SPOKANE, Wash. -- Maryland faces South Dakota State on Friday afternoon in Spokane with hopes of advancing to the second round of the 2016 NCAA tournament.
Twelve-seeds won two of their three games on the tournament’s first day, with only Indiana taking care of business against Chattanooga.
Here are 5 things you need to know.
1) Not too bad being away from home
Part of the deal when it comes to being a No. 5 seed is the lack of geographical preference when it comes to location. Maryland underperformed in the regular season, so they were sent out to Spokane. Mark Turgeon has said all week that it could end up being a blessing.
Players seemed loose at Thursday’s open practice. Talking to players like Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon, the focus seems to be on not falling into the 5/12 trap and they seem to be itching to just play basketball, coming up on five days since the bracket was revealed.
A small but vocal group of Maryland fans watched the open practice on Thursday. The number of fans on Maryland’s side will likely be small on Friday because of the distance, but the long travel doesn’t seem to have affected energy or morale of the team.
2) Need Melo in a groove
Melo Trimble appeared to have emerged from his slump before making just two of his 15 shots from the floor against Michigan State in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament. If he hits maybe even five of those 15, Maryland probably wins that game.
“I always think if we were all on, including myself,” Trimble told CSN, “we would have won by at least 10 points.”
Most of his shots in that game were not bad shots. It seemed just to be a bad shooting night in close proximity to a mental slump a few games prior. But they will need him to be solid -- not necessarily dominant, but solid -- to be in control against South Dakota State.
SDSU head coach Scott Nagy admitted Thursday that his team can’t guard Trimble one-on-one, especially with the ball-screen actions Maryland uses. But the three-point shot has to be a threat or else the Jackrabbits can cheat under screens and he becomes less effective.
3) The battle of the freshmen
Turgeon made sure to remind everyone about how talented his freshman Diamond Stone is after heaping praise of South Dakota State’s Mike Daum earlier this week. That could be the one-on-one matchup that defines Friday’s game.
Daum is a strong low-post scorer who leads the Jackrabbits with 15.2 points per game. He can also stretch it out toward the perimeter, hitting 45 percent from three -- though on less than two attempts per game.
Stone has shown stretches of dominance, including a 39-point outburst against Penn State that carried Maryland to victory in late December and set a school freshman scoring record in the process.
How much of a factor is Daum’s ability to stretch the floor? Can Stone dominate him on one end of the floor to wear him down on the other? That could be the story. Read more on it here.
4) Rebounding the basketball
As much as the talk has been about South Dakota State’s ability to stretch the floor, the numbers don’t show they are a dominant outside-shooting team. The one metric that should raise a concern for Maryland is SDSU’s rebound rate.
The Jackrabbits rank 34th in the country when measuring the number of rebounds they grab as a percentage of total rebounds. For as big as the Terrapins are, that has been a consistent struggle for them.
Maryland is 20-3 when it outrebounds its opponent. It is 4-5 when it does not.
The Jackrabbits will bring a “gang mentality” when it comes to rebounding, their coach says, because of their inability to match up size-wise man for man. That means the guards will be involved on the SDSU side and more will fall on Trimble, Sulaimon, and Jared Nickens to chip in with a few boards (or more) apiece.
5) Can’t look ahead
Maryland admitted to looking ahead in the bracket last season. They narrowly escaped 13-seed Valparaiso and were overmatched against West Virginia, where they were eliminated.
The way this bracket is set up, there is a reasonable path to the Final Four for Maryland and it could include on Sunday a California team that lost it top scorer and assist man to injury while an assistant was fired this week amid sexual harassment allegations.
That is a team in turmoil that is certainly beatable and it would lock up a place in the Sweet 16. But you’ve got to get to Sunday first and you do that by beating South Dakota State.