Who is Maryland’s first-round opponent in the NCAA Men’s Tournament?


The Maryland men’s basketball team was awarded a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will take on No. 9 seed West Virginia at 12:15 p.m. Thursday in the first round. The Terrapins will open the tournament in Birmingham, Ala. , and if they beat the Mountaineers, they will face the winner of the game between No. 1 Alabama and No. 16 Texas A&M Corpus Christi or Southeast Missouri State in the second round on Saturday.

Maryland is located in the southern region. If the Terrapins reach the Sweet 16, they will travel to Louisville in the second weekend of the tournament. Since 2003, the year after the Terps won the national title, the program has reached the Sweet 16 only once (in 2016); This year, doing so will likely require getting past a top-ranked opponent.

For coach Kevin Willard, earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament is a significant achievement in his first season at Maryland. He took charge of the program a year ago after the Tripps navigated a turbulent season in which Marc Turgeon stepped down early in the campaign. Maryland went on to finish last season with its first losing record since 1992-93. Willard had to quickly create a roster, and four members of his eight-man rotation were new to the program.

Willard joked that earning an offer in his first year as Maryland’s coach made athletic director Damon Evans “look very smart” to hire him. Willard added, “If you get a big show, that means your kids have gone through a year-long milestone.”

2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament bracket

Maryland finished 11-9 in conference play this season and earned a #6 seed in the Big Ten tournament. Trips defeated Minnesota in the second round, but was eliminated after losing to Indiana in the quarterfinals.

Maryland’s regular season was highlighted by a 10-0 home record in conference play. The Terps defeated five seeded teams, including Purdue (the first seed in the NCAA Tournament) and Indiana (the fourth seed). Maryland also beat Miami (the fifth seed) at a neutral site in November. However, Terps had great struggles in real road games. They were just 2-9 this season, with their only wins coming to Minnesota (last in the Big Ten) and Louisville (last in the ACC).

Maryland has lost three of its past four games, including two straight losses to close out the regular season. Those losses came against Ohio State and Penn State, two teams that struggled earlier in the season but have bounced back lately. The Buckeyes made it to the Big Ten Semifinals, and the Nittany Lions lost in the championship. Penn State won eight of its nine games before losing to Purdue in the conference title game.

The Terps have a very experienced team, but for four players in the Maryland tournament — starting point guard Jahmir Young, forward Julian Reese, backup tackle Patrick Emilian and backup guard Ian Martinez — this will be their first NCAA championship. Young (formerly at Charlotte), Emilian (Western Michigan and St. Francis at Brooklyn) and Martinez (Utah) never got a berth before they transferred to Maryland, and Reese is only a sophomore. Young is now leading the Terps to 16.1 points per game and soon he’ll have a chance to create memorable moments in March Madness.

“From being a kid watching March Madness, sitting in the living room on the couch to finally being able to play March Madness is just a lot of emotion,” Young said. “I’m just excited to be with these guys.”

Maryland players Hakeem Hart and Donta Scott were part of the Terps team that beat Connecticut in the first round as the No. 10 seed in 2021 before losing to Alabama in the second round.

As Seton Hall’s coach for 12 seasons, Willard reached the NCAA Tournament five times but won only one game. (He missed his best opportunity to run a run in 2020 when the Pirates were expected to earn the No. 3 seed before the postseason was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.)

When Maryland hired Willard, the coach energized the fan base by saying that the team’s goals each year would be to win a Big Ten title and a national title, adding that “no other expectation is allowed on this program.” No one expected such lofty accomplishments during his senior season, but this tournament will be Willard’s first chance with the Terps to prove his mettle on the biggest stage in college basketball.

“You have a lot of kids who haven’t succeeded before,” Willard said. So their reaction, emotions and feelings are great. It’s a great impetus for the program moving forward.”

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