Maryland basketball gets its 2017 NCAA Tournament run underway Thursday night against Xavier. The two teams haven’t played each other since 2003 so besides Dez Wells transferring to Maryland from Xavier, they don’t have many connections.
So we talked to Caleb Childers of Banners on the Parkway, SB Nation’s Xavier Blog, to get a better understanding of the Musketeers.
TT: Describe your thoughts as the selection show. How nervous were you that Xavier might not make it in? What was your reaction to this seeding/matchup?
BP: Well, that was quite an adventure. I had hoped going in that we'd be placed in the west and playing in Salt Lake City because I live there. Waiting until the last reveal was not fun though. After our win against Butler we had been projected as a lock, but I started to worry that we would be pushed out in favor of Syracuse.
Personally, I really like this matchup for us. Maryland is a good team, but I'd much rather be playing you all then I would Wichita State (seriously how on Earth are they a 10 seed).
TT: Maryland fans probably aren't too familiar with Xavier's team. Who are some players they should know, and what are they good at?
BP: Trevon Bluiett is definitely the main player to know. He's a forward who gets to the basket easily and shoots from deep well. He hurt his ankle at the end of the season and took some time to heal, but he's back and looked great during the Big East Tournament. The other player that's famous for numerous reasons is JP Macura. He's a hot shooting guard who gets pretty passionate. Reportedly, as soon as the committee revealed Dayton as a 7 seed, JP said that he wanted to play them. He has a knack for annoying other teams, but we love him. When he's hot from deep, he is lethal and can be a game changer.
TT: How crucial was Edmond Sumner's loss? Xavier appears to have taken a tumble since he went down with a torn ACL. Is there anything the Musketeers can do to compensate for his loss now that they haven't already tried?
BP: That loss absolutely messed up our season. Sumner has been such a crucial piece of our team since last season and really had a great grasp on how to run our offense. Losing him really took down our chances at winning the Big East, and we're hoping that he'll be healthy next season. One thing that the injury has gone however is show us a glimpse of the future. Quentin Goodin is a freshman who's stepped in to fill Sumner's shoes. He's a talented kid who has shown a lot of promise this season. Watch for him to start on Thursday and probably be a double digit scorer.
TT: What's Xavier's biggest strength and biggest weakness? Which will come into play more against Maryland?
BP: Our biggest strength has been our shooting. We've got a number of players who can hit the deep shots and when the team is hot, they can take down about anyone. Our biggest weakness is definitely how thin our roster is and the injuries that we've faced. Throughout the first half everyone talked about how the team just needed to hang on until Myles Davis came back to the team just to have him leave a few games later. Sumner is out for the season and Bluiett was shaky for a while with the ankle injury. I think that's really made it hard for this team to gel. Maryland seems to have it's leader in Trimble, so I'm curious how Xavier's limited experience but now playing big minutes guys will fare against the Maryland young guys.
TT: Xavier hit a six-game skid toward the end of the season. How worrisome is that?
BP: From the injuries to Myles Davis, it's no wonder we lost 6 straight games. Our team turned into a mess and it really wore us all down. I think the team has really found it's footing, but it's obviously still looming in the back of our minds. My hope is that the tournament will remind the guys how often they've been there and what they can do, and this will hopefully translate to good play. Hopefully.
TT: Score prediction. ___ will win because ____.
BP: Despite all of my negativity, Xavier will win because Bluiett will take control and RaShid Gaston will play well on the glass. I think this game is going to be close, but I think when crunch time comes, Xavier will be able to pull it off.