Maryland has somewhat defied standard expectations this year by starting three non one-and-done freshmen and being a lock for the NCAA Tournament. In fact, prior to this most recent two week stretch, Maryland was sitting pretty at #17 in the rankings and steadily moving up. That all unraveled though and they are limping towards the Big Ten Tournament with an untimely three game skid where the three freshmen starters have hit a wall. What do the tournament prospects look like?
Record: 23-7 (11-6)
Remaining Schedule: Michigan State (3/5)
Probable Big Ten Tournament Seed: 3-5. Win against Michigan State and they are a 3 seed. Lose? Hope that Minnesota loses one of their next two to grab the 4 seed. Minnesota winning out gives them the 5 seed.
Probable NCAA Tournament seed: 6-8. Theoretically Maryland could grab a 5 seed if they win out and win the Big Ten Tournament but that would be a stretch given their current play. As it stands, beating Michigan State would give them another solid win over a tournament bound team and a win in the Big Ten Tournament would lock up a 6 seed. Dropping the first game of the tournament or losing out would tumble them down a line or two.
Key Players: Melo Trimble (17.1ppg); Justin Jackson (10.5ppg, 6.2rpg); Damonte Dodd (2bpg)
Can they make a run?
In my yearly bracket at work, a co-worker and I always try to pick the teams that have great guard play to make runs that many of the “national analysts” aren’t picking because they just look at stats. It’s worked for the most part with three Top 3 finishes in 5 years. Maryland has great guard play when Melo Trimble lets the game come to him and isn’t forcing every shot he sees. When Trimble is on it makes the rest of the team better because the defense is collapsing to him and giving someone else an open look. When Trimble is off? Well, look at the last three game skid to tell you all you need to know about what Maryland looks like with a down Melo Trimble.
At Maryland’s best they can compete with a lot of the country and look closer to a Top 4-5 seed than a middle seed. At their worst? They lost to Penn State. Maryland struggles with guard’s with length so if their bracket is devoid of that then Maryland has a very good chance of making it to the second weekend.
Maryland has players across the board that can catch fire and a great defensive presence in the post in Damonte Dodd, who averages two blocks per game but struggles with foul trouble. Similarly, Kevin Huerter can catch fire from three if given an open look. Ultimately, Maryland needs Melo Trimble to return to mid-season form in order to make any sort of run but the pieces are there to at least make some noise into the second weekend. They won’t run to the Final Four or any of that crazy talk, but the second weekend is a very real possibility, which given the state of the Big Ten is probably the best we can hope for out of any team.