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What to watch for from Maryland's potential NCAA Tournament first round opponents

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What to watch for from Maryland's potential NCAA Tournament first round opponents

March has arrived, and with it, the NCAA Tournament.

After missing out on the big dance last season, the Maryland Terrapins have returned to the postseason. Their seeding was announced early this Selection Sunday, as they were revealed to be the 6-seed in the first region.

For their 13-7 Big Ten record, the Terps earned an opportunity to face either Belmont or Temple, as the two 11-seeds will face off in the First Four Tuesday night, with the winner traveling to Jacksonville, Fl to take on Maryland on Thursday.

The First Four doesn’t always provide the most interesting games, but Maryland fans have plenty of reason to tune in this year. Here’s what Terps fans should watch for as the Belmont Bruins take on the Temple Owls.

Belmont Bruins

Record: 26-5 (16-2 in OVC)
2018-19 finish: Tied for first in regular season, fell in OVC tournament final to Ja Morant and Murray State
History: 0-7 all-time in NCAA Tournament
Location: Nashville, Tennessee (6,569 undergraduates)
PPG: 87.4 (2nd in nation)
Points Allowed Per Game: 73.9 (241st in nation)
Notable Statistic: Leads nation in assists per game (19.9)

Temple Owls

Record: 23-9 (13-5 in AAC)
2018-19 finish: Tied for third in regular season, fell to Wichita State in quarterfinals of AAC tournament
History: 33-32 all-time in NCAA tournament
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (29,732 undergraduates)
PPG: 74.8 (116th in nation)
Points Allowed Per Game: 70.9 (168th)
Notable Statistic: Three guards averaging at least 13.3 PPG

For any Maryland fans hoping to scout out their opponent, Belmont and Temple will tip off late Tuesday night.


3 Key Storylines

#1 - Clash of Styles

As noted above, Belmont runs a high-octane offense. Part of it is their firepower, especially in the form of Dylan Windler. But part of it is their pace of play.

According to KenPom, Belmont’s tempo ranks 31st in the entire country. Yes, their offense is prolific, but the nation-leading numbers in scoring and assists stem partially from the number of possessions they have per game.

Temple, on the other hand, is middle of the pack in tempo (109th). They’ve also found balance in terms of offense and defense, though neither is an area of strength for the Owls. They rank 86th in offensive efficiency and 90th in defensive efficiency. 

In contrast, Belmont is much more one-sided. The Bruins sit at a remarkable 20th in the country in KenPom on offense, but 127th on defense.

#2 - Great Guard Play

This is a game that will certainly be determined in the backcourt, as both the Bruins and Owls have stars at the guard position.

49.5 of Temple’s 74.8 points per game come from their top three scorers, all of whom play in the backcourt. Shizz Alston, Jr. (the only Owl with NCAA Tournament experience) leads the squad with an impressive 19.7 PPG, followed by Quinton Rose and Nate Pierre-Louis at 16.5 and 13.3 PPG respectively. Alston also averages 5.0 assists per game and 1.5 steals.

Temple has a player who just missed averaging 20 and 5 this season, and yet the best player on the court might be in Belmont’s backcourt. Dylan Windler leads the Bruins with 21.4 PPG, shooting 43% from 3-pt range and 84.6% from the free throw line. He also averages 10.7 rebounds per game as a guard.

Belmont’s second-leading scorer, Kevin McClain, also plays guard, where he averages 16.3 PPG and 4.1 APG.

#3 - Making History?

Belmont has already been picked by a few national pundits to upset both Temple and Maryland in this year’s tournament. It’s feasible thanks to their strong offense, but would also be historic. The Bruins have never won an NCAA Tournament game in seven tries.

Temple also has a strong narrative behind their potential cinderella one. Head coach Fran Dunphy has led the Owls since 2006, but announced prior to the season that he would be stepping down after 2019.

Dunphy is a coaching legend in Philadelphia, and is looking for the school’s first tournament win since 2013 during his swan song this postseason.

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Jalen Smith's double-double helps Maryland rout Notre Dame

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Jalen Smith's double-double helps Maryland rout Notre Dame

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) -- Jalen Smith had 15 points and a career-high 16 rebounds as No. 3 Maryland cruised to a 72-51 victory over Notre Dame on Wednesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Eric Ayala scored 14 points and Aaron Wiggins added 11 for the Terrapins (9-0), who are off to their best start since winning 10 in a row to open the 1998-99 season.

John Mooney had 17 points and 12 rebounds for Notre Dame (6-2), which had won six in a row since opening the season with a loss at North Carolina.

It took some time for the Terps' offense to get going, but their defense was sharp for nearly the entire first half. After falling behind 9-4, Maryland allowed just four points over the next 12:31.

Ayala scored seven points in a row to turn a one-point game into a 21-13 lead, and later delivered a tomahawk slam a minute before the break. Aaron Wiggins capped the half by getting the carom from his missed 3-pointer and slamming it home for a 32-20 lead.

Notre Dame never cut the deficit to less than 10 in the second half as Maryland snapped a six-game skid in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, a streak that began when the Terps were still in the ACC.

Smith recorded his fifth double-double of the season, matching his total from all of last season.

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Terps close first half vs. Notre Dame with two emphatic dunks (WATCH)

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Terps close first half vs. Notre Dame with two emphatic dunks (WATCH)

The Maryland Terrapins, like they have many times in the Mark Turgeon era, started off slow Wednesday night against Notre Dame.

But the Terps closed the first half by making eight of their final nine shots, including two very emphatic dunks.

The first came from sophomore Eric Ayala, who took the lead pass from forward Jalen Smith following a turnover and finished with a right-hand tomahawk.

The latter came from guard Aaron Wiggins. The sophomore attempted a three-point shot with just a handful of seconds remaining in the half, but realized his shot was off as soon as his feet hit the floor. 

Likely making his AAU coach happy, Wiggins followed his shot perfectly, grabbed the rebound and threw down the putback dunk just a couple of seconds before time expired, giving the Terps a 12-point lead at the break.

If the No. 3 Terps can hang on to their lead, it will be Maryland's first time starting 9-0 in around two decades.

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