The University of Maryland's men's basketball team had one of its most impressive seasons in years. The Terrapins set a school record with 26 regular season wins, finished in second place in the Big Ten Conference in their first season as a member of the league, and defeated several very good teams. They also didn't really lose to a bad team all season and went undefeated in conference play at home. Their award? A No. 4 seed in what I'll go ahead and call this year's bracket of death, where the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats are the No. 1 overall seed, Kansas is the second seed and Notre Dame, fresh off its ACC Tournament championship, is the third seed.
There are issues you can make with Maryland's seeding this season; it's seeded too low and placed in the Midwest region. Let's take a look at each of these in more detail.
Was Maryland seeded too low?
Let's take a quick look at Maryland's NCAA profile. Note, we'll be using KenPom rankings to evaluate:
Quality wins (wins over top 50 teams):
No. 3 Wisconsin, 59-53 (H)
No. 13 Iowa State, 72-63 (N)
No. 17 Michigan State, 75-59 (H)
No. 17 Michigan State, 68-66 (2OT, A)
No. 37 Oklahoma State, 73-64, (A)
No. 49 Purdue, 69-60 (A)
No. 4 Virginia, 76-65 (H)
No. 17 Michigan State, 72-58 (N)
No. 21 Ohio State, 80-56 (A)
No. 24 Iowa, 71-55 (A)
No. 53 Indiana, 89-70 (A)
No. 57 Illinois, 64-57 (A)
Bad loses (loses to teams outside the top 100):
Maryland had six top-50 wins, including three away and one on a neutral court. Its worst loss was to Illinois and it was on the road and by seven points.
So how did the Selection Committee view Maryland compared to the rest of the field?
The NCAA tournament seed list pic.twitter.com/4JFuIYWqsM— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) March 15, 2015
The committee thought Maryland was the 14th best team. Despite losing only six games all year, the committee believed North Carolina deserved to be ranked ahead of Maryland, in spite of the fact that the Tar Heels lost five more games than the Terps this season. The Tar Heels' worst loss was on the road against Pittsburgh, who finished the season ranked No. 80 in KenPom's rankings. UNC's best victory was its win this weekend against No. 4 Virginia in the ACC Tournament. You can make an argument either way about which of those teams should be ranked higher. But what about the No. 3 seeds? Should Maryland have been one of the top 12 teams?
Notre Dame: 29-5
Top 50 wins: 8
Best win: No. 7 Duke (2xs), (H & N)
Bad loses: No. 80 Pitt (A), No. 62 Syracuse (H)
Top 50 wins: 10
Best win: No. 11 Kansas (H)
Bad loses: No. 82 Creighton, No. 123 Washington, No. 81 Kansas State (2xs)
Top 50 wins: 10
Best win: No. 9 Oklahoma (H)
Bad loses: No. 81 Kansas State (A), No. 65 Illinois (N)
Iowa State: 25-8
Top 50 wins: 13
Best win: No. 9 Oklahoma (2xs)
Bad loses: No. 156 Texas Tech (A), No. 81 Kansas State (A), No. 67 South Carolina (N),
Several teams had more top-50 wins than Maryland, but Maryland's worst loss was to No. 57 Illinois. All the other teams had a loss that was No. 80 or higher. Were the Terps more deserving of a third seed than Oklahoma or Iowa State, a team they beat by nine on a neutral court in late November? I think you can make an argument either way for which of those teams, including Maryland, should have been a No. 3 seed. But what about where Maryland is seeded?
The Selection Committee shouldn't have placed Maryland in the Midwest region
Whether Maryland was a No. 3 seed or No. 4 seed isn't that big of a deal. What is a big deal is which region the Selection Committee placed the Terps. The committee viewed Maryland as the 14th best team overall, meaning they were the second best No. 4 seed. But if that's true, why was Maryland placed in the Midwest, instead of the East or South? Why should Maryland, as the second best No. 4 seed, have to play in Kentucky's region? Why wasn't Georgetown placed in that bracket?
The location of a first round game can be very important. With Maryland's profile, they should have been playing in Pittsburgh for its first game. Instead, they have to head even further west, to Columbus, Ohio, in a region where they could have a Sweet 16 match-up against Kentucky.
Whatever the reason, Maryland finds itself in a region that is going to be extremely difficult to emerge from. Apparently only losing six games, not losing a conference game at home, defeating six top-50 teams and not suffering any bad losses earns you a date with Kentucky, Kansas, Notre Dame and West Virginia.