The NCAA Tournament selection committee tried to be nice to the Maryland Terrapins. It gave them a No. 6 seed despite a late-season freefall. The first two rounds are winnable games.
But the Terps could be one-and-done come Thursday against Xavier. The young squad that looked so good with a 20-2 start has forgotten how to play over the last month. Maryland finished 4-7 and barely managed to beat even bad teams. Maryland was knocked out of the B1G Tournament by Northwestern in its first game despite playing before a partisan crowd.
Something is very wrong with the Terps.
The three starting freshmen hit a wall after 22 games. It happens to rookies, especially when league opponents see them for a second time. The newcomers failed to learn a second move and defenses stopped them.
Meanwhile, Melo Trimble may have ended his College Park days on a legendary note by beating Michigan State on a last-second three-pointer, but his leadership has been sorely lacking this season. Five of his last eight regular-season games were either 11 or 10 points. Indeed, Trimble only scored 20 or more points in five conference games this season. His free-throw shooting that used to be money dropped nearly 7 points to 79.5 percent this season.
This team thrived on balance more than leadership, but the NCAA Tournament is all about marquee players. Certainly, Trimble’s NBA draft ranking would be greatly enhanced with a March run. The Terps’ only chance is if Trimble scores at least 25 points and leads a young team out of gas and barely a factor on the glass.
Xavier is certainly beatable, but Maryland has looked so bad in losing four of its last six games that no one can be overlooked. But, assuming Maryland advances to the winner of Florida State-Florida Gulf Coast, it’s probably knocked out by a faster Florida State. Yes, Florida Gulf Coast was the darling of the 2013 tournament, but ask George Mason how often Cinderella stays out late.
Coach Mark Turgeon is looking more like predecessor Lefty Driesell than Gary Williams. Turgeon is a great recruiter like Driesell, but fails to improve a team come mid-February where Williams did his best work. Last year, the starting five was distracted by the NBA draft. The Terps reached the Sweet 16, but they should have been a Final Four Team. This season, the final weeks were spent looking clueless on the court. Turgeon needs to do better.
If Maryland isn’t winning your bracket, who will?
North Carolina is the pick over Arizona with Duke and Kansas also Final Four teams. Yes, that’s two No. 1s and two No. 2s. It has been as years since the Patriots reached the Final Four. That Cinderella now has crow’s feet and three kids. CBS may sell the hype, but long shots don’t make the Final Four enough to bank your bracket on them. At best, No. 8 Northwestern advances a couple rounds.
North Carolina can redeem last year’s finals loss if rebounding well, checking opposing three-point shooters and ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson breaks a 20 of 60 slump. It’s really a year of royalty in the tournament so stay with high seeds.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.