Hawaii picked up their first NCAA Tournament win in program history on Friday afternoon. The Bows knocked out the injury-ravaged, fourth-seeded California Golden Bears 77-66 in one of the many foul fests the tournament has given us on opening weekend.
In order to reach their first ever Sweet Sixteen, Hawaii will have to go through the fifth-seeded Maryland Terrapins. The Terps won their opening round game 79-74 over the No. 12 seed South Dakota State. Maryland held an 18-point lead at one point in the second half, but nearly allowed the Jackrabbits to come all the way back before closing it out with a series of made free throws.
Unfortunately for the Bows, they (likely) won't have the fortune of their opponent missing two starters this time around. That's not to say Hawaii doesn't have another good opportunity to win the game, though. The Terps are certainly a formidable opponent, but they haven't quite lived up to the top-3 ranking they received in each of the preseason polls.
The starting unit for Maryland is about as talented as any in the country. Point guard Melo Trimble is the headliner, but Rasheed Sulaimon and Jake Layman both shot over 42% from three-point range and Robert Carter and Diamond Stone affect the game in a lot of ways down low. DraftExpress currently has all five going in their mock draft for this summer.
Fortunately for the Bows, there's not a ton of depth to worry about coming off the Maryland bench. Sixth man Jared Nickens is a three-point shooting specialist who only connected on 26% of his three-pointers in Big Ten play, although he did go 4-8 in round one so maybe he's heating up at the right time. Damonte Dodd and Jaylen Brantley will both play some minutes, but neither provides much offense.
But Hawaii has proven that they can play with anyone. Say what you will about Cal playing shorthanded, but there were two lottery picks still on the floor for the Bears and the Bows held one of them to 1-6 shooting and seven turnovers. KenPom only has them as three-point underdogs against the Terps.
Hawaii once again will need to win the turnover battle like they did in round one. Fortunately for them, Maryland has been generous with opponents all season in turning the ball over. A similar focus will again need to be placed on stopping dribble penetration from Trimble and Sulaimon. The Terps love to work out of pick-and-rolls/pops and a failure to properly defend them will result in easy looks for the bigs down low and the shooters outside.
The Bows will also need to do two things a little bit better than they did against Cal: rebound and shoot. The Bears outrebounded them by nine and, more importantly, had ten more offensive rebounds. Maryland isn't a good rebounding team, especially given how much size they have, but giving them too many extra chances is a recipe to get beat.
Hawaii's not a great shooting team by nature, but their 3-14 mark from outside in the first round isn't up to their abilities. Roderick Bobbitt was 1-8. If guys like Aaron Valdes and Sai Tummala can hit a few, it makes the Bows a dangerous offensive team.
Stefan Jankovic going against Stone will be a highly intriguing matchup, but I'm more interested this time around in watching Bobbitt go against Trimble at the point guard position. Trimble is a guy who's always been in the national spotlight since he stepped on Maryland's campus. Bobbitt is much less heralded, but he plays with a unique chip on his shoulder - Doug Gottlieb probably accurately described it as "cocky" during Friday's broadcast - and I'm sure he's very much looking forward to taking it to the sophomore sensation. He's got the ability. Trimble can be careless with the ball and Bobbitt is just the guy to take advantage of such a trait.
Before the tournament began, I picked Hawaii to win this game and I didn't see much in round one to change my mind. Frankly, I didn't even think the Bows played their best on Friday. Maryland's a talented team, but they've had a bad habit all year of letting teams stick around for too long. I think Hawaii will stick with them on the glass, get some easy points off of turnovers, and knock down a few more shots from the outside to win a close one.
Hawaii 72, Maryland 70