For the Maryland Terrapins, the way they played in the first half against Niagara looked eerily reminiscent to the team's first-round loss in 2006 to Manhattan, a year in which the team was essentially forced to play in the NIT because of Debbie Yow.
This year's team looked about as listless for the first ten minutes, and the score was tied at halftime. Then came the second half, and the Terps wore out the Purple Eagles thanks to supreme talent, depth and an unrelenting full court press. The press seemed to energize the Terps, in particular Nick Faust, as Maryland quickly ran away with an 86-70 win.
Faust and Seth Allen lead the Terps with 15 points a piece while Dez Wells and Charles Mitchell also finished in double-figures in scoring. The Terps shot 40 percent from behind the arc and over 84 percent from the free-throw line, continuing trends we saw develop in the ACC tournament.
The Terps outrebounded the fiesty Purple Eagles by eight but once again struggled with turnovers, giving the ball away 15 times. After doing a much better job of taking care of the ball in the ACC tournament, it was disappointing to see Maryland so careless in the first round of the NIT.
Maryland moves onto the second round where they will host Denver, which got past Ohio in its opening round game.
Should the Terps get past Denver, it's quite possible they would travel to Alabama to face the No. 1 seed in the regional final with a trip to the Final Four and Madison Square Garden on the line. Alabama won it's first round game and with face Stephen F. Austin, which knocked off Florida State.
One team Maryland won't see at any point in the tournament is Kentucky, which was upset by Robert Morris in Pittsburgh. Even though Nerlens Noel is out for the year, it would have been great to see Maryland and Kentucky meet in the Final Four in New York after opening up the season against each other in Brooklyn.
The victory gives the Terps at least a few more days of practice and one more additional game. Other than giving Logan Aronhalt significant run in the second half, Mark Turgeon did a nice job of keeping James Padgett on the bench and sitting Alex Len down to give the younger players that are expected to return next year as much playing time as possible.
James Padgett also deserves credit for accepting his role with the team and understanding the importance of getting the younger players as much playing time as they can get. Padgett may have had a disappointing senior season, but you can't help but root for the guy. It's clear he has been a really good teammate during his four years in College Park.