Whether this is a long road or a short one, Maryland's NCAA Tournament journey starts on Friday against South Dakota State in Spokane, Wash. The Terps are the No. 5 seed in the South Region, and they'll tip against the No. 12 Jackrabbits sometime around 4:30 p.m. ET at the aptly named Spokane Arena in Spokane, Wash., on TBS.
The Terps are just about a 10-point favorite at most sportsbooks. The Jackrabbits are formidable, and five-versus-12 games are always on everyone's upset radar as the tournament gets underway. But this remains a favorable matchup for Maryland, unless the Terps fail to bring anything near their best game. Here's what they're up against:
South Dakota State Jackrabbits (26-7)
Scott Nagy led the Jackrabbits to the Summit League championship this season. He is 167-97 in eight seasons in Brookings, where he's now taken the program to all three of its NCAA Tournament appearances.
Players to know
Mike Daum, freshman, forward, 6'9, No. 24. Daum comes off the bench, but he's South Dakota State's best player. He scores 15 points per game and shoots a stupid 45 percent on three-pointers. The Kimball, Neb., native is also the team's leading rebounder, with six per contest. Daum can catch the ball beyond the arc, in the post or anywhere in between, and he's got the ability to start well away from the hoop and then work inside with finesse.
George Marshall, senior, guard, 6'1, No. 11. After Daum, the Jackrabbits' most prolific players are all guards. Marshall is really good, averaging 15 points, four rebounds and three assists. He shoots 37 percent on threes and 76 percent at the foul line, so he's efficient.
Deondre Parks, senior, guard, 6'4, No. 0. Parks (33 percent) isn't a substantial three-point threat, but he can hurt teams in other ways. He's a sharp foul shooter and takes good care of the ball, rarely turning it over.
Reid Tellinghuisen, sophomore, guard, 6'6, No. 23. Tellinghuisen is another pretty good deep shooter (38 percent) and gives the Jackrabbits some backcourt and wing length. He's just a 61 percent foul shooter, however, which makes it likely he won't try to slash into the Terps' defense too much.
Jake Bittle, senior, guard, 6'4, No. 4. Bittle is the least efficient of South Dakota State's big scorers, and Maryland could do well to force the ball into his hands. He hovers around 30 percent on threes and 40 percent on twos. Just don't foul him, because Bittle shoots 80 percent at the stripe.
Defensive rebounding. The Jackrabbits defend their own glass at a top-20 rate nationally, although that's no doubt helped by their presence in a non-major league. Teams only get offensive rebounds on 25.5 percent of their missed shots against South Dakota State. Maryland could do better than that, but it also could not.
Foul shooting. The team free throw percentage is a solid 74, and the Jackrabbits have a few absolute knockdown foul shooters. Daum, Parks and Bittle are all better than 80 percent.
Forcing turnovers. The Jackrabbits flip possession on just 17 percent of opposing trips, which places them 242nd in the country entering the tournament. Maryland has better ball-handlers than South Dakota State's Summit League competition, and the only way the Terps will rack up giveaways in this game is if they don't focus.
It's an isolationist offense. The Jackrabbits only assist on 44 percent of their made field goals, which is one of the lowest marks in the sport. (It's also somewhat at odds with the playmaking ethos of small-school, midwestern basketball.) They shoot slightly more three-pointers than the national average (about 36 percent of their total shots) but mostly have offensive balance. When Daum is on the court, usually for a little more than 20 minutes per game, he dominates the ball and takes 30 percent of the Jackrabbits' shots. When he's not, the ball is more spread out.
The Jackrabbits make it a priority to guard the three-point line. Just 32 percent of opposing field goal attempts come from deep, as Nagy deploys a guard-heavy lineup to close out on the arc and limit opportunities. Ken Pomeroy defines their defensive footprint as "mostly man," although it wouldn't be surprising to see them play some guard-oriented zone defense against a more sized, skilled opponent like the Terps.
KenPom: Maryland, 75-69. The Terps have a 73 percent chance to win.
Alex: Maryland, 81-72. The Terps are likely to struggle in this tournament, but not so much against this opponent.