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NCAA Tournament bracket 2015: Midwest Region gives Maryland a brutal draw

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The Selection Committee might have just ruined Maryland's NCAA Tournament.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

For the Maryland men's basketball team, that could have gone better.

Nearly everybody had projected Maryland as a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, playing inside the decidedly non-Kentucky East Region of the bracket and starting out almost locally, in Pittsburgh. And nearly everybody was wrong. The Terrapins, ranked No. 8 in the most recent Associated Press poll, fell to a surprising No. 4 seed. They were dropped into the Midwest Region and an opening weekend in Columbus, not Pittsburgh, near the top of a bracket headlined by what could prove to the greatest team in the history of college basketball. Wow, would you look at this region?

Simply put, this is horrid for Maryland. The Terps don't have it so bad in their first game. Valparaiso's decent (and relatively local) but hasn't beaten anybody of consequence, and the Terps have handled plenty of teams miles better than the Crusaders this year. But it gets murky quickly from there.

Upsets can always happen in 12-versus-5 games, but the likeliest outcome is that Maryland winds up facing No. 5 seed West Virginia in the second round (or what the NCAA nonsensically refers to as the "third" round). The Mountaineers are a mixed bag, but they're the fourth-best offensive rebounding team in the country, leaving them well positioned to exploit what has become a serious issue for Maryland on the defensive glass. On top of that, Columbus is just a shade over a three-hour drive from the West Virginia campus in Morgantown. College Park is twice that far away. Maryland, in exchange for losing six games all season, will be playing on the road exceptionally quickly.

From there, it gets even more hairy for Mark Turgeon's team. The Sweet 16, if Maryland gets there, will bring a certain matchup with John Calipari's world-beating, record-breaking Wildcats. There isn't a single team in college basketball that matches up well with Kentucky, and Maryland isn't an exception. The Cats are 34-0 for a reason, and there's a remarkably good chance they run a 40-0 table and win this tournament. In that case, Maryland would at least get a short chapter in Big Blue's national championship team DVD.

Of course, if Maryland pulled off the most shocking upset in recent tournament memory, the bottom half of the Midwest is a gauntlet, too. ACC champion Notre Dame is hanging around, along with perennially elite Kansas, always-hard-out Butler and an Indiana team whose point differential against Maryland this season is plus-12 over three games. It's the worst neighborhood in the entire bracket, complete with the best team in collegiate history, a No. 2 seed stocked with NBA talent, a No. 3 seed that just beat top-seeded Duke and a bunch of plucky upset candidates after that.

This tournament has cultivated a reputation as a place where the unexpected becomes the expected. That had better hold true, or Maryland's ceiling just got a lot lower.