Maryland is no stranger to the National Championship bracket. Last year, they took perennial contender Robert Morris University (IL) to a full three-game set, but ultimately lost to the Northern powerhouse. This year, UMD is hoping for better results and a chance to put the Big Ten on the collegiate map.
Regionally, the Terrapins once again entered the Big Ten playoffs highly rated, but hardly the zesty pick to take the conference. However, history in the Big Ten rhymes quite nicely, and the fourth seeded College Park boys bowled over the whole state of Michigan - including a surprising Wolverine squad that upset #1 Ohio State in this year’s iteration of The Game - on their way to a 3-1 victory over Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Maryland followed that up with an undefeated Play-In run, with strong showings against Georgia College, Ottawa, and Simon Fraser.
Looking at the National Championship bracket, the Terps may have gotten the right draw for a deep run. They start with a bout against Western University, one of the tournament’s most consistent but least explosive teams, and follow that up with a potential match against either Ottawa, who they already beat in Play-Ins, and Cal Irvine. Out of three opponents on their route to the title match, only UCI seems overwhelming. UMD cannot take the East Region lightly, but they will not have to go through the American Midwest’s powerhouses to have a chance at the title.
If Maryland wants to make a cinderella run, however, they will need to maintain their objective control. They currently rank fourth in every objective control category, but questions about quality of competition will haunt them until they assuage those concerns in further interregional play. There is also no data currently catalogued by Battlefy for the Big Ten Playoffs, which gives us even fewer points from which to judge UMD.
The main concern will be ahead of their opponents in the first round. Western University may have taken fewer objectives than the Terps, but part of that comes from very short game times early in the season, and the Purple People have significantly better objective denial. UMD may want the win, but to get it, they will need to find the creases in WU’s defense.
Overall, Maryland looks like an intriguing dark horse this year. They have an easier bracket compared to their Big Ten compatriots from Urbana-Champaign, but they also face a stiff potential semifinal matchup against UCI’s immense talent. If Testudo is going to take home the title, his team will need an impeccable plan and some stellar play.
The end is nigh! The national title tournament kicks off on Thursday, 6/7, at 3pm PDT on twitch.tv/riotgames. Tune in to see which dark horses will make a championship run! Think the Big Ten has a chance? Be sure to also keep up with our Facebook and Twitter pages for new coverage of the home stretch!
Banner Image Credit: University of Maryland, College Park Graduate School.
Matt Howard is the League of Legends editor for Collegiate StarLeague. He is also a Games Scholar who received his Master’s in History at the University of Houston. His thesis is a sport history of League of Legends esports and Web 2.0 culture. Find him on Twitter @EHyungNim.