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NCAA Tournament 2017 Preview: How Maryland stacks up against Xavier

NCAA Tournament 2017 Preview: How Maryland stacks up against Xavier

Maryland earned a No. 6 seed in the west region of the 2017 NCAA Tournament on Sunday and will take on No. 11 seed Xavier.

It's a position Maryland fans did not expect to see the team in prior to the start of the season, what with the departures of Jake Layman, Diamond Stone and Robert Carter.

But with Melo Trimble playing at an All-American level and rise of freshman Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson, the Terps entered Big Ten play with a 12-1 record and finished the season with 24 wins, finishing in third place in the Big Ten.

Across the seed line stands Xavier, a team that entered the season as a Final Four darkhorse. But the Musketeers hopes for a first trip to the Final Four were dashed when Edmond Sumner, their top player, tore his ACL in late January. The Muskeeters went 15-6 with Sumner but finished the season 6-7 without him.

But a non-conference resume with wins over Clemson, Utah, and Wake Forest, along with Big East wins over Seton Hall, Creighton, Butler and Georgetown was enough to earn Musketeers their 27th bid to the NCAA Tournament.

But how do the two teams matchup? Who will win? Let's break it down.


Maryland vs. Xavier Preview

Maryland, by many expert's accounts, is the most overseeded team in the entire 2017 NCAA Tournament.

The Terps are ranked No. 45 by KenPom. The three other No. 6 seeds are all within the top 27 of the KenPom rankings. At No. 45, Maryland's resume is more comparible to an No. 11 seed, like Xavier.

Maryland vs. Xavier Key Players:
Maryland: Melo Trimble, G (17.0 ppg, 3.7 ppg). Anthony Cowan, G (10.5 ppg, 3.7 apg, 1.2 spg), Justin Jackson (10.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 43.1 3P%)
Xavier: Trevon Bluiett, G (18.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 43.6 FG%). J.P. Marcura, G (14.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.4 spg). RaShid Gaston, F (7.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg).

Melo Trimble is the straw that stirs Maryland's drink.

He ranks No. 86 nationally and possession percentage, meaning only 85 players in the country have the ball in their hands more than Trimble. Trimble excels at getting to the rim and drawing contract, ranking in the top 200 nationally in fouls drawn per 40 minutes. While Maryland lacks bench production and frontcourt size, Trimble has the ability to put the entire team on his shoulders, a trait that is accentuated during March Madness.

But the Terps most important player aside from Trimble might just be freshman forward Justin Jackson. The lanky swingman is boom or bust, as evident by his 15 games with at least 11 points and his 17 games with less than 10 points. Jackson has a smooth stroke and can take his man off the dribble with ease. But he has to get going early and often. Maryland doesn't have enough depth to have Trimble, Cowan and Huerter do all the work.


Maryland: Guard play, 3-point shooting, ball movement
Xavier: Guard play, shooting, offensive rebounding

Maryland has Melo Trimble. Xavier has Trevon Bluiett. Those two players can carry a team on their backs in a "survive and advance" setting. In fact, both teams are strong in the backcourt. Wiry shooting guard J.P. Marcura doesn't get nearly enough attention. His matchup with Kevin Huerter will be fun to watch. Maybe not as fun as Bluiett vs. Trimble. But that may be one of the best 1-on-1 matchups in the entire bracket.

Maryland: Lack of bench production, no frontcourt depth
Xavier: Field-goal defense, no frontcourt depth

Maryland has too many veteran role players on the bench to struggle so much to get bench scoring and production. Dion Wiley, Jaylen Brantley, LG Gill and Jared Nickens should all be capable of providing a spark on the fairly regular basis, but that just hasn't been the case this season. The Maryland bench has accounted for just 25% of the team's overall production.  

The Terps also lack talent and size in the frontcourt. Damonte Dodd is a serviceable big man who is forced to play starters minutes and Ivan Bender is an athletic 6-9 forward off the bench who has provided minor sparks, but has been unable to really cement himself as a capable threat. With Michael Cekovsky sidelined with an injured, 6-8 LG Gill is the only other true frontcourt player on the roster.


Maryland vs. Xavier Keys to Victory:
Xavier is not a great offensive rebounding team, which means Maryland has to make them pay for their misses. The Terps are strong at getting out on the break and need to convert missed shots into points, or trips to the foul line at the very least. Maryland can be turnover-prone from time to time, and considering Xavier is a sup-par team in terms of steals, the Terps cannot give the Musketeers and free plays.

Maryland vs. Xavier Prediction: 
avier is a trendy pick to spring the upset. Xavier has a 58 percent chance of upsetting Maryland, according to the ESPN College Basketball Power Index.

