Xavier dropped all the way to the 11 line this year, but they grabbed a potentially favorable matchup against Maryland. To get to the Sweet 16, Xavier will have to knock off the Terps and then probably the Florida State Seminoles. Here's how they could get it done.
Maryland is a solid team, but they're all the way down at 45th in the KenPom. They're 4-6 in their last 10 after a 20-2 start. Their offense can really make it rain from deep, but it has a couple of key weaknesses. The first is that they're horribly loose with the ball, landing 220th in the nation in TO%. The second is that they're really reliant on combo guard Melo Trimble. He leads the team in minutes and usage by comical margins; it's basically Trimble and a cast of role players. That looks like versatility when it's going well and a huge weakness when it isn't.
On defense, Maryland gives away the freebie war by being bad on the defensive glass and at forcing turnovers. They defend shots well, but they allow opponents to get a lot of them. If Xavier can contain Trimble and keep Maryland from going 13-20 from deep, this game is there for the taking.
The caveat here is that X might not get to FSU, or they might get here and find Florida Gulf Coast. Play along with me for the moment though.
Florida State is no joke; there's a reason they landed on the 3 line. They really love to pound the ball inside, which is only a problem in that Xavier's interior defense is fairly weak. They're really reliant on second chance points though, and Xavier does a great job of clearing the glass.
On the other end, Florida State has two big weaknesses: defensive rebounding and free throw rate. They give up offensive boards and send opponents to the line at rates that are both below 200th in the nation. Those areas happen to be the two strongest points of Xavier's offense. If Xavier can really control the boards and maybe get a friendly whistle or two, Florida State can be had.
It's 8pm on Sunday and Xavier's still alive. Catch a couple of good breaks and we're saying the same thing in a week.