Preseason Countdown: Terps face seven NCAA tournament teams in 2018

Maryland baseball is just one week away from its season-opener on the road against Tennessee. While the focus is currently on the Volunteers, the Terps will play seven opponents this season against teams which, like Maryland, earned a trip to the 2017 NCAA Tournament.

A few of the teams are from mid-major conferences and others lost a lot of pieces, but the Terps will only play one game at home this season against one of those teams. Thirteen of 14 games against an opponent from last year’s tournament will be played away from College Park.

Circle the following contests on your calendar because winning games against many of these teams could improve the Terps resume, as they’ll look to make it four trips to the tournament in the last five years.

1. Radford (27-32) — March 2 

Maryland will play the Highlanders on a Friday night to start the Coastal Carolina Tournament, the only regular season tournament the Terps will play in. Radford finished the season below .500, but won the Big South Tournament for the second time in three years to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament as a 4-seed in the Louisville Regional. The Highlanders entered the tournament, where they went 0-2, ranked 155th in RPI of 299 teams in the country. Both Maryland (9-6) and Radford (5-2) had winning records in neutral-site games last year.

2. Delaware (34-23) March 6, 13

Four days later, the Terps will begin a home-and-home series with Delaware in College Park. Unlike Radford, the Blue Hens had a winning record in 2017, finishing 34-23 and also earning a 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament. They, too, lost both games they played in June. Delaware went 8-14 in true road games last season, but 22-4 at home. The Terps will play in Newark for the second game of the series exactly one week after their first meeting. After winning the CAA Tournament last season, Delaware is projected to finish second in its conference this year.

3. North Carolina (49-14) — March 20

While Radford and Delaware come from mid-major conferences, perhaps the best team the Terps will see all season will come during a highly-anticipated midweek road game against North Carolina. Maryland traveled to Chapel Hill last year, too, losing 9-2. Playing the Tar Heels is great opportunity for Maryland to boost its resume. Not only is it a road game against an ACC opponent, but the North Carolina currently sits in the top-10 in most major polls, including sixth by A perennial title contender, the Tar Heels are favorite to win the ACC, and would huge if the Terps can come away with a win.

4. Michigan (42-17) — April 13-15

The Wolverines are one of three of Maryland’s conference opponents this season that made last year’s NCAA Tournament. The Terps hosted No. 18 Michigan last season, picking up two wins on the weekend in what was maybe the most important result of the year. Michigan lost 15 players at the end of last season, though, including 11 to the MLB Draft. The Wolverines will return less than half of their lineup, but they’ll return All-Big Ten first team selection Ako Thomas, who led the conference with a .354 batting average. Michigan won’t be the same team as last year, but nevertheless winning a conference series on the road is never easy.

5. West Virginia (36-26) — May 1

Madison Nickens drove in four runs in Maryland’s win over West Virginia in College Park last April. Two months later, the Terps lost to the Mountaineers twice in the NCAA Tournament. Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network 4/1//2017

This won’t be a big game just because it’s on the road against a tournament-caliber team, but because it’s a perfect time for revenge for the Terps. After beating the Mountaineers in a thrilling 7-6 game in College Park last season, the Terps fell to West Virginia twice in the NCAA Tournament. The Terps won’t have to face preseason All-American right-hander Brandon Zarbnisky, but the Mountaineers scored six runs per game last year. West Virginia is currently ranked No. 22 by, and if the Mountaineers stay in the top 25 by May, it would be another huge opportunity for the Terps.

6. Nebraska (35-22-1) — May 4-6

The Cornhuskers earned a 2-seed in the Corvallis Regional after a 35-22-1 season and the top seed in the Big Ten Tournament. The Terps traveled to Lincoln last season, winning the Saturday game of the series behind reliever Ryan Hill’s one-run performance in 4.2 innings out of the bullpen. The Cornhuskers have one of the top relievers in the country, Luis Alvarado, who was named a preseason second-team All-American selection by Collegiate Baseball. It’ll be another tough conference road test for the Terps near the end of the season.

7. Indiana (34-24-2) — May 17-19

The Terps will end the regular season with a three-game series against the Hoosiers, who are the current favorite to win the Big Ten. Indiana is the only conference opponent that will start the season ranked by any of the national outlets. Maryland also traveled to Bloomington last season, where they picked up one win. Outfielder Marty Costes went 3-for-5 with two RBI to guide the Terps to a 9-2 win. The Hoosiers earned a No. 2 seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament but were eliminated by Kentucky after winning one game. If the Terps are on the bubble at the end of the season, winning two games that weekend would certainly help their chances.