Featured photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.
The No. 1 overall seed Maryland Terrapins start their NCAA Tournament run this Sunday against NEC champions Bryant after the Bulldogs defeated Monmouth 10-7 on Wednesday to advance.
While Bryant may be the lowest ranked team remaining in the tournament, they have the sixth-highest scoring defense in the nation, only allowing 7.89 goals per game. This Bryant team isn’t new to the underdog role either.
In 2014, the unranked Bulldogs defeated No. 4 Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and John Tillman said that is something his team has to avoid on Sunday.
“You have to come ready to play, there is no easy way through this” Tillman said. “There are no easy games anymore. There used to be a gap of talent between automatic qualifiers and at-large bids 10 years ago, but that isn’t the case anymore.”
This is Bryant’s fourth trip to the tournament in five years and each year they have given opponents as much as they can handle. In 2013 they played a tight game against No. 2 Syracuse for three quarters before the Orange ultimately pulled away to win 12-7. Last year the Bulldogs lost to Marist in the First Four play-in game after winning the NEC championship.
Bryant is led by four first team All-NEC selections, including senior captains Tucker James and Kyle Mummau. James leads the attack unit and also leads the conference in points per game (4) and assists per game (1.73).
Mummau, their top defenseman, was named to his third straight first team all-NEC after recording 21 ground balls and 12 caused turnovers on the season. He will have the task of slowing down Tewaaraton finalist Matt Rambo.
When Bryant took on Yale this season, Mummau held Ben Reeves, another Tewaaraton finalist, to zero goals and four assists as Bryant was able to upset Yale.
“Every team we play will be well-coached with good players and continue to improve,” senior attackman Colin Heacock said.
Freshman faceoff specialist Jake Buonaiuto and junior midfielder Kyle Cornell were also first team selections and slowing down Buonaiuto is on the top of Maryland’s to-do list this week. This season he won 58.2 percent of his faceoffs and scooped 6.6 ground balls per game, which both lead the NEC.
Even though Bryant is from the NEC, they are still very talented and their past experience in the NCAA tournament makes them a dangerous team to play.
“There can’t be a let down. We have to be excited and ready,” Tillman said. “Any team that wins their conference will be prepared and come ready to play.”
Maryland has one of the nation’s top offenses and Bryant has one of the top defenses so something has to give and something makes me think it will be the Terps coming out with the advantage.
The Terps’ starting six players on offense have at least 25 points each while the best the Bulldogs have played this season is Yale. Given, Bryant did beat Yale, but so did the Terrapins and Maryland’s schedule for the rest of the season was a lot stronger.
The winner of this game will take on the winner of No. 8 Albany and reigning national champion North Carolina in Newark, Delaware on May 21. Maryland beat both Albany and North Carolina this season.