The Maryland men’s basketball team is back in the NCAA tournament after the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of March Madness last year.
The Terps, seeded No. 10 in the East Region, will play seventh-seeded Connecticut on Saturday. Tipoff times and broadcast information will be announced at a later date.
While the entirety of the 68-team field is being played in Indianapolis and surrounding cities because of the pandemic, the NCAA elected to keep its location descriptions for each region. Michigan, which Maryland lost to in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals, is the No. 1 seed in the East.
Should Maryland (16-13, 10-12 Big Ten) win, it would play the winner of the No. 2 Alabama-No. 15 Iona game for the chance to make its first Sweet Sixteen appearance since the 2015-16 season.
The Terps last played UConn (15-7, 12-7 Big East) in the 2015-16 season, a 77-66 Maryland win at Madison Square Garden. Maryland has met UConn twice in postseason play; the Terps defeated the Huskies, 90-82 in the 2002 Elite Eight, en route to the program’s lone NCAA championship title. UConn beat Maryland, 99-89, in the 1995 Sweet 16; the Huskies lost to UCLA in the championship game.
Last year’s team, led by All-Big Ten players Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith (Mount Saint Joseph), was a trendy pick to make the Final Four. But Maryland began the 2020-21 conference schedule on shaky ground, still adjusting to the departure of the all-conference players, along with an exodus of transfers. The Terps started the season 4-9 in conference play but remained optimistic due to ranked wins over Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and Purdue.
Using smaller lineups and relying on a defense that was arguably the Big Ten’s best over the final month of the season, Maryland won five straight games in February to strengthen its tournament resume. Senior guard Darryl Morsell was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and junior guards Aaron Wiggins and Eric Ayala were given honorable mention recognition by coaches and media.
Despite finishing the regular season with two straight losses, including blowing a 16-point lead to Penn State on Senior Night, the Terps responded with a resounding 11-point win over Michigan State in the second round of the Big Ten tournament before. Maryland lost by 13 to top-seeded Michigan in the quarterfinals.
This year’s appearance in the NCAA tournament will mark Maryland’s fifth appearance in ten years under Turgeon. It will also be the return to the postseason for Morsell, Ayla and Wiggins, all of whom played key roles on the 2018-19 team that came one score away from appearing in the East Regional semifinals, held in nearby Washington that year.
Maryland has been a No. 10 seed twice in its history; in the 1993-84 season, the Terps advanced to the Sweet ad in the 2008-09 season, they lost in the Round of 32.
This story will be updated.