Here is everything you need to know about West Virginia and Maryland in our Mountaineers vs. Terrapins NCAA Tournament men’s basketball preview and prediction.
South Region – First Round
Game Info: Thursday, 11:15 a.m. CT, CBS
How They Got Here: Maryland and West Virginia were both selected as at-large berths to the NCAA Tournament.
Winner gets: A second-round game against the winner of the game between Alabama and either Texas A&M-Corpus Christi vs. SE Missouri.
Projected starting lineups
Maryland: G Don Carey, G Hakim Hart, G Jahmir Young, F Donta Scott, F Julian Reese.
West Virginia: G Kedrian Johnson, G Erik Stevenson, F Emmitt Matthews Jr., F Tre Mitchell, F Jimmy Bell Jr.
Player to watch
G Jahmir Young: Young earned All-Big Ten Second Team honors, the highest honor any Terps player received after the season. Young is in his fourth year of college basketball and in each season he’s averaged at least 12 points per game. For this season, Young averaged 16.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He helped the Terps get to the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament, where it lost to Indiana.
G Erik Stevenson: Stevenson transferred to West Virginia and has had his best season of college basketball, averaging 15.5 points per game. He also had 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. In the Mountaineers’ last five regular-season games Stevenson averaged 24.6 points as the Mountaineers finished with a 3-2 surge down the stretch. In the Big 12 Tournament he averaged 14.5 points in two games as the Mountaineers beat Texas Tech and then fell to Kansas.
First-year coach Kevin Willard has the Terrapins back in the NCAA Tournament after a one-year absence. Maryland lured Willard away from his long tenure at Seton Hall to put the Terps back on the path it was on under Gary Williams, who led the program to a national championship in 2002, when it beat Indiana in the title game. Since the Terps joined the Big Ten, they’ve made the NCAAs six times, but have reached the Sweet 16 just once (2016). Maryland won its first eight games of the season and fashioned a streak in Big Ten play in which it won six of seven leagues games. But, the Terps go into the NCAA Tournament having lost three of their last four games.
The Mountaineers are back in the NCAA Tournament after a one-season absence. West Virginia lost its first five Big 12 games, but its NCAA NET rating and KenPom ratings didn’t seem to suffer much. A conference season spent on the bubble eventually pointed the Mountaineers toward the NCAA Tournament and their 19th win of the season in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament. The turnaround started with a home win over TCU on Jan. 18 and the Mountaineers went 8-6 from there, including their Big-12 SEC Challenge win over then-ranked Auburn. WVU won three of its final four entering Kansas City. Erik Stevenson has been red hot the past three weeks, and the entire starting lineup seems to be following suit.
West Virginia 72, Maryland 70. This should be a classic 8-9 game. The Mountaineers seem to be the hotter team at the moment and that could propel them past the Terrapins in the final seconds.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.