Feature photo by Greg Fiume and courtesy of UMTerps.com
After returning to College Park from the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, the Maryland Terrapins basketball team gathered and sat in the front section of a suite in the Xfinity Center.
With the NCAA selection show featured on the jumbotron, the team anxiously awaited their seeding and matchup.
Maryland didn’t have to wait too long as it was announced as the No. 5 seed in the South region of the bracket. The Terps will take on No. 12 seed South Dakota State on Friday at approximately 4:30 p.m. EST in Spokane, Wash.
The Jackrabbits clinched their bid when they won the Summit League Championship. They are riding a six-game winning streak into the tournament and are led by a trio of double digit scorers: forward Mike Daum (15.2 points per game), guard George Marshall (14.9 ppg) and guard Deondre Parks (14.7 ppg).
“We like our bracket,” guard Rasheed Sulaimon said. “We’re very excited about the opportunity to play and we just got to go out there and play hungry. If we lose now, our season is over.”
If the Terps defeat the Jackrabbits, they will take on the winner of a matchup between No. 4 seed California and No. 13 seed Hawaii. If they reach the Sweet Sixteen, a matchup with No. overall 1 seed Kansas is likely. Dates with No. 8 seed Colorado, No. 9 seed Connecticut or No. 16 Austin Peay are also possibilities.
— USA TODAY Sports (@USATODAYsports) March 13, 2016
Last season, then No. 4 seeded Terps defeated No. 13 seed Valparaiso in a close contest in the first round before falling to No. 5 seed West Virginia in the following round. This season, the Terps are focused on their matchup with the Jackrabbits.
“You’ve gotta come out every game and play as hard as you can,” forward Jake Layman said. “Last year Valpo kind of surprised us a little bit, so this year, we know, going into the tournament, we can’t take anybody lightly.”
Though Maryland and South Dakota State have never played each other, they are somewhat familiar with each other. Both teams competed in the Cancun Challenge in Mexico earlier in the season.
The Terps defeated Illinois State and Rhode Island to win the Challenge’s Riviera Championship. South Dakota State beat Houston Baptist and Cleveland State to win the Mayan Championship in Cancun.
“Heck of a team, extremely well coached. We know how good they are,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “Our guys actually got to see them live for two games and they got to watch us live for two games, we’re very familiar with each other.”
The Jackrabbits defeated the Terps’ Big Ten counterpart Minnesota in December 84-70.
During their final stretch of games, in which they lost five of eight, the Terps fell to Minnesota 68-63 on the road. The Terps were without center Diamond Stone, who was serving a one-game suspension. It was Minnesota’s first Big Ten win of the season.
Though their regular season ended on a shaky note, the Terps opened the season with high hopes, ranked No. 3 in the country. They were 15-1 through the first 16 games and 22-3 through the first 25. This past weekend, Maryland defeated Nebraska in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals before falling to Michigan State in the semifinals.
The Terps posted an impressive offensive output in a 97-86 victory over the Cornhuskers, but fell to the Spartans 64-61 in a defensive battle.
On Sunday, with the NCAA tournament ahead, Turgeon said the Terps “feel much better about ourselves than we did a week ago.”
“I don’t think we’ve put both sides of the offense and defense together yet. Friday night we had an excellent showing offensively. And you know even though we lost Saturday, I thought we played one of our best defensive games all year, especially in that second half,” Sulaimon said. “We’re showing signs that we’re getting better on both sides of the ball, now it’s time to put things together.”
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