West Virginia vs. Maryland 2023 March Madness First Round Top Picks: Mountaineers’ Shot-Making and Pressure to Help Them Cover

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Top NCAAB Pick for Today

NCAAB Pick: West Virginia -2 (-110) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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West Virginia -2 (-110)
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Picks Summary:

  • West Virginia -2 (-110)
  • West Virginia ML (-130)

Top Sportsbooks have released their NCAAB odds for Thursday’s NCAA Tournament game between West Virginia and Maryland. 

The Mountaineers are easy to overlook because of their record — they are 19-14 — but they deserve slack for having suffered several close losses while playing in the toughest conference. 

Maryland’s record isn’t too much better — the Terps are 21-12 — but 16 of those wins came at home. Should we expect them nonetheless to win away from home? 

For reasons that I will explain, you should play both the moneyline and the spread for this game. 

Remember, fans from the Free State who want to wager on this game should check out our top-rated Maryland betting sites.

West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Maryland Terrapins 

Thursday, March 16, 2023 – 12:15 PM EDT at Legacy Arena at BJCC

Playing Away From Home  

Maryland is ranked as highly as it is largely because of its games at home, where it has had a uniquely disproportionate level of success. 16 of its 21 SU wins and 13 of its 21 ATS victories came on its home floor. Away from home especially, Maryland’s shooting tends to disappear. 

Whereas the disparity between West Virginia’s home and away shooting percentages is minor, the Terrapins’ shooting percentage declines from 48 percent at home to 41.8 percent on the road. 

Therefore, their close road losses were low-scoring battles. This decline in shooting efficiency away from home has persisted in Maryland’s most recent neutral-site games, extending back to the Terps’ low-scoring loss on a neutral court against an injury-ridden Tennessee squad. 

In the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, Maryland shot 42.6 percent against Minnesota — the Terps were able to dominate the glass, turnover, and free throw battles to win anyways. In the second round, the Terps shot 32.3 percent in their loss to Indiana. 

Given these offensive problems away from their home in College Park, Terp backers will also need the “under” to hit, because they will need the Mountaineers’ scoring output to remain low. Should they expect what they need? 

West Virginia’s Offensive Weaknesses  

While, especially in later segments of the season, the Mountaineers have enjoyed plenty of games where they committed few turnovers, they still have had games where they fail to take care of the basketball

In particular, they can struggle against defenses that apply effective pressure in the half-court. A good example is Texas’ defense in a blowout Longhorn victory where Texas’ pressure forced Mountaineers’ ball-handlers into difficult errors. 

Will Maryland’s Press Bother West Virginia? 

While Maryland does apply a full-court press sometimes, the Terps are not known for forcing turnovers — as Texas is, for example — because their press typically serves the end of draining their opponent’s shot clock to give it less time to operate in the half-court. 

This tactic helps Maryland have success against teams like Indiana that rely on a strong post presence because such teams want a longer shot clock in order to have the time to feed the post. 

While West Virginia has an effective post scorer in the efficient center Jimmy Bell Jr., the Mountaineers are not typically so inclined to feed him down low — he is not a very central part of their half-court offense. 

The Mountaineers will not be bothered by Maryland’s shot-clock-draining tactic because they can score quickly, especially via their guard play, which is spearheaded by wing Erik Stevenson who can create his own shot, although he has also always been very comfortable utilizing off-ball screens. 

Cuts and Three-Point Scoring  

West Virginia’s offense features a lot of cuts. These cuts might not be directly effective against a Terrapin defense that is vigilant about cutters and that is difficult to score on at the basket. 

This vigilance, evident in Maryland defenders’ ability to intercept Indiana players’ passes toward cutters, might cost the Terrapins, though, because it encourages their defense to play more compactly. 

West Virginia can use its cut game to free up space behind the arc, especially for Stevenson, who shoots 38.1 percent from behind the arc and has been amending his previous tendency to shoot poorly away from home. 

Wing players — see its games against Wisconsin, Penn State, and Indiana, for example — often thrive behind the arc against Maryland, notwithstanding its strong perimeter defense statistics. Stevenson can likewise thrive. 

Mid-Range Scoring  

Besides being vigilant about cutters, Maryland makes it hard to score at the basket by positioning a defender right in front of it. The Terps like to switch between a 2-3 zone, a matchup zone, and man defense. 

In zone, they’ll have center Julian Reese operate as their rim protector and defensive anchor. Also, they’ll play compactly enough so as to create a wall in front of the rim to prevent opposing dribble penetration from resulting in a layup. 

A Maryland defense that, given this attention to rim protection, allows a high rate of two-point jumpers is vulnerable to a Mountaineers’ offense that is profoundly comfortable in the mid-range game. 

The Mountaineers have five different players who shoot 40% or more from the mid-range while making mid-range jumpers form over 20% of their shot attempts. 

In addition to Stevenson, look out for Bell, fellow guard Joe Toussaint, and forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. and Tre Mitchell, Mitchell being also an excellent floor-spacer because he is a power forward who shoots 37.9 percent from deep. 

Free Throws  

West Virginia relies extensively on free throws, which is smart because free throws are the most efficient source of scoring. 

Terrapin rim protectors can be susceptible to committing fouls — among other faults, they often bite on a pump fake. Most problematically, Reese commits 4.8 fouls per 40 minutes. 

A Mountaineers team that excels at drawing fouls will surely target him to make him commit fouls and, as a result, to make him defend less aggressively and maybe eliminate his presence from the game altogether, which would also deal a blow to Maryland’s already unreliable offense. 

Whereas the Terps could rely on attempting more field goals against bottom-feeder Minnesota to offset their inefficiency, the Mountaineers will attempt more field goals because they are a top-level offensive rebounding team. 

Crashing the offensive glass is a calling card for Bob Huggins-coached Mountaineers teams, his team will amass second-chance points against a Maryland team whose inclinations to play zone render it susceptible to giving up offensive rebounds and whose overall only-decent defensive rebounding numbers do not inspire optimism. 

Can Maryland Exploit West Virginia’s Defensive Weakness? 

When West Virginia has allowed a lot of points, many of those tended to come from behind the arc — its losses to Texas and Baylor exemplify the team’s vulnerability to efficient three-point shooting and the tendency of strong three-point shooting to really hurt the Mountaineers. 

One exception is West Virginia’s loss to TCU, a team that is highly skilled in transition. 

But the Terps are weak in transition, and they are allergic to shooting threes. Without either method of scoring, Maryland’s is not built to succeed against West Virginia even if the game did take place in College Park. 

The Verdict  

West Virginia won’t need to score much against a Terrapin offense that is challenged away from home and that lacks the prowess in transition or from behind the arc to exploit the Mountaineers’ defensive vulnerabilities. 

Conversely, West Virginia can hurt the Terps where they are vulnerable — in the mid-range — while maximizing advantages behind the arc, at the free throw line, and on the offensive glass. 

For your best bets for your NCAAB picks, invest in West Virginia to win and cover the spread. 

NCAAB Pick: West Virginia ML (-130) at BetOnline 

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West Virginia ML (-130)
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