After a relatively calm Thursday, I would bet that most of our brackets are still in tact. Murray State over Marquette was the only real upset, but many saw that one coming.
8 Second Round matchups have been set in stone for Saturday. I want to focus on a juicy 3-6 battle out of the East – Maryland vs LSU.
I’ll break down how the two teams wound up meeting, how they stack up, and who I am picking to advance to the Sweet 16. Let’s dig in!
How We Got Here
The Maryland Terrapins were good, not great, for most of the 2018-19 season. Their “key wins” section boasts names like Wisconsin and Purdue but the Terps stumbled and dropped contests to Illinois, Penn State, and Nebraska.
Maryland bounced in and out of the top-25 and finally backed into a 6-seed. They were tasked with taking down the most exciting 11-seed in the field, the Bruins of Belmont. The most popular upset pick of the First Round, many had Belmont down for a trip to the Sweet 16.
For a moment, it appeared Belmont was well on their way. The Bruins closed the 1st half strong and held an 8-point advantage at the break. Maryland did exactly what they were supposed to do in the second half, however, handling business 79-77.
The Tigers of LSU enjoyed more regular season success in the SEC. The Tigers dropped 3 non-conference games before starting with a bang by defeating their first 7 conference foes. The Tigers’ finest stretch came in early February, where LSU beat Mississippi State, Auburn, and Kentucky in 3-straight contests. For reference, those are a couple of 5-seeds and a 2-seed in the NCAA tournament.
Finishing SEC play 16-2, LSU entered the conference tourney as the 1-seed – only to lose to 8-seed Florida in their opening game.
Despite the loss, LSU was granted a 3-seed in the NCAA tournament and was matched up against my favorite upset pick of the tourney, Yale. A second half push by the Bulldogs made the final score closer than it should have been. LSU won 79-74 but was in control from tip to final buzzer.
How They Play – A Closer Look at Maryland-LSU
The Terrapins have been paced all season long offensively by junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. Cowan suffered a dreadful shooting performance against Belmont, shooting just 3-18 from the field and 1-10 from deep.
Freshman forward Jalen Smith and sophomore guard Darryl Morsell picked up the slack, combining for 37 points and allowing Maryland to sneak out with a win.
Unfortunately this type of story has been all too common for the Terps this year. Ranking 189th in points per game, Maryland has struggled to score 70 on many occasions. Part of the blame for the low scoring output is Maryland’s slow pace, but the Terps still rank 77th in offensive efficiency, a clear sign that they just cannot shoot consistently.
Sophomore guard Tremont Waters has been LSU’s offensive leader this year. Waters came up big against Yale, scoring 15 points and dropping 7 dimes in a team-leading 34 minutes of work.
Waters is not the only Tiger who can score. Averaging 81.4 points per game, LSU ranks 11th in the nation in scoring offense. It is the defense that has betrayed LSU this year. Whereas Maryland ranks a respectable 60th in defensive efficiency, LSU ranks 125th.
Who Will Win – The Verdict on Maryland-LSU
Both squads turn the ball over more than 13 times per game. This number puts both teams in the bottom-half of the nation in that category. LSU runs a relatively quick pace while Maryland plays some of the slowest basketball in the nation, ranking 313th in possessions per game.
Whichever teams more consistently avoids turnovers will be able to impose their desired pace on the game. The advantage swings in Maryland’s direction if they can slow the game down – vice versa for LSU.
Bovada has LSU by 2.5 points (-115). Maryland’s spread is +2.5 (-105), and the Terps are +130 on the ML. This game is effectively a tossup. It will come down to turnovers. The team with the fewest turnovers will win.
Since neither side holds a game-changing advantage, I would much rather get plus odds by betting Maryland +130 on the ML than lay money on a 50/50 bet.
Will Maryland win? Maybe. Do they offer the better value? Definitely.
Enjoy your weekend, boppers!