Tickets have been punched, brackets have been set and teams are getting set for the big dance.
The NCAA Tournament kicks off tonight with 16 games featuring 32 of the fields 64 teams.
The Terps come into this game after falling in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament to Northwestern. Maryland closed the season at 24-8 to grab the #6 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Maryland started off winning 20 of 22 games to start off the season but struggled down the stretch finishing 4-6.
Melo Trimble continues to lead the way for the Terps with his 17 PPG and a field goal percentage of 44. Some shaky play has plagued Maryland this year at points but the stability of Trimble’s scoring can keep the Terrapins on track against a strong Musketeers team.
Point per game have paved the way for Maryland’s offensive success this season, as they score just over 74 a game. The scoring margin of +6.3 against their opponents will be tested against Xavier.
Tremble talked to the media leading up to the game about the matchup and the problems Xavier can pose.
“The film we watched, they’re a really aggressive team on the offensive end,” Tremble said. “They play really hard on the offensive boards. Trevon Bluiett has scored on all three levels. They go and shoot the ball. That’s what we’ve seen from the regular season until they play last week at the Big East Tournament. They’re a really good offensive team. They play really hard.”
Xavier has had similar problems as Maryland this year, getting off to a great 13-2 start but finished the regular season losing six straight. Questions were posed as to whether Xavier would even make the tournament, but a win in the Big East Tournament versus #18 Butler proved to be the difference.
Much like Maryland relying on their star, the Musketeers are driven by Trevon Bluiett’s 18.1 PPG and his leadership on the floor. The Terrapins will have to focus in on Bluiett to contain the offensive threat he poses. Without Bluiett the offense has struggled at points this season.
The Musketeers have a slight edge in the points per game with 74.7, but are allowing their opponent to score over 71 a game. Three players for Xavier average more than 14 points a game, as opposed to just Trimble being over that mark for the Terrapins.
Both teams have had problems also with the turnover margin, both in negative figures. On paper these teams are very similar in many statistical categories except for one big area.
A factor in this game could come down to the rebounding battle.
Xavier has the clear edge ranking 20th in the nation in rebounding margin. Maryland is ranked 166th in the country in rebounding margin.
If the Terrapins can keep the Musketeers off the glass, they will be in prime position to move on to the weekend. If not, Xavier realistically can pull off one of the first upsets of the tournament.
As of right now Maryland is just a 1.5-point favorite in this game. A tough matchup coming for the Terrapins to start things in the NCAA Tournament.