The No. 6 vs. No. 11 matchup in the NCAA Tournament is usually one of the more interesting pairings. The Maryland Terrapins vs. Xavier Musketeers should be no different as both teams come into the Big Dance looking to find their footing.
Xavier has lost seven out of its last 10 games entering the Tournament. If the Musketeers didn’t defeat Butler in the Big East Tournament, they’re probably not in the 68-team field.
Maryland has lost four of its last six, but still wound up as a No. 6 seed after finishing tied for second in the Big Ten.
West Region: No. 11 Xavier Musketeers (21-13) vs. No. 6 Maryland Terrapins (24-8)
When: 6:50 p.m. ET (Thursday)
Where: Amway Center (Orlando, Fla.)
Line: Maryland -2
Keys for Xavier
Much like Maryland, Xavier also has a veteran player in Trevon Bluiett who can fill it upt Bluiett enters the NCAA Tournament averaging 18.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. If Bluiett gets going offensively, Xavier will have a chance to pull off the upset.
Xavier also needs Edmond Sumner and J.P. Macura to score. The Musketeers are averaging 74.6 points per game on 45.4 percent shooting from the field. That is an advantage over the Terrapins, who average 67.8 points per game and are shooting 45.1 percent.
Keys for Maryland
It is a pretty simple formula for Maryland, get the ball to star Melo Trimble. In 32 games this season, Trimble led the Terrapins in scoring with 17 points per game. He also chips in 3.7 rebounds and assists per contest.
If Trimble can get hot from the field that will likely set up opportunities for freshmen Justin Jackson and Kevin Huerter behind the arc. Jackson is shooting 43 percent from three-point range while Huerter is at 37 percent.
Despite some late-season struggles, Maryland has a 6-4 record against teams ranked in the top 60 RPI this season. The toughest thing to do in college sports with young players is win away from home and the Terrapins have a 11-2 record away from home, so that is an advantage coming into their game against Xavier.
The Musketeers are a dangerous team in their own right with victories over Wake Forest, Seton Hall and Creighton this season. This game on paper is very evenly matched. Xavier vs. Maryland could be one of those famous games that come down to the final minute.
Prediction: Maryland 70, Xavier 68
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.