The Maryland men’s basketball team is the No. 6 seed in the East region of the NCAA tournament and will play its first game Thursday against the winner of a play-in game between Belmont and Temple.
The Terps (22-10, 15-4 Big Ten) were projected to be as high as a No. 5 seed before their ugly 69-61 loss to Nebraska in the Big Ten tournament.
Belmont (26-5, 16-2 Ohio Valley), the Ohio Valley regular season champions, earned an at-large bid despite losing to Murray State in the conference tournament championship. Temple (23-9, 13-5 American Athletic) is also an at-large, having finished third in the American Athletic and losing in the conference tournament quarterfinals. The Bruins and Owls were two of the last four teams to make the 68-team field.
Maryland missed the postseason altogether last year and hasn’t won a tournament game — NCAA or Big Ten — since 2016, when the preseason No. 3-ranked team went to the Sweet 16. The Terps made the 2017 tournament as a No. 6 seed but lost to No. 11-seed Xavier, 76-65.
The winner of Maryland’s game will face the winner of No. 3-seed LSU and No. 14-seed Yale.
[Read more: Maryland basketball never gets going in ugly 69-61 Big Ten tournament loss to Nebraska]
The top seed in the East regional (and the bracket as a whole) is Duke, and the No. 2 seed — which the Terps could play in the Sweet 16 — is Michigan State. If Maryland moves to the Sweet 16, the Terps would play in Washington, D.C.
Maryland entered the year with middle-of-the-road expectations after losing a pair of NBA draft picks from last season, leaving Turgeon with the fourth-youngest team in the country. The Terps mostly cruised through the nonconference slate and went on a six-game win streak after the calendar turned to 2019. But they fell just short of a double bye in the conference tournament by losing two of their final three regular season games, finishing fifth in the conference before the disastrous Huskers game.
Maryland is ranked No. 24 by KenPom and No. 27 in NET, the NCAA’s ranking system that replaced RPI this year. The Terps played the 12th-hardest schedule in the nation and had the 45th-ranked nonconference schedule.
Belmont is ranked No. 54 in KenPom and No. 47 in NET, while Temple is ranked No. 76 in KenPom and No. 56 in NET.
The Big Ten has eight teams in the bracket, edging out the ACC and SEC (seven apiece) for most of any conference. Three are in the East regional, with No. 10-seed Minnesota joining the Terps and Spartans. Michigan, which lost to Michigan State in the conference title game Sunday, is a No. 2-seed in the West regional. Purdue is a No. 3-seed in the south, where Wisconsin is the No. 5-seed and Iowa is the No. 10-seed, and Ohio State is a No. 11-seed in the midwest. Indiana was one of the first four teams out.
Coach Mark Turgeon hasn’t advanced past the Sweet 16 in any of his 20 years as a head coach. His NCAA tournament record is 8-8. Maryland hasn’t advanced past the Sweet 16 since its national title run in 2002.