East Region: Belmont vs Maryland Prediction
Belmont vs Maryland Preview
In a game we accurately predicted, the Belmont Bruins breezed past their First Four opponent Temple, 81-70, to earn the right to play 6-seed Maryland on Thursday.
Belmont, which lost to Murray State 77-65 in the championship game of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament on March 9, is one of seven schools from mid-major conferences to receive an at-large bid to this year’s tournament. It is just the second team in OVC history to receive an at-large bid, joining the 1987 Middle Tennessee team.
“Getting a second chance and being able to extend our season means everything,” said Belmont forward Nick Muszynski, who returned from an ankle injury that kept him out of the Murray State game to score 16 points against Temple.
The Bruins, who got 29 points from guard Kevin McClain on Tuesday, fell a bit short of their scoring average of 87.2, which ranks second to only Gonzaga’s 88.8 in Division I.
“We showed that we can play in this atmosphere,” Byrd said. “It’s never going to be perfect, but we found a way to win. We showed our toughness.”
The shocking part of their victory was their leading scorer and best player Dylan Windler had a season-low five points–down from his 21.1 scoring average. He did add a team-high 14 rebounds, so his performance was not lost on the stat sheet.
When Maryland saw the tournament bracket, coach Mark Turgeon took a philosophical approach to not learning the identity of the upcoming foe right away.
“We’ll watch a lot of film on both teams heading into Tuesday night and then they have to play in Dayton and then fly to Jacksonville on Tuesday night,” Turgeon said. “They’ll have some experience under their belt, and they’ll have confidence because they won a game.
“I’m going to look at it as an advantage because we’ll be down there Tuesday night sleeping in our hotel while they’re playing a game in Dayton.”
What isn’t an advantage is the fact that Maryland is one of the youngest teams in the NCAA Tournament field. What does that mean? They are inexperienced–Belmont is not.
Junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. leads the Terps with 16 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game.
X-Factor is the same
In our Belmont/Temple preview, we named Nick Muszynski as the main X-Factor as to why the Bruins would win or lose. The same goes for this matchup against Maryland. If Muszynski plays well, Belmont will pull the upset. Here’s an excerpt from that article:
The true X-Factor in my mind on this game is OVC Freshman of the Year Nick Muszynski. Nationally the freshman ranks 18th in field goal percentage (61.5%) and 26th in blocked shots (2.18) entering this week. In addition to those categories, among OVC players he is ninth in scoring (15.0) and 13th in rebounding (6.0) and free throw percentage (77.1%). Muszynski scored in double figures in 23 of 29 games, including a season-high 27 points in only 24 minutes of action against Southeast Missouri. He had a season-best 11 rebounds in a win over rival Lipscomb and blocked five shots in wins over Illinois State and Lipscomb.
The winner of the Maryland-Belmont game will face the winner of Thursday’s opener between third-seeded LSU and 14th-seeded Yale in the third round on Saturday.
LINE: -3.5 Maryland
Dan’s Bet: +3.5 Belmont
Bracket Pick: Belmont
Score Prediction: Belmont 88 Maryland 79