One of last season’s Final Four teams appears to be headed to Baltimore to play Maryland.
Loyola-Chicago, which became the Cinderella of the 2018 NCAA men’s basketball team by pulling off a string of upsets en route to the NCAA semifinals, is close to signing a contract to play the Terps at Royal Farms Arena, NCAA.com reported.
A spokesman for Maryland acknowledged Friday that negotiations are ongoing for a December game in Baltimore, but would not confirm that Loyola-Chicago would be the opponent.
After a 16-year absence, the Terps played Princeton in Baltimore during the 2015-16 season and followed it up with a game against Charlotte the following year. Maryland did not play in Baltimore last year.
The Ramblers, who return three starters from a team that finished 32-6, reached the Final Four for the first time since winning the NCAA tournament in 1963 as an 11th seed.
The addition of Loyola-Chicago, which was ranked 17th in ESPN’s Way-Too-Early Top 25, helps solidify a non-conference schedule that should be the most competitive since Maryland coach Mark Turgeon came to College Park in 2011.
Along with the Ramblers, the Terps will also face Virginia, expected to be a top-10 preseason team, in the Big Ten/ACC Challlenge at Xfinity Center, as well as playing starting a home-and-home series at Maryland with Seton Hall.
Despite losing sophomores Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson in the NBA draft — Huerter was picked No. 19 overall by the Atlanta Hawks and Jackson was chosen No. 43 and traded to the Orlando Magic — the Terps should be competitive.
Maryland returns three starters from last year’s 19-13 team that failed to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years, including third-team all-Big Ten player in junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. and sophomore center Bruno Fernadno, a member of the league’s all-freshman team.
The Terps also bring in the nation’s No. 7 recruiting class, led by 6-9 195-pound forward Jalen Smith (Mount Saint Joseph), a McDonald’s All-American who was ranked No. 10 overall by ESPN. Turgeon told NCAA.com that at least one freshman — presumed to be Smith — would start.