Maryland men’s basketball to play West Virginia in the opening game of the NCAA Tournament

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland men’s basketball (21-12) did not have to wait long to find out its seed, opponent and location in the 2023 NCAA Tournament. The Terps were the third team called in the CBS Selection Sunday special.

The Terps earned the No. 8 seed in the South region and will take on No. 9 seed West Virginia (19-14) on Thursday in Birmingham, Alabama, at 12:15 p.m. on CBS. If the Terps win their first game, they will take on the winner of No. 1 Alabama/No. 16 Texas A&M-CC or SE Missouri State on Saturday. Alabama is the No. 1 overall seed in this year’s tournament. 

“It’s great momentum for the program moving forward,” head coach Kevin Willard said. “So to get back and be an eight seed in year one is pretty good.” 

This marks Willard’s sixth NCAA Tournament appearance and first in College Park. Willard maximized the talent of his players as Maryland was picked tenth in the preseason Big Ten poll and got the Terps back in the NCAA Tournament. 

“We just tried to prove people wrong, and seeing that name pop up, it was just another step forward to lock in on the team we got to play and just get ready to go battle,” forward Donta Scott said.

Willard hopes to improve his NCAA Tournament record as Willard is 1-5 in March Madness, with the lone win in 2018. West Virginia is a familiar opponent for the Terps. West Virginia leads the all-time series 24-14, with the last meeting in the 2015 NCAA Tournament Round of 32, with the Mountaineers coming out on top, 69-59. 

Willard only watched the Mountaineers’ most recent game against Kansas, which West Virginia lost to the Jayhawks in the Quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament this past weekend. 

“They’re going to be physical, they’re going to rebound the basketball,” Willard said. “They’re playing a little bit faster than when I faced them in the Big East way back in the day, and I know Joe Toussaint is a heck of a guard.” 

Toussaint provides West Virginia great minutes off the bench and regularly scores double figures. 

West Virginia and Maryland come from two of the best basketball conferences. The Big Ten sent eight teams to the Big Dance, while the Big 12 earned seven bids in the field. 

Guard Jahmir Young carried Maryland to its 30th NCAA Tournament appearance leading the team in points, averaging 16.1 points a game. The Charlotte transfer came to College Park with the goal of making it into the Big Dance and he accomplished that. 

“From being a kid and watching March Madness sitting on the couch to finally being able to play in March Madness, there’s just a lot of emotion,” Young said. “I’m just excited to be out there with these guys.” 

Guard Don Carey and forwards Patrick Emilien and Julian Reese join Young in making their NCAA Tournament debuts later this week. 

Players like Scott and senior guard Hakim Hart worked hard to get back into the Big Dance after COVID-19 canceling the 2020 Tournament and going through a coaching change last season. 

“It just shows that we fought through adversity over the years and stuff like that,” Hart said.