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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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Huerter, the newest Hawk, introduced in Atlanta


Huerter, the newest Hawk, introduced in Atlanta

It was just months ago that Maryland sophomore Kevin Huerter was a sure lock to return for the 2018-2019 season in College Park. 

At some point during the offseason, the 19-year-old changed his mind and decided to test his luck and enter the 2018 NBA Draft. 

After a solid performance at the Combine, Huerter began to soar up draft projection boards. 

Fast forward to the night of the Draft on June 21 from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. 

The Clifton Park, N.Y. native declined an invite to instead be with his family, friends and former teammates at a local country club. 

After watching 18 players get their names called by Commisioner Adam Silver, this happened: 

This viral video had the 518 (Albany, N.Y. area code) basketball community buzzing about the kid who brought Shenendehowa High School its first state championship since 1987. 

Huerter enjoyed outreach from many different names throughout the sports community: 

On Monday, Huerter was officially introduced as the newest Atlanta Hawk. His father, Tom Huerter, documented part of the special day on Twitter: 

In other news, if you don't see Kevin Huerter in Summer League, don't worry. Earlier this month, Huerter learned he needed to repair torn ligaments in his right shooting hand in order to be fully ready for the start of camp. 

Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk expressed his confidence in a full recovery for Huerter during the introductory press conference Monday. 

Clearly the organization is in the middle of a massive rebuild, and it's hoping that newcomers Kevin Huerter, Trae Young and Omari Spellman will be at the center of it. 

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NBA Draft 2018: Maryland basketball's Justin Jackson drafted by Nuggets, traded to Magic

USA Today Sports

NBA Draft 2018: Maryland basketball's Justin Jackson drafted by Nuggets, traded to Magic

Maryland basketball had two players drafted in one night for the second time in three years Thursday night when the Denver Nuggets picked Justin Jackson with the No. 43 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Jackson was subsequently traded to the Orlando Magic as part of a deal that brought the No. 41 overall pick, Kentucky's Jarred Vanderbilt, to Denver.

After his freshman season, in which he averaged 10.5 points and six rebounds a game while shooting 43.8 percent from beyond the arc, Jackson declared for the draft without an agent, but elected to return to Maryland for his sophomore season. But he'd play just 11 games before being shutdown for the year with a torn labrum. His draft stock was hurt, but obviously not totally erased.

He had surgery in January and ended up being the first Terp to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft back in March. Though Jackson's recovery kept him out of the NBA Combine, teams were still intrigued by what they'd seen from him in the past to be willing to take a flyer.

A 6-foot-7 forward with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, Jackson has the skill to play anywhere between the two or the four in the NBA, and the length to guard all kinds of players.

With Kevin Huerter headed to the last-place Atlanta Hawks, Maryland basketball's two draftees are slated to join last season's two worst teams in the Eastern Conference.