Will Maryland Challenge the Big Boys at March Madness?

Mark Turgeon has been the coach of Maryland’s basketball team eight years in a row. A Sweet Sixteen performance in 2016 is the best he has done leading the Terrapins.

Turgeon’s 2020 team will finish the regular season with fewer than ten losses. To many people, this year is one of his best chances to reach the Elite Eight.

Can Maryland finally put together a run deep into March Madness? Or is it going to be another early exit?

Maryland is amongst the favorites to win the whole thing. The Terrapins are +1000 to win the National Championship.  According to the college basketball oddsmakers, programs like Kentucky, Louisville, and Villanova have worse odds.

What is Maryland’s Strength Going into March Madness?

The tandem between senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. and freshman forward Jalen Smith has been tough to stop inside the Big Ten. They average 31.4 points per game combined.

Cowan Jr leads the program with 127 consecutive starts. He has played 4,321 minutes in his four years as a Terp and counting.

Jalen Smith shots 53.6% from the field and adds 10.5 rebounds per game. He has become a key part of the team’s success despite being a freshman. One of the less recognized aspects of his game is the defense. Smith averages 2.3 blocks per night.

Because of those two guys, alongside a very talented eight men rotation, the Terrapins have put together solid winning streaks during the season. Maryland won the first ten games of the year before dropping its first against Penn State.

They also won nine in a row in the second half of the season, before losing to Ohio State on the road. The team is 15-1 at home. Their only home loss was against Michigan State.

What is Maryland’s Most Significant Challenge During March Madness?

Maryland’s recent momentum is a problem. The team lost two of their most recent games against the Buckeyes and Spartans.

If not for a Minnesota Golden Gophers second half debacle, the Terrapins would have lost three straight outings. Minnesota led by double digits in the second half, but Jalen Smith oversaw the improbable comeback scoring 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Maryland played four times against ranked teams this season, posting a 2-2 record. Those two losses were against Ohio State and Michigan State, both within the last two weeks.

Five of the six the Terrapins’ defeats came against Big Ten teams. During the tournament, they will face opponents from any conference, but it’s going to be fun to see how they handle their recent poor momentum in the Big Ten Tournament.

The last time Maryland won the conference title was in 2009-10 when the team played in the ACC. Since Mark Turgeon took over in 2011, the team hasn’t achieved the conference title via the regular season. They haven’t been in a Big Ten tournament final either.

The momentum is not on their side. Maryland will find a lot about themselves in the next two weeks. Their performance in the conference title will either rise or drop the odds for the Terrapins to win the National Title.

Feature image from Flickr.