I said it all week.
There was NOTHING about Maryland’s first round NCAA Tournament matchup with Houston in Spokane that concerned me.
Heck, if you were listening to the “Selection Sunday” special Chris Bonetti and I hosted over the weekend on AM1570 WNST, you would know that I thought Houston was an almost ridiculously good matchup for the Terrapins.
They were an average team out of an average league (Conference USA). They offered little defensively and less on the interior.
As I said to anyone who would listen this week, the Terps were about 12 points better than the Cougars. Turns out I was right, as Maryland cruised to an 89-77 victory behind a BRILLIANT 21 point, 17 rebound performance from Jordan Williams and 19 additional points from Landon Milbourne late Friday night.
(For full disclosure, when pressed for a pick by Drew Forrester Friday on “The Comcast Morning Show”, I said 88-82 Maryland even AFTER I reminded him that I thought Maryland was about 12 points better than Tom Penders’ club.)
Now, things change. Maryland is NOT 12 points better than Michigan State, who they’ll face Sunday afternoon in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament. Gary Williams is NOT 12 points better than Tom Izzo. Greivis Vasquez is NOT 12 points better than Kalin Lucas. BUT, Maryland is a higher seed than Michigan State for a reason.
No matter what happens Sunday against the Spartans, this Maryland team will be remembered for a number of things. First ACC regular season title (split or outright) since ’01-’02. First ACC Player of the Year award (Vasquez) since ’01-’02 (Juan Dixon). First ACC Coach of the Year (Gary Williams) since ’01-’02 (same guy).
It’s been an incredible season.
But if this Maryland team REALLY wants to make an impact, REALLY wants to leave a legacy, they’ll need to beat the boys in green from East Lansing at the Spokane Arena Sunday.
It has been since 2002-2003 that a Maryland team has advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. Seven years. Seven long years, filled with the disappointment of 3 NIT appearances and 3 exits in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament (including disappointing losses to Syracuse and Butler when they were playing as higher seeds).
To be considered a “premiere” NCAA basketball program, a team HAS to be making regular appearances in the Sweet 16. Maryland hasn’t made ONE since 2003.
This can be the team that changes that. This can be the team that reverses history. This can be the team that helps to restore the program to “premiere” status.
It won’t be easy Sunday.
But it should sure be fun.