East Region First Round Prediction & Free Pick: #6 Maryland vs. #11 Belmont

Date | AuthorAdmir Aljic

Last Updated: 2019-03-20

After defeating the Temple Owls 81-70 in the First Four, the Belmont Bruins continue their journey as a No. 11 seed, meeting the No. 6 seed Maryland Terrapins in the East Region First Round showdown at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. Two at-large teams will take on each other, and the Ohio Valley Conference vice-champions Belmont Bruins are listed as 3.5-point underdogs with the total at 147.0 points and the Big Ten representative Maryland Terrapins at -170 money line odds. This will be the first head-to-head duel between Belmont and Maryland.

The Belmont Bruins finished the regular season at the top of the Ohio Valley Conference with a 16-2 record in the conference play and 27-5 overall, but they couldn’t win the tournament championship. After an 83-67 victory over Austin Peay in the semis, the Bruins lost to Murray State 77-65 in the finals to put an end to their fantastic 14-game winning streak. Also, the Bruins failed to cover the spread only twice during their winning streak. Belmont enters the NCAA Tournament as a No. 47 at the NCAA NET Rankings.

The Bruins are an offensive-minded team, scoring 114.2 points per 100 possessions (20th in the country) on 57.9 effective field goal percentage (3rd) and 37.2% shooting from beyond the arc (47th) which are all great numbers. On the other side of the ball, they are allowing 101.2 points per 100 possessions (129th) on 48.7 effective field goal percentage (79th), while the Bruins’ strength of schedule was 216th in the country. They’ve beaten UCLA once and Lipscomb twice, but have lost at Purdue 73-62 in their only meeting with the Big Ten. The senior wing Dylan Windler is a go-to-guy for the Bruins, averaging 20.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game while making 54.3% of his field goals. Another senior guard Kevin McClain is tallying 16.7 points and 4.0 assists per contest, while the freshman guard Grayson Murphy is adding 9.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per outing.

Belmont will appear in the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in its history, and the Bruins recorded their first victory two days ago after seven consecutive losses. In 2013, Belmont lost to the No. 6 seed Arizona 81-64 as a 4.5-point underdog.
The Maryland Terrapins finished the regular season at the 5th spot of the Big Ten standings with a 22-10 record, while they went 13-7 in the conference play. However, the Terrapins suffered a 69-61 defeat to Nebraska in the second round of the Big Ten championship tournament, playing as 6-point favorites. It was the Terrapins’ third loss over their last four outings, and they entered the Big Dance as a No. 27 at the NCAA NET Rankings.

The Terrapins are scoring 112.6 points per 100 possessions (31st in the country) on 51.9 effective field goal percentage (117th) and 35.3% shooting from the field (also 117th). They mostly lean on a tough defense, allowing 93.0 points per 100 possessions (23rd) on 46.0 effective field goal percentage (17th) and 32.0% shooting from deep (50th). The Terrapins’ strength of schedule was 22nd in the country. The head coach Mark Turgeon mostly uses eight players in the rotation, and the junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. is leading his team with 16.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. The sophomore forward Bruno Fernando is a huge force in the paint, posting 13.7 points per contest on 61.8% shooting from the field to go with 10.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks, while the freshman forward Jalen Smith is adding 11.4 points and 6.6 boards per game.
Maryland won the National Championship in 2002, and in 26 appearances, the Terrapins have a 40-25 record. They’ve reached Sweet Sixteen 14 times and are 12-3 straight up and 6-9 ATS in their previous 15 first-round matchups. Still, their last partaking in 2017 ended in the first round after a 76-65 defeat to the No. 11 seed Xavier.

Pick: Belmont Bruins +3.5

The Bruins have just earned their first ever win in the March Madness and will be highly motivated to stay on the winning path. Their offense is looking excellent, so I think the Bruins can cope with Maryland’s sturdy defense and stay close here or even pull off an upset. The Terrapins will have an advantage in the paint, but they will need to find the way to slow down the tempo, as the Bruins are always trying to push the ball in transition. Belmont is averaging 72.6 possessions per 40 minutes (33rd in the country), while Maryland is recording 67.6 possessions per 40 minutes (248th).

The Terrapins are a good team, especially when playing on the home court, but they are 6-5 straight up on the road this season and 1-2 at neutral site, so I’m backing Belmont to cover, as the Bruins are 8-0 ATS in their last eight games away from home when listed as underdogs.

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