After a five-year tournament drought, Maryland fans finally have something to be excited about come March that isn't named the NIT. Although unfavorably placed in the Midwest region where a potential Kentucky-Maryland Sweet 16 matchup looms large, the Terps have business to take care of before looking two games into the future. Maryland finished the season red hot, winning eight straight games before Michigan State spoiled the Terps first Big Ten Tournament.
Dez Wells fueled the Terps' late-season surge and is averaging better than 17 points in the last nine games. Wells, now entering his final string of games in a Maryland jersey, is playing in his first tournament since his freshman year when he was part of the Tu Holiday led Xavier bunch that was upset in the first round. Freshman guard Melo Trimble and junior forward Jake Layman will share the load with Wells as the Terps face Valparaiso for the second time in team history.
Valpo clinched an automatic bid to the tournament after beating foe Green Bay in the Horizon League final to join March Madness for the second time in three years. Sophomore forward Alec Peters is the heart and soul of the Crusaders and leads the team in points with 16.7 points per game and rebounds with 6.8 per contest. Maryland will be the first ranked opponent Valparaiso will play all season, but the Crusaders are used to winning and have only dropped five games all season and just one in the last 11 games.
How to watch, listen, and stream
Game time: 4:40 p.m. ET
Terrapin Sports Radio Network and live audio available here.
Online streaming: TNTdrama.com
Rankings and records: Maryland is 27-6 (14-4 Big Ten) and a No. 4 seed in the Midwest Region. Valparaiso is 28-5 (13-3 Horizon) and a No. 13 seed.
KenPom's prediction: Maryland, 63-60. 62 percent chance Maryland wins.
One thing at stake
Survive and advance. If the Terps want a chance to take down the Goliath Kentucky Wildcats, they have to win the one in front of them. Valpo is looking for its first tournament win since 1998, so I'm sure winning a game in Columbus would be the talk of town in Indiana.
One big matchup
Jake Layman vs. Alec Peters. If there is one player who can absolutely push Valparaiso to the next round, it's Alec Peters. The sophomore is a beast down low and possesses great size for a mid-major player. Jake Layman has had a great transition from last year to this year in becoming more of an inside presence and Layman has the tools to minimize Peters' damage to Maryland's defense.