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.
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)
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.
FYI for #Terps fans to do some scouting, the Temple/Belmont game will be the nightcap in Dayton on Tuesday. Tip approximately at 9:10pm.— Greg Watkins (@gregwatkins830) March 17, 2019
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.
MORE NCAA TOURNAMENT NEWS:
- March Memories: Best Buzzer-Beaters since 2010
- 2019 NBA Draft: Pre-Tournament Mock Draft
- Snub City: Who missed out on this year's tournament?
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