We now know where Maryland was seeded. We now know when Maryland will play their first game. We even know where Maryland will play.
What we still don’t know is *who* Maryland will face Thursday afternoon in Jacksonville, FL.
As a No. 6 seed, Maryland will go up against one of two potential No. 11 seeds. Belmont and Temple will face off Tuesday night in the First Four to determine who moves on to face the Terps.
So, which team should Maryland fans be hoping to see in the Round of 64? The Bruins or the Owls?
Despite not being in Power-6 conferences, both Belmont and Temple are very deserving of bids, and both represent quality opponents.
Belmont is offense-first. They’re a fast-paced team (31st in tempo on KenPom) who shares the ball (first in the nation in assists per game) while not turning it over. That’s led to the second-most points per game in the country, behind the 20th-most efficient offense on KenPom.
Their defense is a step behind, at 127th in efficiency, but the offense is strong enough to keep the Bruins hovering around the top 50 of KenPom’s overall rankings.
Temple is more balanced, though not quite as strong, with both their offensive and defensive efficiencies in the 80-90 range on KenPom. Their attack is led by three veteran guards, who combine to average nearly 50 points per game.
While either matchup would present its own difficulties, Belmont looks like the worse set-up for this Maryland squad. They are one of the few mid-majors with a player who can match Maryland’s height in freshman Nick Muszynski, though his health is a question mark. Their best player, Dylan Windler, measures at 6-8, and can score at multiple levels.
Windler’s too rangy for Bruno Fernando to guard out on the perimeter, and he’s probably too tall for Darryl Morsell to guard. Those are Maryland’s two best individual defenders, so it would require a team effort to slow down the Bruins star.
In terms of style, it’s a tough matchup as well. Belmont scores well in transition, an area of weakness in Maryland’s defense this season, and they don’t turn the ball over.
Maryland’s turnover issues have been well-documented this season, and they don’t turn other teams over either. If Belmont winds up with more possessions in the game, and are more efficient (which they are, according to KenPom) it would spell major trouble for the Terps.
Temple’s three lead scoring guards, while a handful in their own right, look a little more manageable for Maryland to guard with Morsell, Anthony Cowan Jr., and the combination of Aaron Wiggins and Serrel Smith. Cowan, in particular, could still struggle on that end given each of Temple’s guards is 6-4 or taller.
No one else on the roster averages even as many as six points per game, so Maryland’s post defense shouldn’t be a problem.
Both teams would have a narrative behind their runs, as Temple is playing to extend Fran Dunphy’s career, and Belmont would have the momentum coming off their first win in NCAA Tournament history.
Mark Turgeon and the Maryland players will tell you it doesn’t matter who they play, and they have a point. If 'Good Maryland' shows up, they’ll almost certainly win handily over either squad. That’s no guarantee though, and matchups are always important in the tournament.
Of the two, the Bruins looks like a classic trendy upset pick, one that is almost perfectly set up to challenge this Maryland roster. Given that, Terps fans everywhere should be cheering for Temple come Tuesday night.
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- Belmont v. Temple: What to watch for
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