Terps can exhale: UM to face Cal in first round

Just one wall and a pair of closed doors separated the Terps from the assembled members of the media. It didn't matter how far away they were; we could could hear the nail-biting, especially when Arizona -- considered an outsider by most -- was announced as an at-large team. But the sound of nibbling nails paled in comparison to the eruption of noise that exploded through the bowels of Comcast Center when Greg Gumbel announced Maryland's place in the NCAA tournament field: a 10-seed, slated to play No. 7 California on Thursday in Kansas City, Mo.

We'll have more on California in a bit. What you need to know now: They finished the season 22-10 (11-7 Pac-10). They'll enter Thursday's game having played just one game in the past 12 days. They lost in the opening round of the Pac-10 tournament to Southern Cal, 79-75. Cal, which seemed to be in the race for the regular-season title for a while, was a three seed in the tournament and lost to sixth-seeded USC. They closed the season losing four of their final six games.

Cal seems to be a pretty strong team offensively. They have three starters averaging double-digits and as a team, they average 75 points per game. The Golden Bears' guard play is especially strong, so it might not be a terrible matchup for the undersized Terps.

Check out their season stats here.

The Terps are in the bottom half of the bracket in the West region. Their path won't be an easy one. In fact, winning two games feels like a long shot. If they can get past California, awaiting in the second round is No. 2 Memphis, a team that easily could've been a No. 1 seed in this tournament.

We're awaiting Gary Williams and some players, so we should have some quotes and information on Cal coming up soon

If Maryland somehow sneaks by Memphis -- a Tiger flu bug? a missed Memphis flight? -- then they'd be looking at a team like No. 4 Washington or No. 5 Purdue in the Sweet 16 round.

Check out the full bracket here.

Who do you like in the Maryland-Cal matchup? Do you like the Terps' draw?

-- Rick Maese

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