NCAA Selection Sunday is three days away and shortly after the 2015 bracket is unveiled, the TV barking about seeding injustices, sleepers, and 12-seeds over 5-seeds begins. I’d bet big dough that Maryland will be the target for all the short-selling bracket pundits.
Despite its 26-5 regular season mark and a season-ending 7-game win streak, the Terps will be the team marked by the so-called experts as “potential early-exit”. They’ll be the 2 or 3-seed that everyone screams is overrated and won’t win more than a game or two.
There are reasonable reasons for this expected sentiment. For starters, the Big 10 wasn’t that strong this year compared to other leagues. Add to that, seven of Maryland’s last nine wins were by 6 points or less with five of those seven wins coming against Penn State (twice), Nebraska (twice), and Rutgers. In all five of those close games against teams ranked outside of the RPI top 100, the Terps either trailed or were tied with less than 10 minutes to go in the game.
Heck, they are getting dissed in their own league. The Terps finished 2nd in the Big 10 but there are four teams in the league with better Vegas odds of winning this weekend’s conference tournament in Chicago.
Those that live in the advanced statistics world will tell you that Maryland ranks low in things like Adjusted Offensive and Defensive Efficiency. KenPom.com, an advanced statistics zealot, has Maryland ranked as the 32nd best team in the country. Translation, KenPom has the Terps winning no more than one game in the NCAA Tournament.
Bottom line, I’d be very surprised to see Maryland as anything but a chic pick to get bounced early.
However, if you choose to discount Maryland then do so at your own peril. While it is true that Maryland plays close games, it’s also true that they win them….all of them. They played in 10 games decided by 6 points or less and they won all ten.
And while it’s true that the Terps don’t blowout teams with overwhelming size and/or athleticism, they beat them with the most important of all March Madness qualities….excellent guard play. The combo of Melo Trimble and Dez Wells is as good as any in the country right now. You may not have been able to say that a month ago but Wells is finally healthy and he’s playing the best basketball of his career.
The Terps are capable of playing a close game against anybody. I won’t be surprised at all if their first-round 3 vs. 14 game is tied up at 48-48 with 3 minutes left in the game. But I would be surprised if they lost it. They have two killer closers in Trimble and Wells and a coach in Mark Turgeon who is very good at managing the final minutes of a game. Shorting the Terps will be popular but may not be wise.