Game Preview - #8 Maryland vs. #9 West Virginia
#8 Maryland (21-12) vs. #9 West Virginia (19-14)
Nuts & Bolts
Date: March 16, 2023
Time: 12:15 p.m. ET
Venue: Legacy Arena, Birmingham, AL
How to Watch: CBS
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill, Tracy Wolfson
NCAA Tournament Bracket: HERE
Matchup History: West Virginia leads all-time series 24-14
Last Meeting: West Virginia def. Maryland 69-59 in NCAA Tournament on 3/22/15
Betting Lines: Via DraftKings
Spread: West Virginia -2
Prediction: Maryland 67, West Virginia 65
Official Maryland Game Notes: HERE
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Head Coach: Kevin Willard (1st season at Maryland)
Record: 21-12 (11-9, 6th in Big Ten)
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 30
Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2021
Last Time Out: Lost vs. Indiana 70-60 in Quarterfinals of the Big 10 Tournament on 3/10
Player to Watch: Jahmir Young
It’s a border battle for Maryland in its opening NCAA Tournament game in 2023. The 8-seeded Terps have exceeded expectations this season after being projected to finish 10th in the Big 10 by finishing 6th in the league and making it back to the Big Dance.
Last season was Maryland’s worst campaign in 29 years, being that it was the first finish below .500 since the 1992-93 season.
First-year Head Coach Kevin Willard has completely turned the Terps around in quick succession. Instant impact transfers Don Carey and Jahmir Young have paired beautifully with returners Hakim Hart, Donta Scott and Julian Reese, leading Maryland to a 21 win season, with five wins over ranked opponents.
Maryland has gotten to this point predominantly with defense. The Terps surrender just 63.2 PPG, which is 25th in the nation and the program's best defensive numbers in 40 years and best defensive season since the three-point line was introduced.
There is no area where Maryland really excels offensively, but they are tremendous at taking care of the basketball, defending the three and holding opponents in check.
Maryland had a dominant 16-1 record at XFinity Center this season / Photo: Maryland Athletics
In fact, Maryland has allowed more than 70 points just once in its last 16 games.
It’s the offense that would likely keep the Terps from advancing. Maryland scores just over 70 PPG, which ranks 203rd nationally. They run a good amount of isolation sets with Jahmir Young running the point, which is great when he’s on but extremely inefficient when he’s off. Maryland averages just 11.5 APG, which is 307th in the country.
Very little of Maryland’s success this year has come away from College Park. The Terps are 16-1 at home and 5-11 away from XFinity Center.
Maryland celebrates hearing its name called during Sunday's Selection Show on CBS / Photo: Maryland Athletics
All teams respond differently when the season is on the line. Maybe Maryland will finally be able to translate what they do in College Park while in Birmingham this weekend.
If they do that, they have a legitimate shot to advance to the second weekend. But before we can talk about a potential matchup with #1 Alabama, there’s a tough West Virginia team to get through first.
Head Coach: Bob Huggins (16th season, 344-200 record at West Virginia)
Record: 19-14 (7-11, 8th in Big 12)
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 31
Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2021
Last Time Out: Lost vs. Kansas 78-61 in Quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament on 3/9
Player to Watch: Erik Stevenson
This is the 11th time in 16 years that Bob Huggins has taken his West Virginia Mountaineers to the NCAA Tournament.
WVU comes out of the Big 12 Conference, which is widely considered to be the best conference in all of college basketball in 2022-23. That’s why a team like the Mountaineers can make the NCAA Tournament despite winning just 19 games and going 7-11 in conference.
It’s been a rollercoaster season in Morgantown. WVU was predicted to finish 9th in the ten team Big 12 and, like Maryland, has wildly exceeded expectations in 2022-23.
The Mountaineers opened the season 10-2 with losses against Purdue and Xavier (I saw them in Cincinnati the night before Chiefs Bengals, aka the Chiefs last loss of the season).
I was able to attend WVU @ Xavier on December 3 in Cincinnati, an 84-74 win for Xavier / Photo: Sports Illustrated
Following the hot start in non-con, West Virginia opened up Big 12 play 0-5, with four of the five losses by single digits.
Over the final six weeks of the season, the Mountaineers climbed into the NCAA Tournament conversation, adding key wins to its resume over TCU, Auburn, Iowa State 2x, and Kansas State.
WVU is 6-13 in Quad 1 games, but is 6-1 vs. Quad 2, and 7-0 vs. Quad 3 and 4 combined. Surprisingly, they were safely in the NCAA Tournament.
The Mountaineers will rely heavily on its guards, Erik Stevenson and Kedrian Johnson. The guard duo combines for nearly 27 PPG and are both 80% free throw shooters, which is what WVU does exceedingly well; they get to the foul line and convert foul shots, ranking 16th in the nation in free throw attempts per game.
These 8v9 matchups in the NCAA Tournament are always a toss-up. I think the betting nod is given to West Virginia because they come from the tougher conference and have the more seasoned coach. In fact, in Huggins’ 10 prior NCAA Tournament trips, the Mountaineers have lost their opening game just twice.
West Virginia scores. Maryland defends. Should be one of the better opening round games of the NCAA Tournament.