Title Hunt: Looking ahead to the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments

With the regular season in the books, the University of Maryland officially went 12-6 overall in Big Ten play and 24-7 on the season.

On paper, this stands out as an accomplishment for the young team even though this is not the end for the Terps this season — by a long shot.

Maryland started three freshmen while dealing with bench players who struggled with inconsistency and injuries early in the season.

Those factors aside, the Terps will have a double-bye in the Big Ten tournament as the No. 3 seed and will play March 10 versus either Ohio State, Rutgers or Northwestern in the quarterfinals.

On paper, these matchups could not have been better for Maryland. They have a double-bye — allowing for some much needed rest and scouting. They also have an undefeated record against all three teams.

If they beat their first opponent, the Terps could face Wisconsin in the semifinals.

In their only head-to-head game of the season, Wisconsin shot 16.7 percent from the three-point range but out-muscled Maryland with their size and caused 13 Terrapin turnovers despite 27 points from Melo Trimble. This was also the game where Maryland lost Michael Cekovsky for the season due to injury. The Terps will have to play small ball and get to the line frequently as the loss of Cekovsky will not leave them with much size to defend the Badgers.

If Maryland wins this game, they could face Purdue in the championship.

In their only meeting of the season in College Park, the Terps lost a heartbreaker to the Boilermakers, 73-72, on two last-second free throws. Cekovsky also played a major part in this game by helping guard potential player of the year Caleb Swanigan and seven-footer Isaac Haas. In order to win this game, Maryland needs to plenty of 3-pointers because, at least on paper, they will not have much luck inside.

Now as far as the NCAA Tournament seeding goes, according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s “Bracketology,” Maryland is currently sitting in the East region as a No. 7 seed and is projected to play Seton Hall. If the Terps go through Wisconsin to the championship game they have a chance as a sixth seed, regardless if they win the Big Ten tournament. Wisconsin sits at the sixth seed right now in ESPN’s “Bracketology” but an early exit in the Big Ten tournament could lead to the selection committee swapping the two schools after seeing them play for a second time this season.

Jumping up a seed from a seven to a six might not seem like a big deal, but I believe it is — especially considering that a win in the first round as a No. 7 seed most likely means you play the No. 2 seed in the next round.

The bottom line is that Maryland must compensate for its lack of size in both tournaments by utilizing their quickness on defense to cause turnovers and shoot the three ball well.

A win in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament over Wisconsin should give them a No. 6 seed, but a win in the Big Ten Championship could guarantee them a No. 6 seed or better depending on how the rest of the conference championships plays out. If nothing else, a No. 6 seed in the tournament will let Maryland fans see their team in the Big Dance just a little longer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s