NCAA Tournament Predictions: Maryland vs. Xavier

Khyri Thomas,Trevon Bluiett_552114

Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett (5) drives around Creighton’s Khyri Thomas (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Omaha, Neb., Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

It’s March Madness, the greatest time of the year. Looking for some help with your bracket? Don’t know which teams to believe in, in this crazy college hoops season? We’ve got your back. We’re breaking down every first-round game in the field of 68, plus looking ahead at which teams will make the run to the Final Four.

6. Maryland (24-8, 12-6/Big Ten)– Melo Trimble has done his best Kemba Walker impression this season, guiding a group of freshmen to 12 wins in the Big Ten and a somewhat surprising six seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Trimble, a junior who himself came in as a much-ballyhooed freshman recruit, leads the way at 17 points, 3.7 assists and 3.7 boards per game. 6-0 freshman guard Anthony Cowan, 6-7 freshman Justin Jackson and 6-7 freshman Kevin Huerter are the next three top scorers on the team.

Maryland was a solid defensive team this season, holding opponents to 67.8 points per game. They don’t have a ton of really impressive wins, but beat the teams they were supposed to, and that was enough to earn them the right to wear the home jerseys in Round 1.

11. Xavier (21-13, 9-9/Big East)–The wheels nearly fell off Xavier’s NCAA Tourney chances, as the Musketeers dropped six in a row at the end of the regular season, going from a lock to a shaky bubble team. They righted the ship by beating DePaul twice and then beating Butler in a must-win Big East tournament game at MSG. Xavier challenged itself with one of the toughest schedules in the nation, and it nearly cost them, but they might be better off now that they’re in the field.

The Musketeers are led by 6-6 junior Trevon Bluiett, who’s had a terrific career. He leads the team in scoring at 18.1 points and 5.8 boards per game. Edmond Sumner and J.P. Macura can also put the ball in the hole.

PREDICTION: Bluiett leads battle-tested Xavier past a young Maryland team and into the Round of 32, where they’ll fall to an extremely tall–and talented–Florida State squad.

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