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Testudo Times Bracketology: Where Maryland basketball might play its opening NCAA Tournament games

With the regular season complete, the Terps are clinging to a top-five seed.

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve only spent one full week in March so far, and it’s already been wild. Multiple conference tournament favorites have gone home, while other teams are continuing to play their way onto and off of the bubble. Four teams locked up automatic bids over the weekend, and the ACC is the first power conference tournament to kick off postseason play on Tuesday.

The Terps enter the Big Ten tournament with a 22-9 record, ranked 27th in both NET and BPI and 18th in KenPom. They’re 6-7 in Quadrant 1 games and 7-1 in Quadrant 2 games, with the only Quadrant 3 loss coming to Illinois at Madison Square Garden. That loss won’t have a big impact on Maryland’s seed, since the Fighting Illini just dropped out of the NET top 100, which is the threshold for a Quadrant 2 loss.

I still have the Terps as a No. 5 seed, headed to San Jose to take on the winner of a First Four matchup between Temple and Florida. The winner would play the winner of No. 4-seed Kansas and No. 13-seed New Mexico State, with a shot to go to Louisville for the Sweet 16.

I feel like this column’s gotten a bit stale the past few weeks, so I decided to mix things up. Instead of saying more about Maryland’s seeding, I wanted to look at where they could be spending the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

Here’s where I could see Maryland landing, in order of most likely to least likely. Before I start, there are three sites where the Terps absolutely will not end up. Unless nearly every single bracketologist is overrating Maryland compared to the committee, the Terps will not end up in the 8-9 game. This means they’ll avoid a trip to Columbia, where Virginia and North Carolina are currently projected to be the top seeds in the pods.

It’s incredibly unlikely that Maryland will end up in Des Moines too, since I currently have Michigan and Purdue playing there, and the committee has enough room to create a bracket where teams from the same conference won’t have to play each other in the second round.

The same goes for Columbus, where I currently have Michigan State and Kentucky as the top seeds. With the committee having enough room to make sure the Terps don’t play the Spartans and the Wildcats as the final No. 1 seed, it’s hard to see Maryland playing there unless the Terps somehow fall into the 8-9 range.

Very likely

Hartford and San Jose. With Gonzaga currently being the only West Coast team in the top 16 seeds and many of the East Coast teams having closer destinations further south, Hartford and San Jose will likely be the last two host sites available for the No. 4 seeds.

With Maryland currently project as a No. 5 seed, that gives it a really good chance to end up in one of these two cities. Hartford would obviously be the better location for fans, who could drive or take a train to the XL Center compared to a cross-country flight in San Jose. Even if the Terps move up to a No. 4 seed, it may not help, since none of the teams currently in the No. 4 to No. 5-seed range would want to play in San Jose during the first weekend.

Definitely a possibility

Tulsa and Salt Lake City. With Maryland currently being on the last No. 5-seed line, even a 1-1 week in Chicago could lead to the Terps dropping to a No. 6 seed. With Purdue already playing in Des Moines, Tulsa and Salt Lake City are the other sites where Maryland would not face a Big Ten team in the second round. I currently have LSU and Texas Tech in Tulsa and Houston in Salt Lake City, and all three teams would present different challenges for Maryland.

Probably not going to happen

Jacksonville. As I said earlier, unless bracketologists are overrating Maryland’s resume, the Terps won’t end up any lower than a No. 6 seed unless they get manhandled by the winner of Rutgers/Nebraska. Jacksonville is a short flight away, but would likely lead to short trips in the NCAA Tournament.

Jacksonville would mean a potential second-round matchup with either Tennessee or Duke, both of whom could give Maryland fits. While a matchup with the Blue Devils is fun to think about, the Terps would struggle to keep up if Zion Williamson is able to do ridiculous things on the basketball court again in the NCAA Tournament.

I posted my bracket below, and like usual, the regions are posted as Final Four pairings. New this week are the bold and italicized teams, which means that team has won its respective conference tournament. Feel free to post any questions in the comment section, and I’ll try to answer them as best I can.

East (Washington, D.C.)

(1) Virginia (ACC) vs. (16) Prairie View (SWAC)/Norfolk St. (MEAC)
(8) UCF vs. (9) Washington (Pac-12)

(5)Kansas State vs. (12) Liberty (Atlantic Sun)
(4) Wisconsin vs. (13) Hofstra (CAA)

Salt Lake City
(6) Iowa State vs. (11) Minnesota
(3) Houston (AAC) vs. (14) Old Dominion (Conference USA)

(7) Cincinnati vs. (10) Ohio State
(2) Tennessee (SEC) vs. (15) Colgate (Patriot)

Midwest (Kansas City)

(1) Kentucky vs. (16)Iona (MAAC)/St. Francis PA (NEC)
(8) Louisville vs. (9) St. John’s

San Jose
(5) Marquette vs. (12) Arizona State/NC State
(4) Florida State vs. (13) UC Irvine (Big West)

Des Moines
(6) Auburn vs. (11) TCU
(3) Purdue vs. (14) Harvard (Ivy)

(7) Baylor vs. (10) Ole Miss
(2) Duke vs. (15) Gardner-Webb (Big South)

West (Anaheim)

Salt Lake City
(1) Gonzaga (WCC) vs. (16) Sam Houston State (Southland)
(8) Oklahoma vs. (9) Syracuse

(5) Villanova vs. (12) Murray State (Ohio Valley)
(4) Virginia Tech vs. (13) Vermont (America East)

(6) Mississippi State vs, (11) Indiana
(3) Texas Tech (Big 12) vs. (14) Wright State (Horizon)

Des Moines
(7) Nevada (Mountain West) vs. (10) Creighton
(2) Michigan vs. (15) Montana (Big Sky)

South (Louisville)

(1) North Carolina vs. (16) Bradley (Missouri Valley)
(8) Seton Hall vs. (9) Iowa

San Jose
(5) MARYLAND vs. (12) Temple/Florida
(4) Kansas vs. (13) New Mexico State (WAC)

(6) Wofford (Southern) vs. (11) Texas
(3) LSU (SEC) vs. (14) Georgia State (Sun Belt)

(7) Buffalo (MAC) vs. (10) VCU (Atlantic 10)
(2) Michigan St. (Big Ten) vs. (15) Omaha (Summit)

Last Four Byes: Texas, TCU, Indiana, Minnesota
Last Four In: Arizona State, NC State, Temple, Florida
First Four Out: Utah State, Clemson, Georgetown, Oregon
Next Four Out: Xavier, Alabama, Belmont, Furman