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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.

MORE NCAA NEWS: 

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Will Maryland’s long break prove to be more rest or rust in their first game of the NCAA Tournament?

Will Maryland’s long break prove to be more rest or rust in their first game of the NCAA Tournament?

By the time Maryland tips off against their to-be-determined first round opponent Thursday at 3:10 p.m., it will have been a full week since they last played in an actual game.

Not only will it have been seven days since their last outing, but they’ll have played just one game in the last 13 days, and two in the last 18 days.

The question now is just how valuable that time off will end up being for the Terps. It’s a classic question of rest versus rust, and the implications are heightened considering Maryland’s opponent will be coming off a win just two days prior.

With Temple and Belmont tipping off late Tuesday night, it will only have been roughly 40 hours between games for whomever Maryland ends up facing, a stark contrast to the Terps’ long break. One narrative says that might help Maryland. Another says the lack of momentum, for a young, streaky team reliant on momentum all season long, could be devastating.

It’s a fair question to ask. The only comparable stretch earlier this season came during winter break, a time most teams face long breaks due to the holidays. Maryland faced Loyola (MD) on December 11, then Seton Hall on December 22, and played again on December 29 against Radford.

Maryland blew out Loyola, capping a 9-2 start to the season, with their two losses coming at the hands of Purdue and Virginia. Momentum appeared to be on their side.

Then, 11 days later, an unranked Seton Hall team came into College Park and beat Maryland on their own court.

Not only did the Terps suffer a rare home loss, but they looked slow and sloppy during the game. Maryland shot 8-for-25 from 3-point range, and went down 14-3 right off the bat. They ended up battling back to lose by four, 78-74, but the slow start was too much to overcome.

History repeated itself a week later.

Maryland played host to Radford after another week off, and again came out slow. Facing the 125th-ranked team in KenPom, again on their own court, Maryland went down 19-10 in the first six minutes, despite outclassing their opponent in talent and size.

Mark Turgeon has admitted in the past that he tends to save his best, most fiery, motivational speeches for halftime, not pregame. But Maryland has shown that with time off, they can struggle to show up at tip-off.

Against a quality, NCAA Tournament-worthy opponent, that likely wouldn’t end well.

There are plenty of ways to preview their matchup. It would make sense to analyze individual matchups, scout out other teams' tendencies, or point out how much of an X-factor Anthony Cowan has become. Ultimately, though, the Terps’ chances in this year’s Big Dance may prove to be quite simple. 

Will the time off, and accompanying extra rest and practice time, prove helpful? Or will they come out slow, putting themselves in a hole out from which they may not be able to dig?

The answer will likely determine whether they make a run, or face yet another too-early March exit.

MORE NCAA NEWS: 

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!

March Madness 2019: Five upset picks to make in the opening weekend

March Madness 2019: Five upset picks to make in the opening weekend

First and Second Round upsets are what make March Madness so great.

Seeing some team that no one expected to win knock off a Power 5 team is why everyone loves this time of year. In some ways it’s the iconic David vs. Goliath.

Picking these upsets is a different conversation though. Everyone wants to be the expert that gets to say “I saw this upset coming.” They are hard to predict, another reason why we love it.

While picking First and Second Round upsets will not win you your bracket pool/ challenge, it can make a difference when the final votes are tallied.

These are some upsets that have a strong likelihood of coming to fruition during the first week of the NCAA Tournament.

First Round Upsets

No. 13 Saint Louis over No. 4 Virginia Tech

From afar this upset pick makes zero sense. Virginia Tech, who hails from the best conference in the country, has one of the most potent offenses that can catch fire at any moment. This was already on display in their upset victory over Duke back in February. Saint Louis is only in because they were left standing in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

But this is also a Hokie offense that can stutter (47 points in a WIN over NC State) and has Justin Robinson coming off an injury. Even without those obstacles, when they played a hard pressured defense this season it did not end well.

Enter Saint Louis.

They rode their defense through the A10 Tournament. A variety of defensive schemes, mainly a 1-3-1 zone, had them knock off Dayton, Davidson and St. Bonaventure to get to the big dance.

They will force the Hokies to shoot from 3pt range. And with the Hokies’ hot-and-cold offense they are bound to have an off game.

No. 11 Belmont over No. 6 Maryland

As many Terrapins’ fans know this is a team that is capable of making a run to the Sweet 16 or beyond OR they will lose painfully in the First Round.

The latter is their future if Belmont is their opponent.

As the second highest scoring team in the country they average 87.4 points per game. Not only do they have a formidable challenger to Bruno Fernando/ Jason Smith in Dylan Windler, but they have reinforcements. Two other players average over 14 points a contest in both the backcourt and the paint.

Belmont is good and likely would be a better seed if they had a schedule comparable to Power 5 teams.

Only twice has Maryland scored more than Belmont’s averages this season. They were against Loyola (MD) and Mount St. Mary’s back in December and November.

No. 12 Oregon over No. 5 Wisconsin

The Ducks have won eight consecutive games (albeit to Pac-12 opponents) to get a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Less than a handful of teams can say that much.

Early in the season the Ducks were a preseason favorite with 7-foot-2 Bol Bol on their roster. An injury in mid-December derailed their season until a late push stole them a bid.

Instantly they are a mismatch with four players standing at 6-9 in the starting lineup. While Wisconsin has Ethan Happ and Nate Reuvers, they will have their hands full in the paint. Their depth behind that is a big concern. 

Oregon is a dangerous and unpredictable team that no one wants to face.

No. 12 Murray State over No. 5 Marquette

Both of these teams are essentially one man wrecking bands with Ja Morant on Murray State and Markus Howard on Marquette.

But only one of them is fully healthy.

Howard recently aggravated a left wrist injury from earlier in the season. In Marquette’s last game in the Big East Tournament he shot 1-for-15 in a loss to Seton Hall.

If Howard cannot play at 100 percent, somebody on the Golden Eagles will have to match NBA Draft prospect Morant on the Racers.

Second Round

No. 6 Iowa State over No. 3 Houston

Hard to get too ahead of the games, but assuming Iowa State and Houston make it to the Second Round, the Cyclones have a great chance at an upset.

Both of these teams have recent appearances in the NCAA Tournament. Both have a veteran presence on their squad. But one school went through the powerhouse that is the Big 12 and the other went through to the AAC.

The Cyclones last three games were in route to the Big 12 title, over Baylor, Kansas State and Kansas. Houston’s was UConn, Memphis and a loss to Cincinnati; a big difference.

If Iowa State’s trio of talented guards can break through the Cougars’ defense, watch out.

MORE NCAA TOURNAMENT NEWS:

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!