There was a lot of early March Madness disappointment and griping after the NCAA powers that be shipped the Terps out to the Midwest with a No. 4 seed. Fans reacted like Maryland had just lost a game or something.
We love the Terps. They had a great year, no doubt. But they didn’t reach the Big Ten Championship finals and they were ranked No. 12 in the final AP poll—a borderline No. 3 or No. 4. So they’ve drawn Valparaiso (it’s in Indiana) in their opener and not Georgia State or UAB and we took a little moment yesterday to give thanks for that.
The Terps’ opener is scheduled for a 4:40 start this afternoon on TNT and you absolutely have our permission to cut work and go catch the game at your favorite bar. Hell, it’s Friday and the boss should be buying the first round anyhow.
Here’s the thing. Maryland didn’t blow anybody away this year, but instead won a ton of tight games, which is a kind of double-edged sword. The oddsmakers have noticed, installing us as only a 4.5-point favorite. One computer prediction has it a 66-64 Maryland win.
The Terps are great down the stretch because our big three—Dez Wells, Melo Trimble (@_STAYMELO), and Jake Layman—all handle the ball well, can shoot from the outside or drive to the bucket, and excel at the free throw stripe. Our most obvious hole is a lack of a genuine low-post threat offensively, but we do rebound and play defense. (When the Terps have made NCAA tourney noise in recent years, they’ve had big men like Lonnie Baxter and Joe Smith doing damage inside as well as outstanding guard play.)
Here’s the bottom line: We’re going to beat Valpo today, but it might be closer than is comfortable. Then we’ll get West Virginia or Buffalo, who play right before our game, and we’ll inevitably dispatch either one of them in a tight contest as well. What school is the traditional basketball power in that match-up?
After that, it’s Kentucky.
Whatever your seed, you’ve got to knock off a couple of somebodies to win the title. Sure, we’ll need a big game inside from Evan Smotrycz, Damonte Dodd, or the 7-foot Slovakian freshman Michal Cekovsky, and probably from Jared Nickens or Richard Pauk behind the arc, too. But what could be more fun for an underdog bunch of college kids—no one expected these Terps to challenge for the Big Ten title this season—than facing the undefeated, consensus tournament favorite in the Sweet Sixteen?
After the NCAA selections were made, Dez Wells, our senior, first-team All-Big Ten swingman, unlike so many fans, didn’t care where the Terps got sent or who they had to play—an attitude we like. He was only looking forward to getting his shot.
“I’m just ready to get to where our location is,” Dez said, “and I’m ready to rock.”
Fear the Turtle.