#13 Houston Cougars (19-15overall)
#4 Maryland Terrapins (23-8overall)
Friday 3/19 Spokane Wa, 9:40pm
How they got here: HOU: won C-USA Tourney MD: ACC AT LARGE
PF: HOU: 78.6 MD: 79.3 PA: HOU: 74.6 MD: 67.5
This is a match up of two teams on the opposite side of the momentum spectrum. The Cougars were 7-9 in Conference USA and 15-15 overall before making an improbable run to the championship game where the defeated top seeded UTEP. One the opposite end sit the Terps, whose 13-3 ACC record gave them a share of the regular season title, but they were quickly ousted in their first game of the ACC Tournament. This game pits the country's leading scorer in Houston's Aubrey Coleman, against ACC Player of the Year in Greivis Vasquez. Whoever has the better game will likely lead their team to the 2nd round.
The Houston Cougars have a rich basketball tradition dating back to the days of Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Elvin Hayes and Phi Slamma Jamma and have been to five final fours. This is the first time the Cougars have been to the Big Dance since 1993 and they have not won a game in the tournament since making it to the Final Four back in 1984. The scouting report on Houston is simple, they score but can't defend. They posses the nation's leading scorer in Aubrey Coleman who averages near 26 points per game and almost as many shots. In addition to Coleman, the Cougars have sharpshooter, Kelvin Lewis who shoots just over 39 percent from beyond the arc and has made 100 3 pointers on the season. Those two average 41 points per games which accounts for almost half of the Cougars points per game average which is 78.6.The Cougars posses little inside as forward Marcus McNeil averages less than nine points per game and is tied with Coleman for the rebounding lead. Lewis and Coleman will shoot, shoot and shoot some more and they will score some points. However for all their prowess on offense, the Cougars are inept defensively.
The Cougars lost 15 games on the season and have given up over 80 points in seven of those losses. They lost nine games in a conference that is not nearly as strong as the ACC and their best win out of conference was a seven point win against a bad Oklahoma team, and they had to score 100 points to win that game. With four Terps averaging in double figures, the Cougars will face their toughest defensive challenge of the season.
Despite losing in the quarterfinal of the ACC Tournament the Terps received a number four seed and were put in what is believed to be the toughest region. Normally, lack of momentum and facing a hot team would be a recipe for disaster but the Terps are a senior laden team and posses one of the best game planning coaches in the nation, and they have won their last nine first round games; although some were a little too close for comfort. The teams that the Terps struggle against the most are long teams, with good inside players, who play good defense and slow down the game. Not one of those words describe the Cougars, who should play right into the Terps hands by running up and down the floor.
The loss to Georgia Tech showed what can happen to this team when Greivis Vasquez has an off night and a team hits a lot of shots against them. Even with both of those things happening, the Terps still had seven chances to tie or take the lead in the second half and couldn't capitalize. They played their worst game of the season by far and still almost beat a good Georgia Tech team, so they would need to play even worse to lose to Houston. Vasquez, Hayes and Mosley will have a ton of open shots but it is Jordan Williams who should be in line for a breakout game, given the lack of size of the Cougars. Maryland will come out much more focused and with more pep in their step than they did against Georgia Tech and I don't expect them to fall back early. This really is a dream match up for the Terps given the style of basketball the Cougars play.
While the Terps have won their last nine first round games, they needed some late game heroics to win a few of them. Davidson, UNC Wilmington and UTEP have all taken the Terps down to the wire this decade, but I don't see the same happening with Houston. The Terps strengths play right into the hands of Houston's weaknesses and there is too much talent on the team from College Park for Houston to spring the upset. Certainly Aubrey Coleman will score, he averages 20 shots a game and make take even more than that, so is bound to hit a few of them. Coleman is capable of dropping 30 or more on the Terps but there is not enough scoring around him outside of Kelvin Lewis for the Cougars to outscore the Terps. Maybe the Cougs hang around early but I think Vasquez&Co. move on to the second round quite easily. Terps 91 Houston 74.
Hopefully it does not come down to this: Watch here.