How They Got Here
Coming off of a 72-64 loss to Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament, No. 6 seed Maryland enters the NCAA Tournament with a 24-8 record. Wins over Oklahoma State, Minnesota, and Northwestern strengthen the Terrapins’ resume over the course of the season.
Xavier snuck into the tournament as an 11 seed and secured their case with a 62-57 win over Butler in the Big East Tournament. Overcoming a January injury to Edmond Sumner, the Musketeers’ second leading scorer and leader in assists, they finished the regular season with a 21-13 record.
What to Watch For
Trevon Bluiett and Melo Trimble are set to square off at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. Bluiett’s strong Big East tournament sparked Xavier towards some of its best basketball of the season. He dropped 58 total points in the Big East Tournament in New York, averaging nearly 20 points per game. His signature moment of the weekend took place on Thursday night where his crunch time stepback jumper put X over the top of Butler and sent the Musketeers to the semifinals.
Like Bluiett for Xavier, Melo Trimble gives Butler its best scoring punch. He averages 17 points and almost four assists per game. Xavier can throw Quentin Goodin as well as Malcolm Bernard at him over the course of the game, but the Big Ten standout and NBA prospect will be very difficult to stop. He has an extremely quick first step and excels at getting to the basket and finishing through contact. The point guard runs a lot of pick-and-roll, so one of Xavier’s big men will have to step up as a rim-protector.
Freshman Justin Jackson will likely have the challenge of matching up with Bluiett. The athletic freshman forward averages 10 points and six rebounds per game.
Goodin, Xavier’s freshman point guard, is a potential x-factor for the Musketeers. In addition to guarding Trimble, he will need to build off of his strong play in the Big East Tournament where he had eight assists and was aggressive in getting to the rim. He scored thirteen against DePaul and eleven against Creighton. Since Bluiett is dependent on Goodin to breakdown the defense and provide opportunities for him to score, Xavier will perform as well as Bluiett plays.