No. 6 Maryland plays Xavier in first round of NCAA tournament

March 12, 2017 | Luke Jones

Maryland has drawn the No. 6 seed in the West region of the 2017 NCAA tournament and will take on Xavier in Orlando on Thursday.

The game will tip off at 6:50 p.m. and be televised on TNT.

The Terrapins (24-8) have made the tournament for the third consecutive year under head coach Mark Turgeon, the first time the program has done that since going 11 straight times under Gary Williams from 1994-2004. Maryland will aim to make it back to the Sweet 16 for the second straight year despite losing four starters from last season’s team.

A No. 6 seed was as much as the Terps could have hoped for after losing six of their last 10 games, which included their deflating 72-64 defeat to Northwestern in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament on Friday night. Many projections entering Sunday had the Terps as a No. 7 or No. 8 seed, but 11 wins on road and neutral courts likely helped their cause as much as anything in the end.

“The hardest thing to do in college basketball is win on the road and we were rewarded for it,” Turegon said. “I said all along I think we’re going to be a six and I said to my staff today privately ‘we won eight road games; we’ve got to be a six.'”

The No. 11 seed Musketeers (21-13) have struggled down the stretch in the Big East, losing seven of their last 10 contests and six in a row prior to their final game of the regular season. Xavier is led by junior guard Trevon Bluiett, who is averaging 18.1 points per game this season.

The winner of Thursday’s game would take on the winner of the first-round contest between No. 3 seed Florida State and No. 14 seed Florida Gulf Coast in Orlando on Saturday. Gonzaga is the No. 1 seed in the West region.

Maryland is among seven teams from the Big Ten to make the NCAA tournament this year, joining Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin. The Terps are making their 26th appearance in the NCAA tournament and its third in a row and own a 40-24 tournament record.

“Our guys are excited. They’re really proud of themselves and what they have done this year,” Turgeon said. “Our veterans will talk to the young guys. We talked a little bit about it on Saturday morning before we left the hotel — what we have to do to prepare for the NCAA tournament and how we have to practice. We’ve done all that already. It’s going to come quick.”