SPOKANE, Wash. -- Talk to the Maryland players who played in last year’s second-round loss to West Virginia and they will tell you that there was a glitz and glamour to the idea of getting a shot at then-undefeated Kentucky in the next round and they might have forgotten what was right in front of them.
Right in front of them was a West Virginia team that was about as bad a matchup for them from a personnel and style standpoint as there was in the entire tournament. So they lost.
Now Maryland is back in the same spot it has been before -- on the verge of a Sweet 16.
“Last game, South Dakota State was the only game we had to win as of then. And as of now, the only team we have to face is Hawaii,” sophomore Jared Nickens told CSN. “The guys that returned, we know what it was like to go home in this round. We’re just trying to avoid that right now.”
Everything on paper is lining up for Maryland in a way it only could have hoped for.
The Terrapins already had a reasonable path to the Sweet 16. Then Hawaii knocked out a talented California team that featured two lottery picks, so now the Terrapins face a defensive-minded Rainbow Warriors squad in a game that FiveThirtyEight.com gives them a 79 percent chance of winning.
But you don’t advance unless you win the game in front of you.
Nickens pointed to seniors Jake Layman and Rasheed Sulaimon as stabilizing forces -- Layman because his confidence has grown with experience and Sulaimon because he has seen his teams end up at both ends of the spectrum in the NCAA tournament.
“Our experience from last year going into this next game, I think we learned you can’t overlook anybody,” Layman said. “Whether it was last year overlooking to Kentucky or something like that. We learned this year that you’ve got to take it one game at a time.”
Tip is set for 7:10 p.m. ET in Spokane on Sunday.