Feb 14, 2015; University Park, PA, USA; Maryland Terrapins guard Melo Trimble (2) is congratulated by forward Evan Smotrycz (1) in the second half against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Bryce Jordan Center. The Terrapins won 76-73. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
The Maryland Mens basketball team will this year reach its first NCAA Tournament birth since 2010. It’s been a long five years for us all, I know the excitement is almost uncontrollable which could make the heartbreak that much more unbearable with an early-round exit. Maryland is currently slated to be between a two or three seed, even if they lose to Michigan State today.
Obviously powerhouse teams like Kentucky and Duke are to be avoided, but there are some matchup issues for Maryland throughout the country. Right now the types of teams Maryland appears to struggle against are slow-it-down, drag-out brawlers. Maryland also had a point in the season where they seemed to lose focus, although I don’t see that being a problem on this stage. Inexperience at point guard and coming off the bench could also prove to be hurdles Coach Turgeon has to find his way around.
There are more than a few matchups that Maryland would be tested by in the tournament, which is not something the Terps seem to be afraid of. One thing this team has shown over the last few weeks is heart and desire, two intangible things that separate teams in crunch time. On this list I’ll outline a few teams that would be a considerable test for the Terps in the NCAA Tournament. Whether it be due to playing style or roster composition, these are tames that Maryland could encounter due to seeding, predicted location, or just playing style.
Texas has the size and talent to upset Maryland early on if they find themselves in Maryland’s bracket for the rounds of 64 and 32. Coming into the season, Texas was ranked in the spot nationally that Maryland currently holds, number eight. This is due to the young star power of phenom freshman Myles Turner and returning star point guard Isaiah Taylor. They rightfully so were seen as one of the more talented teams in the country, with possibly an inside/outside, pick and roll tandem to be rivaled by only the likes of Kentucky and Duke. They started off hot, but when Isaiah Taylor went out with a wrist injury, the team slumped. Couple injuries with one of the tougher schedules in the country and they end the season as one of Joe Lunardi’s last four byes.
While their record and early Big 12 tournament exit are indicative of their season, don’t be fooled; this is still one of the more talented and big teams in the country. With Damonte Dodd and Jon Graham being spotty performers to say the least, a talented big like Myles Turner could prove to be an obstacle. A game like this would likely come down to who makes more shots in the last five minutes. And while I would put my money on Maryland to do so, Texas can at times score and defend with the best of them.
Experience, experience, experience. If their were a college basketball team whose players should all be using walkers Wichita State is it. They have been playing together for years, so their chemistry is second to none. They have one of the best coaches in the country in Gregg Marshall, a guy who could easily be coaching at a national name in the next two or three years. Players like Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet not only have been to the final four but also have experience making big plays in big games on a national stage. The experience and understanding of their roles make this a team who could out slug Maryland for a win.
IF we get to see this one expect a heavyweight show down.
WV’s bench is filled with guys willing to rip your head off as long as it comes with the ball.
Early in the season Maryland played a full-court pressing team in Virginia and stayed tough for the whole 40 minutes, even in a loss. Virginia is a team that presses you off and on, playing technically sound assignment defense. West Virginia’s press is a different animal. They are aggressive, strong, relentless, and they come at you in waves. They have a deep bench, filled with guys willing to rip your head off as long as it comes with the ball.
Melo Trimble as good as he is, is still only a freshman. A team like this could be overwhelming, especially with a biased crowd at their backs. Richaud Pack and Dez Wells are two seniors who would also be primary ball handlers against a pressing team. This game would either go two ways: Maryland wins close, or gets overwhelmed and blown out by the press. Maryland does have the talent to make them pay once they get the ball past the first two lines of defense, with athleticism and shooting to kill.
Shocka Smart and the Virginia Commonwealth Rams are another pressing team, however they aren’t the back alley beatdown that West Virginia is. Their motto — “Havoc” — is truly indicative of what they like to do on defense and offense. When you go to play VCU, be sure to have your track shoes on, because you are going to run the full 40 minutes whether you like it or not. They take more of a speed-finesse approach to the press, trapping your primary ball handler, cutting off his up-court vision, and sliding into passing lanes for easy interceptions.
VCU did lose Briante Webber (an NBA caliber player) early this year, but Smart’s system is so solid the team is still formidable. Due to Maryland being a running team as well, this could be one of the more fun, uptempo games of the entire tournament. In this type of game, it seems to come down to who gets the last shot. If we get this scenario let’s hope it’s the Terps.
At point guard through small forward, Georgia State throws out Ryan Harrow (formerly of NC State and Kentucky), Kevin Ware (Louisville transfer) and coach Ron Hunter’s son RJ Hunter (who may be the best shooter in the country). This is one of the 2014-2015 NCAA tournament mid major Cinderella candidates. They have as much talent in the backcourt as any major Division 1 team and can get hot going to the basket and shooting outside at any time.
Georgia State is the type of team you don’t want to see based upon the fact that they don’t know how good they are, and you don’t either. If they ever played, Maryland would be the heavy favorite; but the Cinderella is always an underdog. This is that pest that keeps biting at the giant’s ankles until they make a couple big shots late that win them the game. Georgia State is not a team you want to play when the pressure is high; you just don’t know who you are getting.
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Maryland has the talent to beat just about any team in the country. Their biggest threat to making an elite eight or final four is being surprised. If Mark Turgeon has his team prepared, they shouldn’t fall unless they are thoroughly out-played. Expectations are high; I’m sure we all want them to be met.
Good Luck Terps.