As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 27-6 (14-4 Big Ten)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 108.5 (56th)/94.6 (36th)
Seed: No. 4 in Midwest
Impact player: Melo Trimble, freshman, guard: 16.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.1 apg, 40.0 3-pt FG%, 86.5 FT%
The Case For: The Terrapins were the clear No. 2 in a conference (Big Ten) that checks in at fourth in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. Maryland is also the only club that beat the top team in that conference, Wisconsin, when the Badgers were at full strength during conference play. That victory illustrated why the Terp are a threat to make a tournament run. In its 59-53 win on Feb. 24, Maryland limited the nation’s top offense to only 0.96 points per possession. It should come as little surprise, then, that the Terrapins topped the Big Ten in adjusted defensive efficiency during conference play.
Maryland, back in the tournament for the first time in five years, has a wealth of talent. Trimble is a skilled scorer and facilitator with a knack for drawing fouls; junior forward Jake Layman (12.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg) has made significant strides as a shooter and rebounder; and senior guard Dez Wells (15.4 ppg, 50% from three-point range) is a tough matchup on the perimeter. That group helped the Terrapins bounce back from a 2-3 stretch in the middle of Big Ten play and rattle off seven consecutive victories to close the regular season. It’s a testament to Maryland’s late-game execution that it went 10-0 in games decided by six points or fewer.
The Case Against: While Mark Turgeon's team deserves credit for eking out close games, one can argue that its inability to put opponents away—or beat them by larger margins—means its not as good as its 27-6 record suggests. To wit: The Terrapins closed the regular season leading Division I in Ken Pomeroy’s Luck statistic, which gauges the disparity between a team’s win-loss record and the expectation based on that team’s efficiencies on a game-by-game basis. Maryland could well continue to conjure just enough “Luck” to survive and advance in the tournament, but any late-game lapses would be critical. The problem is, the Terrapins often have lacked the offensive firepower to create separation from their opponents. During conference play, they ranked 12th in the 14-team Big Ten in two-point shooting percentage, 10th in effective field goal percentage and 10th in adjusted offensive efficiency. Trimble, Layman and Wells are a formidable trio, but can Maryland lean on other players for offense if needed?
SI prediction: Lose to Valparaiso in Round of 64