Can Terps tear down KU's hopes?
A pair of similarly gifted, albeit differently perceived, squads face off tonight in the South Region semifinal.
No. 1 overall seed Kansas aims to extend its winning streak to 16 games when it takes on fifth-seeded Maryland, with a 9:45 p.m. ET tip at the KFC Yum! Center. According to oddsmakers at online sports book BetDSI, the Jayhawks are 6-point favorites entering the festivities in Louisville.
Lauded all year for their cohesion and unwavering consistency, Bill Self’s troops waltzed through the NCAA tournament’s first two rounds. Last weekend’s triumph over UConn included a 44-24 advantage on the glass that underscored the head coach’s emphasis on controlling the interior at all costs.
Even when senior power forward Perry Ellis isn’t calling the shots, though, KU remains in great shape. Junior guards Wayne Selden (13.6 points per game) and Frank Mason III (12.8), plus sophomore Devonte’ Graham (11.4), comprise a backcourt whose collective confidence seems to soar with each passing contest.
The Terps’ strength also ties into their primary ballhandlers. Sophomore Melo Trimble (14.8) and senior Rasheed Sulaimon (11.1) both have the ability to consistently penetrate and then dish with aplomb.
Maryland’s issue: Unlike the Jayhawks, it lacks the bigs to finish. Outside of 6-foot-11 freshman Diamond Stone, Mark Turgeon often wonders to whom he will turn in the frontcourt. When the team scuffled in the early stages vs. South Dakota and Hawaii, the post players failed to pull their weight.
Kansas will offer no such grace period of sorts. The people of Lawrence desperately want to get back to a Final Four for the first time since 2012, and this foe represents but another stepping stone along the path.
THURSDAY NCAA FREE PICK: KANSAS -6