We made it through the first weekend. The Sweet 16 is the land of Cinderellas and Evil Stepmothers. Of Davids and Goliaths. Today, we get two of the big boys battling it out for the right to go on to the Elite Eight. To help us prepare, I reached out to David Tucker over at Testudo Times, the SB Nation site covering the Maryland Terrapins. He was kind enough to take some time to answer some questions for us.
RCT: Anyone who has been paying attention to college basketball this year knows who Melo Trimble is. But since he can't play on the floor all by himself Thursday night, it would probably be important to notice some of the other players on the roster. What other names on this Maryland team should Jayhawk fans be listening for?
TT: Jake Layman is one of the names Kansas fans should watch out for. He is extremely talented, especially on defense, and has been playing much more assertive lately. He's averaging 18 points per game over his last four games, including 12/25 from beyond the arc. Robert Carter Jr. is another name you might not hear too often, but he's a big scoring threat inside for Maryland. He has fantastic post moves and can, if the opportunity is there, knock down an occasional three pointer. Diamond Stone is Maryland's freshman center, who is also a big scoring threat inside. Maryland's five starters all average in double-digits when it comes to scoring. Any of them are capable of putting up points on a given night. But it all starts with Melo's play, to be honest. He's the straw that stirs everything for Maryland.
RCT: The last (and only) time these teams met in the tournament, it was Williams v Williams. I know which one you would pick on sentiment, but which Williams (so far in Roy's case) would you say had the better career?
TT: I was at that game in Atlanta, a freshman with Maryland's Pep band. I remember it well. I think that's a really hard question for me to answer. I love Gary Williams and sometimes I don't think he gets the credit he deserves for rebuilding a Maryland program that was in utter shambles after he took over. He stuck through some really difficult times because he wanted his alma mater to achieve the successes he knew it could. He could have easily walked away, but he didn't. He got to back-to-back Final Fours, won the National Title in 2002, and had to play against two of the best teams in the country year after year in Duke and UNC. I'd probably have to, ultimately say Roy, just because he's won two titles and made it to seven Final Fours. But I think sometimes people under appreciate Gary. But if I had to pick one to be my coach, I'd choose Gary 10 out of 10 times and not think twice about it.
RCT: Returning to this year's tournament, what encouraging things did you see in the Terps first two games against South Dakota State and Hawai'i? What had you worried?
TT: I think Maryland has really been playing better defensively. They've also been doing a great job getting to the free throw line. They have 58 free throw attempts in their two NCAA Tournament games and have made 52 of them.
What has me worried? They just shot 1/18 from beyond the arc and let Hawaii out rebound them 42-36. They only secured three offensive rebounds in that game while Hawaii had a remarkable 16. I think Maryland's outside shot will ultimately fall, but if they struggle shooting and can't get to the line, they're going to be in trouble.
RCT: Where do you think Maryland matches up best with these Jayhawks? Where do you expect them to struggle?
TT: I think Maryland is going to struggle a bit defensively in the front court. Diamond Stone has been a bit of a liability there and Robert Carter can have defensive lapses as well. Maryland can also fall into these lapses where they rely too much on outside shooting and don't work the ball inside. If Kansas can frustrate and contain Maryland's guards as they come off high ball screens, they'll really disrupt the Terps' offense.
I think Melo Trimble is going to be able to get to the free throw line for Maryland and they'll need him to if they have a shot at winning. Trimble and Sulaimon are a great back court and I think they have an advantage there, especially if any kind of outside shot is falling for the Terps.
RCT: Prediction Time! Which of these teams moves on for a chance to reach the Final Four?
TT: I really think this is going to be a close game, one that comes down to a last shot or goes to overtime. If Maryland plays to their potential, they can definitely win and I think they will, barley, on a last second shot by Melo Trimble. Terps 72, Kansas 71.
RCT: Bonus - Last year we went on a postseason potluck picnic, and it was so great that I decided to do it again. What food item would you bring to represent your school or the region where it is located?
TT: Crabcakes and basketball, that's what Maryland does.
A big thanks to David for helping us out today. Don’t forget to check out the questions I answered for him over on Testudo Times as well.