Fresh off 1st NCAA win, Belmont battles Maryland
Maryland didn't learn the identity of its opening NCAA Tournament opponent until Tuesday night.
Belmont didn't even know it would be playing in the Round of 64 until Tuesday night.
The Bruins' 81-70 victory over Temple in the First Four at Dayton, Ohio, sent 11th-seeded Belmont (27-5) to Jacksonville, Fla., to face sixth-seeded Maryland (22-10) in an East Region game on Thursday afternoon.
"When I get back to the hotel room, I guess I'll download some video (of the Terrapins)," Belmont coach Rick Byrd said after the Bruins got their first NCAA Tournament victory in their eighth try.
Belmont, which lost to Murray State 77-65 in the championship game of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament on March 9, is one of seven schools from mid-major conferences to receive an at-large bid to this year's tournament. It is just the second team in OVC history to receive an at-large bid, joining the 1987 Middle Tennessee team.
"Getting a second chance and being able to extend our season means everything," said Belmont forward Nick Muszynski, who returned from an ankle injury that kept him out of the Murray State game to score 16 points against Temple.
The Bruins, who got 29 points from guard Kevin McClain on Tuesday, fell a bit short of their scoring average of 87.2, which ranks second to only Gonzaga's 88.8 in Division I.
"We showed that we can play in this atmosphere," Byrd said. "It's never going to be perfect, but we found a way to win. We showed our toughness."
Bruins swingman Dylan Windler had just five points, more than 16 below his team-leading average, but he exceeded his team-leading rebound average by three as he grabbed 14.
When Maryland saw the tournament bracket, coach Mark Turgeon took a philosophical approach to not learning the identity of the upcoming foe right away.
"We'll watch a lot of film on both teams heading into Tuesday night and then they have to play in Dayton and then fly to Jacksonville on Tuesday night," Turgeon said. "They'll have some experience under their belt, and they'll have confidence because they won a game.
"I'm going to look at it as an advantage because we'll be down there Tuesday night sleeping in our hotel while they're playing a game in Dayton."
Maryland, like Belmont, had a disappointing outcome in its conference tournament, falling to 13th-seeded Nebraska 69-61 in the second round of Big Ten Tournament on March 14. It was the Terrapins' third defeat in their past four games.
"Going from the regular season to the Big Ten tournament, you're playing teams that you've already played twice and they know almost everything about our system," Maryland center Bruno Fernando said. "So now we get to go and play teams that we don't know much about them and they don't know much about us.
"It's going to be a completely different game, and we'll get a chance to do a lot of things that we weren't able to do against teams that know us so much. It's a different season, it's a new season."
This is Maryland's fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament in the last five seasons, but the one time it didn't go during that stretch was last season, meaning seven of the top nine players on this team do not have experience in the tournament.
The winner of the Maryland-Belmont game will face the winner of Thursday's opener between third-seeded LSU and 14th-seeded Yale in the third round on Saturday.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 20, 2019