NCAA Tournament Picks: Valparaiso vs. Maryland

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, March 19, 2015 3:35 PM GMT

Thursday, Mar. 19, 2015 3:35 PM GMT

No. 13 Valparaiso should have good fan support for Friday's Midwest Region game in Columbus, in driving distance of the Valpo campus, as it faces No. 4 Maryland. The Terps are 5-point favorites on 5Dimes NCAA basketball odds with a total of 124.

Crusaders Happy With Draw
Valparaiso (28-5) is in the NCAA Tournament for the ninth time overall, first since 2013, but has won only two games: both coming in 1998. Of course long-time basketball fans no doubt will remember Bryce Drew's buzzer-beating upset of Ole Miss in the first round. Drew is now the coach of the Crusaders.  They were the regular-season champions of the Horizon League and beat No. 2 Green Bay 54-44 in the conference tournament title game. Sophomore Alec Peters was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. He was held to nine points against Green Bay but had a 22-point effort in the semifinals. Peters leads the team in scoring (16.7 ppg) and rebounding (6.8 rpg).

Drew admitted he thought his team would be sent to  Portland, Seattle or Jacksonville, possibly as a No. 13 see: "It's tremendous for our fans, and great from a travel standpoint for us. I didn't think Columbus was going to be an option. The committee definitely threw us a twist with this matchup and location."

There is one Crusaders injury to monitor. In the Horizon League semifinals, starting shooting guard Tevonn Walker went down with a knee injury that limited him to four minutes in the title game. Walker is averaging 10.2 points and leads the Crusaders in steals. In addition, Keith Carter is still recovering from a dislocated big toe but played 33 minutes in the title game.

The Crusaders have held opponents to 42.1 percent on two-point attempts this season (13th in the nation). Valpo ranks 18th nationally in points allowed per game (59.3) and has held six of its past seven opponents to 60 points or less. Valparaiso is shooting 38.1 percent from 3-point range as a team this season, ranking No. 36 in the nation.  The school's non-conference schedule wasn't very strong. Its best win was against Murray State, but it also lost easily at Missouri, one of the worst teams in the SEC. That was only Power 5 team that the Crusaders have played.

Valpo is a No. 13 seed for the third time, following 2002 and the 1998 Sweet 16 team. The Crusaders' only other game against Maryland came in the 1999 tournament, losing 82-60 as a No. 15 seed.

Valparaiso is 17-10-1 against the NCAA basketball betting spread this season and 8-12 'over/under.' The Crusaders are 500/1 at Bovada to win the national title and 150/1 to take the Midwest Region. Which of these teams has what it takes to beat their next contender between WVU vs. Buffalo?  

 

Maryland Has 2 Clear Stars
Maryland (27-6) had a very successful first season in the Big Ten, finishing second in the regular season to Wisconsin and then losing to Michigan State, 62-58, in the conference tournament semifinals after beating the Spartans twice during the year. Hard as it may be to believe, this is the Terps' first trip to the Big Dance since 2010. Some believe the Terps deserved a No. 3 seed.

“I think maybe we got so caught up that we were going to be a three, we weren’t expecting to see our name there, but none of that matters now,” said Coach Mark Turgeon, the Big Ten Coach of the Year.

The Terrapins have a stellar 1-2 punch in freshman Melo Trimble and senior Dez Wells, and the team's offense is built around those two. Trimble, who might be one-and-done, leads the team in scoring (16.3 ppg) and assists (3.1 apg). Wells is second in points (15.4 ppg), rebounds (5.4 rpg) and assists (2.8 apg). Defensively, Maryland holds opponents to 31.4 percent from long range, the second-best mark in the Big Ten.  Of the teams that beat Terps this season, only Illinois shot less than 38 percent from 3.

The only non-conference loss for Maryland this year was to Virginia in early December and that's certainly acceptable. The winner of this matchup will meet the winner between No. 5 seed West Virginia and No. 12 Buffalo. Maryland is +160 at Bovada's NCAA Tournament odds to make the Sweet 16 and -200 to come up short. It is 75/1 to win the national title and 33/1 for the Midwest Region title.

The Terps are 15-14-1 against the spread this season and 11-15-1 'over/under' on NCAA basketball odds.

NCAAB Free Picks: Give the points and go 'under' the total for your NCAA tournament picks. Valparaiso is 0-4 ATS in its past four NCAA Tournament games. The Terps are 6-0 ATS in their past six games. The 'under' is 5-1 in Valpo's past seven at a neutral site. The 'under' is 4-1 in Maryland's past five after a loss.

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