For the second straight year, Maryland men's basketball enters the NCAA Tournament in the same region as the No. 1 overall seed. In 2015 it was Kentucky, this season it's Kansas. There are few easy roads in March, and the Terps begin theirs Friday as a No. 5 seed against No. 12 seed South Dakota State in Spokane, Washington.
A full look at the South region:
As long as Maryland takes care of business against the Jackrabbits (certainly not a foregone conclusion, as 5-over-12 upsets absolutely happen), it should draw a matchup with No. 4 seed California in the round of 32.
The Golden Bears sit two spots higher than the Terps in Ken Pomeroy's rankings at No. 21, and are obviously very much closer than Maryland is to Spokane. After struggling to begin the season, the Bears capitalized on their immense talent and are playing like the team people expected them to be. Cal has two bona fide freshman stars in Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, and just like Maryland, has five players scoring in double-digits. This would be quite a tough game for most teams, but the Terps seem to match up with the Bears fairly well upon first glance.
In the Sweet 16, the Terps' most likely opponent would be the Jayhawks, who would have to be upset by 16-seed Austin Peay, 8-seed Colorado or 9-seed UConn. Anything's possible, but smart money is on the No. 1 overall seed advancing to the at least this far. Kansas holds the No. 1 spot in Ken Pomeroy's rankings, and is coming off a win in the Big 12 Tournament Championship. This team isn't as dominant as Kentucky was last season, but the Jayhawks will enter the tournament on a 14-game winning streak, with their last loss coming against Iowa State in January. In a season of parity, they've been as good as anyone at avoiding bad losses, dropping just one game to a team outside of KenPom's top 20. They'll obviously be one of the favorites to win it all, and Maryland will be a heavy underdog if it even gets the chance to play Kansas.
If the Terps do make it past the Sweet 16, they could be in for a date with Villanova, who was No. 1 in the polls not too long ago and looked to be on schedule to be a No. 1 seed before losing to Seton Hall in the Big East Championship.
Here's the schedule for the South Region's first round:
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Austin Peay
No. 8 Colorado vs. No. 9 UConn
No. 6 Arizona vs. No. 11 Vanderbilt/Wichita St.
No. 3 Miami vs. No. 14 Buffalo
No. 5 Maryland vs. No. 12 South Dakota State
No. 4 California vs. No. 13 Hawai'i
No. 7 Iowa vs. No. 11 Temple
No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 15 UNC-Asheville