As Maryland's men's basketball team has settled into the top 10 this week, there has become some consensus among the bracketheads that the Terps would slot in as a No. 3 seed if the NCAA tournament began today.
With that in mind, let's take a glance at the teams that are being predicted to land on the No. 14 line by various projections. This list should give a sense of the type of opponent the Terps will face when they play their first NCAA tournament game under Mark Turgeon on March 19 or 20.
But keep in mind that these are teams that will need to take care of business in their respective conference tournaments in order to make it to the Dance.
CENTRAL MICHIGAN (22-6 overall, 12-5 MAC) – The Chippewas won at Northwestern while they were building an 11-1 start, but they’ve hit some speed bumps in the conference schedule. The MAC tournament will be full of land mines, as four teams finished 11-6 in the regular season. If they make it through, the Chippewas are led by junior guard Chris Fowler – no, not that Chris Fowler – who averages 15.1 points, 3.0 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game.
GEORGIA STATE (20-9, 13-5 Sun Belt) – Lefty Driesell is long gone from Georgia State, but Maryland fans will remember beating his Panthers in a Round of 32 game in 2001, when Georgia State was a No. 11 seed and upset Wisconsin in the first round. It’s no sure thing that the Panthers will be back in the NCAA tournament, as Georgia Southern and Louisiana Monroe finished the regular season with matching 13-5 records in the Sun Belt, meaning that conference tourney should be interesting. Kentucky transfer Ryan Harrow leads Georgia State with 20.3 points per game, and teammate R.J. Hunter averages 19.6.
NEW MEXICO STATE (20-10, 12-1 WAC) – New Mexico State is no stranger to the NCAAs, but the Aggies haven’t won a game in the tournament in more than two decades. This year, they have three players (Pascal Siakam, Remi Barry and Daniel Mullings) averaging 13 points per game, and two averaging 9. Their best win was over UTEP (74th in RPI) in early December. Oh, and if you remember their 7-foot-5, 360-pound mountain of a man Sim Bhullar from last year, he has since turned pro. They do have his younger brother, 7-3, 335-pound Tanveer Bhullar, but the redshirt freshman only sees five minutes per game.
NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL (23-6, 15-0 MEAC) – Even if they're a No. 14 seed, the selection committee would probably keep the Eagles away from the Terps, considering the teams already played this season (and last). Maryland won their matchup in College Park, 67-56, on Dec. 10, and you probably already know about Dez Wells’ connection to N.C. Central coach LeVelle Moton. What you may not know is that the Eagles ran the table in the MEAC during the regular season and only lost once after Dec. 15.
SOUTH DAKOTA STATE (21-9, 12-4 Summit League) – The Jackrabbits have closed strong, winning 12 of their past 14 games. They lost four straight in late December/early January, but two of those defeats were on the road against ranked opponents (Utah and Northern Iowa). They haven’t beaten at team in the top 100 in the RPI, so on paper they don’t seem to be a threatening No. 14 seed. They did reach the NCAA tourney in 2012 and 2013, losing to Baylor in Michigan in first-round games.
STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (25-4, 15-1 Southland) – The Lumberjacks rolled through their conference in the regular season, and they won by 12 at Memphis in early December. They also took No. 11 Northern Iowa to overtime, ultimately losing that game at home by two points. They’re a balanced group offensively, and you might remember them from their upset win over VCU in 12-5 matchup last March.
UC DAVIS (22-5, 12-2 Big West) – The Aggies were undefeated at home this season, but as you might imagine, they’re level of competition wasn’t particularly challenging. They’re strength of schedule ranks 323rd in the country, and their only win against a top-100 team in the RPI was against UC Santa Barbara, a team they split with. UC Davis is led by senior guard Corey Hawkins, who averages 20.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.3 steals.
WILLIAM & MARY (18-11, 12-6 CAA) – If you want to put on your scout hat, you can check out the Tribe in Baltimore this weekend. Led by high-scoring guard Marcus Thornton (19.4 points per game), who is from Upper Marlboro, William & Mary is a slight favorite to win the CAA tournament at Royal Farms Arena. But the Tribe finished in a four-way tie for first place in the regular season, so they’re no shoo-in to cut down the nets on Monday night.