Connecticut guard James Bouknight, center, is fouled by Marquette guard Greg Elliott, right, in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021, in Storrs, Conn. (David Butler II/Pool Photo via AP)
- No. 7 seed UConn faces No. 10 seed Maryland in a first-round game that will tip-off at 7:10 pm ET Saturday night on CBS
- The Huskies are looking for their first NCAA tournament win under Dan Hurley, and just their second overall since winning the 2014 national title
- Below, see the odds and best bet for the game
A battle of big college basketball brands will take place on Saturday night when No. 7 UConn faces No. 10 Maryland in an East Region first-round game. The Huskies and Terrapins are set to tip things off inside Purdue’s Mackey Arena at 7:10 pm ET on CBS.
UConn will head into Saturday night as a three-point favorite to advance to the second round.
Maryland vs UConn Odds
|Team||Spread at FanDuel||Moneyline||Total|
|Maryland Terrapins||+3 (-116)||+124||o130.5 (-110)|
|UConn Huskies||-3 (-106)||-146||u130.5 (-110)|
Odds as of March 18.
While Connecticut and Maryland are both powerhouse programs from powerhouse conferences, neither has had a ton of success in the NCAA Tournament recently.
It’s Maryland MBB vs. UConn in the Big Dance.
The last time they met in March?
2002 Elite 8 — with the legend Stuart Scott all over the highlights: pic.twitter.com/DvRBjuHZ0n
— Connor Newcomb (@ConnorNewcomb_) March 14, 2021
The Huskies, of course, cut down the nets in both 2011 and 2014, but the program suffered a severe fall from grace after its most recent national title. UConn never regained that 2014 magic under previous head coach Kevin Ollie. Their only appearance in the tournament since then came in 2016, when they defeated No. 8 seed Colorado in the first round before falling to top-seeded Kansas two days later. This will be their first March Madness experience under third-year head coach Dan Hurley.
Maryland’s problem, conversely, hasn’t been making the NCAA tournament, it’s been advancing far enough to appease its passionate fan base. Since winning the national championship in 2002, Maryland has been to the Sweet 16 just twice, and has not played in a regional final. The Terps have made four of the last five tournaments and been a 6-seed or better in each appearance, but that status has resulted in only four total wins in the Big Dance.
March Madness Final Four Odds Tracker
Maryland is Limping Into the Tournament
There’s no way around: Maryland is struggling. The Terps have lost three of their last four, with their only win over that span coming against Michigan State in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament. They ended the regular season with embarrassing back-to-back losses to Northwestern and Penn State, and were soundly defeated (79-66) by a shorthanded Michigan team in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals.
Put simply, Maryland has to find its outside stroke if it wants to advance. The Terps are 8-0 this season when shooting 39.0% or better from three, and 12-3 when shooting better than 35.0%. Against one of the best rebounding teams in the tournament, second chance opportunities are likely going to be at a premium for Mark Turgeon’s team. They simply must knock down a healthy number of open looks from the outside to have a shot here.
Turgeon says that UConn reminds him a lot of how Rutgers plays, with a little bit of this year’s Michigan State team in the mix.
Defense and toughness.
— Lila Bromberg (@lilabbromberg) March 17, 2021
Unfortunately for Maryland team, UConn is only allowing opponents to shoot 31.6% from three on the season (60th best in D-I). They have, however, allowed two of their last three opponents to shoot better than 35.0% from beyond the arc.
UConn Should Dominate the Glass
Pretty much every conversation about Connecticut begins and ends with star James Bouknight, which is understandable. The Huskies looked like an NIT without him and a legitimate second weekend NCAA tournament team when he was healthy. Even with that being case, Bouknight doesn’t represent the biggest advantage UConn has in this game.
Matchup wise, Maryland can’t expose UConn’s weaknesses on the defensive end, which are defensive rebounding (248th) and transition defense (12th percentile).
Maryland ranks 327th in offensive rebounding rate and uses transition at the 310th highest rate in the country.
— Matt Marquart (@Matt_Marquart) March 15, 2021
The Huskies come down with an offensive rebound on 36.8% of their missed shots. That’s the sixth-highest rate in the country. Maryland, conversely, is one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the country (327th). Tyrese Martin and Isaiah Whaley have the potential to dominate the glass on both ends, which could be huge in a game featuring two teams that are both defensive-minded and prone to extended shooting droughts.
Best Betting Angle
On paper, this is certainly a favorable matchup for UConn, but the Huskies are still too much of mystery team to trust completely. For example, in the Big East tournament, Connecticut held Creighton to 5-of-18 shooting from three, outscored them by seven at the free-throw line, and still lost the game.
The best bet here is that this game is unwatchable for long stretches. Neither team shoots it particularly well, both are tremendous defensively, and both play at a glacial pace. Bank on a low scoring affair.
The pick: UNDER 130.5 (-110)
Mike Rutherford has been the managing editor of Louisville sports website Card Chronicle since 2006. He served as SBD Nation’s college basketball editor from 2011-2020, and his college hoops writing has appeared on the websites of ESPN, CBS and Yahoo, among others.