Maryland basketball is back in the NCAA Tournament in the first year under Kevin Willard as the Terps drew an eighth seed versus West Virginia in Birmingham, Alabama. The winner faces a tall task ahead of them with top overall seed Alabama likely awaiting them in an expected home crowd.
Maryland will kick off the Thursday slate of games with a 12:15 tipoff on CBS, so what can Maryland expect from West Virginia? We take a look:
Record: 19-14 (7-11 Big 12)
Spread: Maryland +2 (as of 3/12)
West Virginia finished the regular season 19-14 (7-11) after opening the season 4-0. West Virginia suffered its first loss to Purdue in the Phil Knight Legacy back in November and, like Maryland, West Virginia also struggled away from home this season with a 6-10 record including wins at Pitt and Iowa State. And just like Maryland, West Virginia also picked up a pair of wins on a neutral court during the Phil Knight Legacy, dominating both Portland State and Florida as they outscored both teams by a combined 48 points.
West Virginia enters Thursday 17th in the updated KenPom rankings, five spots ahead of Maryland, as the Mountaineers sit 15th in adjusted offense nationally and third in the Big 12. But this isn’t your traditional ‘Press Virginia’ Mountaineer squad as West Virginia, who sit dead last in the conference allowing 71 points per game. West Virginia also sits second-to-last in opponent field goal percentage (44.8%) and last in opponent three-point percentage (34.1%).
The offense has been good enough to lift West Virginia through a grueling Big 12 schedule with four starters averaging double figures, while grad transfer Joe Toussaint have given head coach Bob Huggins a dependable sixth man. Possible good news for Maryland? The Mountaineers have just three players 6-foot-9 or taller, giving Maryland a chance to play to their strengths in an expected grueling matchup.
Wrapping up his 16th season as head coach, Bob Huggins sits as the third-winningest coach all-time and has led his team to his 15th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
Stevenson, an All-Big 12 Third Team selection, leads the team in scoring (15.5), steals (33) and turnovers (72). Stevenson ended the regular season scoring 23 or more points in five consecutive games, becoming the first player to do so in 50 years. West Virginia also poses a threat from deep and Stevenson, shooting over 39%, is a key reason why. The former Wichita State and Washington guard is the catalyst to West Virginia’s offense and will likely matchup against Don Carey or Ian Martinez, whose given Maryland a strong defender in the backcourt through the season.
After beginning his career at West Virginia, Matthews transferred to Washington last season before transferring back to Morgantown and has since become a key piece for the Mountaineers. Set to play in his 124th game at West Virginia, Matthews enters Thursday averaging 15.5 points per game with 40 career double-figure games.
The fourth player averaging double figures this season, Johnson is shooting an even 40% from the floor this season with 11 points per game. But it’s been the defensive end of the floor where he’s shined as he leads West Virginia with 54 steals this season.
West Virginia doesn’t have much size, but Mitchell is the alpha dog in the frontcourt averaging 11.5 points per game and leading the team with 124 defensive rebounds. Mitchell and Jimmy Bell, the second starting forward, both lead the team with 5.3 rebounds per game but Mitchell have proven himself as an all-around scorer. Mitchell is shooting over 47% from the floor, including 38.1% from three.
The former Iowa guard is the spark off the bench for West Virginia, coming off the bench in 30 of 31 games while averaging 9.5 points per game.
West Virginia poses a threat to Maryland from three and a big reason why is Wilson, who leads the Mountaineers shooting 40.5% from deep.
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