A game model projections have a predicted score of 72.8-67.1 in favor of Xavier.

No. 6 seeds have won 64 percent of the overall meetings against No. 11 seeds. That being said, No. 11 seeds have won seven of 12 NCAA Tournament games over the past three tournaments and are 15-13 since 2010. The game is essentially a pick 'em, which means our prediction is a Xavier win.

Click here to join CSN's 2017 NCAA Tournament Bracket Challenge to have a chance to win Washington Wizards floor seats and other prizes. Presented by Chasen Boscolo.

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Palmer's big 2nd half lifts Huskers past Maryland

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Palmer's big 2nd half lifts Huskers past Maryland

LINCOLN, Neb. -- James Palmer Jr. scored 24 of his 26 points in the second half, Isaiah Roby had all 11 of his after half, and Nebraska held off Maryland 70-66 on Tuesday night.

Palmer and Roby combined for 35 of the Cornhuskers' 40 second-half points, and they secured their first 20-win season since 2008. They won a sixth straight conference game for the first time in 20 years.

Palmer scored 15 straight points for the Huskers (20-8, 11-4 Big Ten) over a 10-minute span that ended when Roby hit one of two free throws with 2:57 left for a 64-59 lead. Roby had a double-double, with 10 rebounds, and he also blocked three shots.

The Terps (17-11, 6-9) had a chance to take the lead with a minute to play, but Glynn Watson Jr. blocked Anthony Cowan Jr.'s 3-point try, Evan Taylor came up with the loose ball and got it to Watson.

Watson missed a 3-pointer coming out of a timeout, and Roby got the rebound and was immediately fouled. He made both free throws for a 66-63 lead. Kevin Huerter's layin cut it to one point before Watson made two free throws.

Huerter went to the line with 2.8 seconds left, and after making the first free throw he intentionally missed the second. Palmer got the rebound, was fouled and put the game away with two free throws.

Bruno Fernando led the Terps with 21 points and nine rebounds. Huerter added 12 points and Darryl Morsell had 11.


Maryland: The Terps' fading NCAA Tournament hopes might have been dashed with their seventh straight road loss.

Nebraska: The Huskers are resting firmly on the NCAA bubble and absolutely needed this win. They got it, thanks to Palmer and Roby's efforts in the second half.


Maryland hosts Rutgers on Saturday. It's the teams' only meeting this season.

Nebraska visits Illinois. The Huskers beat the Illini 64-63 in Lincoln on Jan. 15.

RELATED: DMV College Basketball Power Rankings: Missed opportunities

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Maryland overwhelmed by Penn State in close loss


Maryland overwhelmed by Penn State in close loss

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Lamar Stevens feels like he's playing his most consistent basketball right now, a bad omen for upcoming opponents considering Penn State expects its hybrid forward to do a little bit of everything.

Just like he did on Wednesday.

Stevens scored 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting with 14 in the second half to lift Penn State over Maryland 74-70.


"Lamar really stepped up for us," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. "We needed every one of those points that he had tonight."

Tony Carr added 16 points, Josh Reaves scored 14, and Mike Watkins added 11 for the Nittany Lions (17-9, 7-6 Big Ten Conference), who equaled their previous best mark for conference victories under Chambers.

"The best teams always find ways to win," Stevens said. "We locked down when we had to, got huge stops, huge rebounds and I think that's a huge step for this team."

With Maryland (16-10, 5-8) up 20-14 midway through the first half, Stevens nailed his first of two 3-pointers to spark a quick 9-0 run that helped Penn State take control.

He rolled layups off his fingers and sank midrange jumpers on multiple back-to-back possessions in the second half, where he scored 11 of his team's first 20 points.

"He made some incredible, incredible shots," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. "He was terrific, he was so efficient."

Stevens added four rebounds, two assists and was 3-for-4 on free throws with all three makes coming in the final 5:48 as Maryland threatened.


Anthony Cowan Jr. led Maryland with 15 points while Kevin Huerter and Bruno Fernando added 13 apiece.

Darryl Morsell had 10 points for the Terrapins, who cut a 10-point deficit with 8:11 to play to just three with 1:13 left.

"I didn't think we competed in the first half defensively," Turgeon said. "I thought in the second half, we were really trying hard."


Maryland: The Terrapins' disappointing season continues and they have dropped to 7-7 since stalwart forward Justin Jackson's season was ended by a torn shoulder ligament in late December. Although they shot better than their season average, the Terrapins were badly outplayed in the paint, getting outscored 32-22 and outrebounded 27-23.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions are playing an exciting brand of basketball as of late. They have a combined 22 dunks over their last three home games and opponents are finding it hard to play fast against a team that thrives on speed.