WASHINGTON — Maryland’s victory over Big Ten leader Wisconsin may be too late for the conference’s regular season race, but the win could go a long way toward keeping the Terps a short distance away from home during the NCAA tournament’s first weekend.
For the first time since 2010, the Maryland men’s basketball team will be dancing this March. The Terps will enter Selection Sunday knowing full well their name will be called — it’s just a question of how high their seed will be, which team they will face and where they’ll play.
Tuesday night’s win over Wisconsin makes Pittsburgh a possibility as the 14th-ranked Terps could make a return the top 10. But first they have to take care of business Saturday against Michigan.
The NCAA tournament recently has tried to protect its higher seeds (No. 1 through No. 4) by making the teams’ first weekend destinations closer to home, if possible.
For instance: in 2014, Wisconsin was sent to Milwaukee while Baylor spent the first weekend in San Antonio. While that’s no guarantee of victory (Georgetown lost in Philadelphia in 2013 while Duke lost in nearby Raleigh last March), it definitely eases a school’s path to the Sweet 16.
Models from ESPN.com and CBSSportsline.com both have the Terps headed to Pittsburgh. ESPN has Maryland as a No. 4 seed in the East Region playing Valparaiso. CBS has the Terrapins as a No. 3 seed in the South facing Iona.
SI.com projects the Terps as a No. 4 in the Midwest Region playing Valparaiso (that site doesn’t include first weekend destinations).
While Maryland’s ranked 14th in both polls this week, the Terps own the 10th or 11th best Ratings Percentage Index depending on which site you check. RPI measures who you played, where you played them and how you played against them while also taking into consideration who they played.
So depending on where you look, Coach Mark Turgeon’s team will get a No. 3 or No. 4 seed — qualifying them as a “protected seed.”
Of the eight sub-regional sites, Pittsburgh is the closest — 243 miles — to College Park, Maryland. Columbus and Charlotte are a both a little more than 400 miles away from XFinity Center.