Terrapins get huge commitment from 7-foot-2 internet phenom Chol Marial

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Screenshot: Courtside YouTube

Terrapins get huge commitment from 7-foot-2 internet phenom Chol Marial

The Maryland Terrapins just added a huge piece to their 2019 recruiting class. Literally. 

The Terps officially signed 7-foot-1 center Chol Marial (AZ Compass Prep, Chandler, Arizona), the team announced Monday. 

Depending on who you ask, Marial is either a three-star, 210-pound or a four-star, 220-pound recruit (247Sports, ESPN), but he's unquestionably taller than seven feet. He also has a 7-foot-11 wingspan that Maryland coach Mark Turgeon expects will make him "an excellent rim protector."

"I've watched Chol the last three years and I can't say enough about him as both a person and a basketball player," Turgeon said in a release from Maryland, which lists Marial at 7-foot-2 and 230 pounds. 

"One of the top players in his class when healthy, Chol's tremendous size and length make him an excellent rim protector. Chol possesses a humble demeanor and a strong work ethic that will fit well with our family. We can't wait to have him in College Park and look forward to helping him reach his dreams."

Originally from Rumbek, South Sudan, Marial moved to the U.S. as a middle-schooler in 2014. He also previously attended IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. 

ESPN ranks Marial as the No. 2 center in Arizona and the No. 14 center nationally, while 247Sports says he's No. 6 and No. 26 in those two respective categories.

He visited Maryland on April 26, according to 247Sports, and also received offers from Georgetown, Florida State, Arizona State, Iowa, UConn and West Virginia.

"I want to thank Coach Turgeon for giving me this opportunity," Marial said in a release from the school. "Coach Turgeon and I have gotten along really well and I really enjoyed spending time with the rest of the coaching staff and players. Bruno Fernando and I have similar backgrounds and I saw how much he improved as a player at Maryland. I'm looking forward to getting better every day and playing for Terp Nation."

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Should Maryland be happy or upset about its placement in the bracket?

Should Maryland be happy or upset about its placement in the bracket?

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.

Good Draw

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.

Bad Draw

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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Who should Maryland fans root for between Belmont and Temple?

Who should Maryland fans root for between Belmont and Temple?

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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Click here to join NBC Sports Washington’s NCAA Tournament Bracket Challenge and compete against Wizards analysts Drew Gooden and Jimmy Patsos for a chance at great prizes.

Grand Prize: if you have the highest-scoring bracket in the NBC Sports Washington Bracket Challenge, you will win a 3-night trip for four people to Universal Resort, including round trip airfare, lodging, admission to Universal Studios and tickets to Blue Man Group.

Secondary Prize: If your bracket scores higher than both Drew Gooden and Jimmy Patsos, you win a coupon code for a free Jersey Mike's sub!