the second-leading scorer on the Bruins, this output from McClain wasn’t out of place. However, it was needed as senior leading scorer Dylan Windler struggled to get into rhythm.
On the year, however, Windler has been Mr. Do-Everything for Belmont, leading the Bruins in both points (20.8) and rebound (10.7) per game. If not for future NBA lottery pick Ja Morant, Windler very-well could have been the OVC Player of the Year. As it stands, he earned first-team honors, as Belmont filled up its trophy case by also having the conference’s coach (Rick Byrd) and freshmen (Nick Muszynski) of the year.
It only takes a little bit of research to see that Belmont isn’t mid-major good — its just good period. And with that in mind, Maryland will have its hands full Thursday afternoon.
Don’t get me wrong, in Anthony Cowan Jr., Bruno Fernando, and Jalen Smith, the Terrapins have more future professionals on its team. But in Windler, McClain, and the 6-foot-10 Muszynski, Belmont has a roster that will fancy itself capable of hanging with UMD.
It’s no secret I’ve been impressed with Maryland all season long. On more than one occasion I’ve written about how the Terps were designed to win in March.
What I failed to consider, however, was running into a team like Belmont. And I’m really starting to get a baddd feeling about this game for Maryland.
- Pick Against The Spread: Belmont
Season Record vs KenPom’s Spread: 19-26