Maryland Basketball: 5 Teams Terrapins Don't Want to Face in NCAA Tournament
Although you won't hear anyone talk about them, the Maryland Terrapins still have a chance to make it to this year's NCAA tournament. The key word there is chance. At 16-11 overall and 6-7 in the ACC, Maryland would likely need to win the ACC tournament to gain the conference's automatic berth.
Even if Maryland wins its final three games and first ACC tournament game, it's doubtful they would be considered for one of the final spots. And with the Terps' current level of play, the mere notion they could go on a tournament run and beat North Carolina or Duke sounds entirely unrealistic. So while their tournament hopes are still alive, it's far more likely their season ended weeks ago and they should be back at the all-too familiar NIT once the season ends.
But let's say we suspend all belief in reality and somehow Maryland wins the ACC title. Or for some crazy reason they don't win the title but finish strong and get a bubble spot. In this farfetched scenario, what teams would Maryland want to avoid in the NCAA tournament?
Here are five of those teams that Maryland would rather not play once the NCAA tournament begins.
If Maryland does make the NCAA tournament, it's likely that its loss to Virginia was their final one in the regular season. Still it's doubtful that the bad taste will have been removed from arguably the Terps' worst loss this season.
During their previous meeting, Virginia manhandled Maryland with a 71-44 final score. The game was close at halftime however in the second half Maryland suffered an enormous offensive meltdown as they scored a total of 13 points. Maryland will need to try to simply forget this awful loss and hope for a different outcome when they face Virginia in their final regular season game.
The fact that they had such a historically bad performance against Virginia would have to make Maryland uneasy about facing them in the actual tournament. Also since Maryland is 6-7 against ACC teams this season, any game against ACC opponents figures to be a difficult one.
Even with the potential for revenge there, the Terrapins would just be better off not having to go against Virginia in the NCAA tournament.
Michigan State Spartans
Even with their rich history, the Terrapins have only lost to one team multiple times in the NCAA tournament. That team is the Michigan State Spartans, the team responsible for Maryland's last NCAA loss.
Both losses were close ones that saw the Spartans pull away nearly at the last second. This year a close loss would be unlikely considering that Maryland is struggling to be a bubble team and Michigan State is one of the best teams in the nation. Currently ranked sixth in the nation Michigan could be a two seed to a potential Maryland 15 seed, which usually are not the closest of games.
Michigan State averages 72.9 points per game, a number that Maryland struggles to put up in many games. They would have to have more offensive success likely to even keep this game close. A close win would be perfect for Maryland as they would finally gain vengeance for those two postseason losses.
This may seem like an unlikely squad to include as a team that Maryland would want to avoid. Iona themselves are a bit of an underrated team that has a difficult road ahead if they want to get to the NCAA tournament. They are an impressive 22-6, however they play in the lowly MAAC so they need to keep winning to have a shot at a higher seed.
Still if somehow Maryland got a higher seed, it would be so like them to lose to one of those dangerous lower seeds. Iona already has a dominating 89-63 victory over Maryland earlier this season so they will not be lacking in confidence. They are extremely dangerous offensively leading the nation with an average of 83.1 PPG.
Like the other teams listed here, the revenge factor would be at play in this game. But Maryland's tendency to letdown in these kind of games suggests that they would rather not face a team like Iona.
Duke Blue Devils
This is probably one that almost goes without saying considering how good Duke has been playing recently. They've won four straight and look to be fighting UNC for the ACC title down to the end. It also helps that Duke has beaten Maryland five straight times, most of them convincingly.
Of course since we're assuming Maryland is in the tournament, this means they've likely already upset Duke and they have the ACC title instead. Regardless Duke will likely get the one or two seed they're favored to get and Maryland will be an enormous underdog.
Duke is always a tough out in the NCAA tournament so Maryland will have their work cut out for them. They will have to generate more offense than the 50 or 60 points they usually get against Duke. Maryland will also have to do some defensive work against the Plumlee brothers who both had double-doubles against Maryland the last time they played.
An upset of Duke would go down as arguably the program's greatest postseason victory. But considering how good they are, Duke is someone Maryland would not want to face in the NCAA tournament.
Another sleeper pick that could give Maryland trouble is Iowa State. They are currently 20-8 overall and 10-5 in the Big 12. They are currently tied for third in the Big 12 and look to be settling for a seven or eight seed in the NCAA tournament.
One reason Iowa State could be great is they play ridiculously good competition. The three teams tied or ahead of them in the Big 12 Baylor, Kansas and Missouri are all ranked teams and valid championship contenders. Iowa State is only 1-3 against them so far but they still have to yet to face Baylor and Missouri for the second time.
Like Iona, Iowa State could be one of those teams that Maryland could possibly overlook. Iowa State ranks 56th in PPG with 73.6 and also 56th in assists per game with 14.5. It would be unclear who would be favored but Maryland would need a win against Iowa State to avoid an embarrassing first round upset.