Maryland and Denver each harbored dreams of going to the NCAA Tournament, but the Terps' ACC Tourney run fell short and Denver lost in the WAC Tournament after a 16-2 regular season. Who moves on in the NIT?
Maryland and Denver will square off in a decent NIT match-up, the only game the tournament has scheduled on the first Thursday of the NCAA Tournament.
Both teams had tourney hopes as the Terps feature possible top-five NBA Draft pick Alex Len at center and Xavier transfer Dez Wells, who has been a revelation in his first year for Maryland. They were hopeful after a run to the ACC Tournament semifinals. But they lost there to UNC, and a losing conference record didn't hold up in the eyes of the selection committee. They easily handled Niagara Tuesday behind five threes from Logan Aronhalt and 15 points and an uncharacteristic 11 rebounds from Nick Faust, earning another home game. Testudo Times wrote about the advantages - and weaknesses - of the match-up with Denver.
The Pioneers, on the other hand, were gunning for their first NCAA Tournament and had a decent shot after finishing No. 2 in the WAC, going 16-2 in conference, tied with Louisiana Tech. Both squads lost their first-round games in the WAC Tournament, with Denver falling to No. 7 Texas State, and now they're both here in the NIT. Denver lost both games they played against teams from power conferences this year, as well as games against NCAA tourney squads in Cal and Iona as well as a bubble team in Southern Miss. Their dominance in conference play was good enough to get them a No. 39 ranking according to Kenpom, which should have been good enough for an at-large bid and is actually better than Maryland's No. 55 placement.
Here's the info on Thursday night's game:
7 p.m., ESPNU: No. 2 Maryland vs. No. 3 Denver
The winner of Maryland-Denver will face the winner of Alabama-Stanford, which will be played Saturday in Tuscaloosa. Since the NIT is a pretty logistically difficult tournament to pull off, with higher-seeded remaining teams hosting match-ups at home sites, the dates for match-ups are often unknown for a few days. The date of the Virginia-St. John's game is still up in the air.
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