The tournament is finally here! Over the next few days we'll be taking a look at the path to the final four for every team in the B1G that made the tournament. Sorry Northwestern, maybe next year. We'll look at potential matchups, what each team needs to do to win, who could be the stumbling block along the way, and key matchups that could take place.
Now that the NCAAT bracket has been released, it's time to take a little more in depth look at each team and how they can navigate their region to the final four. We'll start with Maryland, who was placed as the four seed in the Midwest region, which by all accounts is definitely the most difficult for any team not named Kentucky to make it to the final four. Focusing in on the region, we have the following:
In the first round, Maryland takes on 13 seed Valparaiso, who by most measures has not played anyone of note outside of Murray State. Valparaiso is a stout defensive team, ranking in the Top 25 in rebounds allowed and points allowed per game, while also swatting on average 4.8 shots per game. Coincidentally, they also rebound well, averaging 37.7 per game, good enough for 33rd in the country. They are led by sophomore forward Alec Peters, who will most likely be shadowed by Jake Layman the entire game given his inside out presence. Valparaiso isn't a team to overlook, but given that their strength is a stretch forward where Maryland happens to have a very good defender, they should move past to the next round.
In the second round, Maryland takes on the winner of Buffalo and West Virginia. This is the prime upset alert of the 5/12 matchup as Buffalo will be an extremely tough out for WVU. Buffalo is my pick here, so I'll go with them as the path to the Final Four. Maryland will need to again matchup with a tough PF in Justin Moss, who nearly averages a double double per game. Buffalo is another great rebounding team, but unlike Maryland's first opponent, they don't nearly stack up as well on defense. Maryland will need to contain Moss and make Buffalo look to other scorers to get it done. Moss will most likely be matched up with a rotation of Dez Wells and Jake Layman the entire game given his athleticism and it will be a fun matchup to watch. I expect Maryland to pull this one off, and then go head to head with Kentucky in the Sweet 16.
Which brings us right to Kentucky. Yeah, I'm not sure what to go with here. The formula for beating Kentucky? Well, no one has done it this year. Looking at the close games they have had (both in OT), the formula to take them to the wire would appear to either a) hope they are having an off shooting night like they did against Texas A&M, or b) nail all of your FTs and rebound well as a team on long misses and have someone with the hot hand like Ole Miss did. Examining those two things, Maryland can play good defense and force Kentucky into bad shots, but post defense is not exactly a strong point for Maryland. Maryland would need to have strong games from their rotation of post players to stick with Kentucky, and it's been inconsistent this year to say the least. Option b? Well, Maryland is great with free throws and Melo Trimble is one of the best at creating contact in the lane, but Maryland's rebounding has been somewhat of a problem as of late and it has hurt them with too many second chance points allowed to opposing teams.
Let's say Maryland pulls the miracle off and beats Kentucky, they are likely facing a hot Notre Dame team from the bottom of the bracket. Notre Dame is sort of the anti-Kentucky in that they are a guard dominated team that is one of the most efficient on offense in the country. Maryland matches up much better here since their guard play is their strength as well, which could force this one down to the wire. When playing Notre Dame, you need to make every possession count because they are going to score on you. I'd probably compare them to Iowa State in terms of the superior guard play driving the offense, but Notre Dame definitely plays better on the defensive side. I like Maryland's chances here better than playing Kentucky, but you need to play Kentucky to get here so there you go.