Now that we officially know what Maryland’s full region looks like, including its now-decided opening round matchup with Belmont, it’s time to break down the potential path to this year’s Final Four. Is their draw on the easier end? Harder?
Let’s make the case for both.
As far as narratives go, it’s easy to make the case for a 6-seed being an easier draw than a 4 or a 5. The winner of the 4/5 game almost certainly has to face their region’s 1-seed in the Sweet 16. In this year’s East region, that means top overall seed Duke.
As a 6-seed, Maryland avoids a potential matchup with Duke until the Elite 8. Not only does this theoretically give them longer to survive, but it gives Duke more chances to fall to another opponent before reaching that point.
Beyond the perspective of how it lines up Maryland compared to Duke, the Terps were also fortunate within their pod.
First off, while Belmont looks like a tough matchup for a team built like Maryland, it's are coming off a First Four win less than 48 hours prior to Thursday’s tip-off. Plus, with Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith, the Terps hold a sizable frontcourt advantage over the Bruins.
Looking ahead, they’ll either face an overmatched 14-seed in Yale or, more likely, 3-seed LSU. Of all the potential 3-seeds a 6-seed could be matched up with in the Round of 32, LSU is probably the most appealing.
Yes, the Tigers have loads of talent, just like Maryland. But they’ll also be without head coach Will Wade as the program continues to deal with repercussions from the FBI probe into college basketball. LSU has looked out of sorts in two games without Wade on the sidelines, and his absence could be a death knell into what was once a promising season in Baton Rouge.
If the Terps can win that game, they’ll get to play their next one (or two!) games in Washington, D.C., just miles away from their home campus in College Park, Md.
No one goes into the season wishing for a 6-seed, but for the Terps, this is as fortunate a draw as they could have asked for.
Right off the bat, the Terps are seeded in the same region as Duke. That means being in the same region as the top overall seed in the country, a team that hasn’t lost at full strength since November. That means facing Zion Williamson.
Any team in the same region as Duke could call its draw a loss, and the Terps are no different. Duke is also one of the only programs that would still draw just as many fans in the nation’s capital as Maryland would.
That only matters if the Terps reach the Elite 8, which is a longshot. In its first game, Maryland has to play Belmont. Not only are the Bruins well-designed for an upset (they have one of the most prolific, efficient offenses in the country) but they have momentum on their side after beating Temple in the First Four.
Maryland, on the other hand, has barely played in recent weeks and could be dealing with rust while Belmont comes out firing.
If the Terps can get past them, LSU likely awaits. Maryland has relied on having more talent than its opponents all season long, and LSU is one of the only schools with as much talent or more than this year’s Terrapins. Having more skill and athleticism has been their bread and butter, but it won’t work against the Tigers.
Past LSU, Maryland would need to face Michigan State, another program who would draw fans in D.C. Despite their injuries, the Spartans are a brutal matchup for Maryland, as Tom Izzo loves to push in transition, an area of weakness for Maryland. It’s also a rematch, and the Terps did not fare well in East Lansing this January.
This is the region with the strongest 1-seed, the strongest 2-seed (who should have been a 1), the most talented 3-seed, and a hot 11-seed. If Maryland makes a run to the Elite 8 and beyond, it will have been well-earned indeed.
Ultimately, this is probably a pretty appropriate draw for a team with Maryland’s resume. It can be framed as positive or negative, but in reality, it’s fair for a team coming off a roller coaster season and a slow finish.
To win the big dance, you’ll eventually have to beat someone better than you. Maryland has the players to do it, and if so, no one in College Park will be complaining about their bracket.
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