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NCAA Tournament Maryland Game Preview

NCAA Tournament Maryland Game Preview

No. 11 Belmont (27-5) vs. No. 6 Maryland (22-10)
Jacksonville, Fla. - - VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena
Thursday, March 21, 2019
3:10 p.m. ET/2:10 p.m. CT

TV: truTV (Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel, Jamie Erdahl), ESPN International
truTV in Nashville (Comcast Ch. 1351, AT&T Ch. 1164, DirecTV Ch. 246, Dish Network Ch. 242, Belmont University Ch. 53)
Radio: Westwood One (Tom McCarthy, Jon Crispin)
Bruin Sports Network (Kevin Ingram, Greg Sage)
Online Video:
Twitter: @BelmontMBB
Instagram: @belmont_mbb

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - - Belmont University men's basketball returns to game action Thursday vs. Maryland in the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship.

Belmont defeated Temple, 81-70, Tuesday in Dayton. Senior Kevin McClain(Jennings, Fla.) scored a game-high 29 points for the Bruins, his latest signature performance in a remarkable career. The 6-3 guard recorded 29 double figure scoring games, including 18 consecutive to date. McClain delivered in the biggest of situations, most notably Tuesday - and his game-high 20 points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals - and game-winning shot with 2.3 seconds remaining - in Belmont's victory at UCLA. He also had 58 points in two wins over Southeast Missouri. The All-OVC First Team guard, who twice earned OVC Player of the Week honors, averaged 18.0 points, 4.4 assists and 1.1 steals per game in OVC play.

McClain is a native of Jennings, Florida, and Thursday will serve as a homecoming of sorts.

Belmont limited Temple to 39 percent shooting while forcing 11 Owl turnovers.

Senior All-America candidate Dylan Windler (Indianapolis, Ind.) cemented his place among the most complete players in college basketball. Among national leaders in defensive rebounding and double-doubles, the 6-8 guard/forward is the only player in America averaging at least 20.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. 28 of Windler's 73 career double figure scoring games have come this season to date, including eight double-doubles with 30 or more points. Windler averaged 23.0 points and 10.9 rebounds per game in league play on 58 percent shooting. The Indianapolis native ranks among OVC leaders in 10 statistical categories, including third in points per game (20.8) and first in rebounding (10.8) - a category he has led two straight seasons. Windler, whose offensive efficiency rating (126.2) per Ken Pomeroy ranks third nationally behind Duke's Zion Williamson and Furman's Matt Rafferty, is a candidate for the Julius Erving Award, Lou Henson Award and Senior CLASS Award.

Freshman Nick Muszynski (Pickerington, Ohio) was named OVC Freshman of the Year, All-OVC First Team and OVC All-Newcomer Team. The 6-11 center tallied 25 double figure scoring games, including a career-high 27 point performance vs. Southeast Missouri (1/31/19). He also recorded 20 points, six assists and three blocked shots at Murray State (1/24/19). Muszynski made a triumphant return to the lineup after missing the OVC Championship due to injury, scoring 16 points and adding three assists and two blocks shots vs. Temple. The Pickerington, Ohio native leads the OVC and ranks among national leaders in field goal percentage (.610) and blocked shots per game (2.2). In addition, Muszynski registered 17 games of three or more assists, and his 83 assists from the post are surpassed only by Wisconsin All-America candidate Ethan Happ. He was named OVC Freshman of the Week a league-high six times.

Freshman Grayson Murphy (Franklin, Tenn.) took over point guard duties for head coach Rick Byrd this season and excelled in Belmont's offensive system. The 6-2 guard recorded seven games of double figure assists, including a Belmont NCAA Division I era single-game record of 16 assists at UT Martin (2/28/19). Murphy ranks among national leaders in assists (6.6) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.63). He scored a career-high 20 points in Belmont's victory over Western Kentucky (12/19/18). Murphy had nine points, six rebounds and six assists vs. Temple.

Junior Michael Benkert (Greenwood, Ind.) is a versatile two-way player for Belmont, starting four career games including Tuesday vs. Temple. The 6-4 wing made two or more 3-point field goals in the final seven games of the regular season. He went 5-for-5 vs. SIU Edwardsville (2/23/19). Benkert scored nine points vs. Temple.

Belmont is familiar with the Jacksonville area, playing Jacksonville University (and later the University of North Florida) in Atlantic Sun Conference play until 2012. The Belmont coaching staff has experience in Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Coliseum, while no current roster member has played in the arena.

Belmont head coach Rick Byrd is a finalist for the Hugh Durham Coach of the Year Award; Byrd and Durham coached against each other as Durham closed his career at Jacksonville University. Byrd claimed the award in 2011.

Byrd and Maryland alumnus/ESPN SportsCenter host Scott Van Pelt have joked about a Belmont-Maryland matchup for weeks, after SVP had Byrd on his program following the coach's 800th career victory. 

Belmont guards Tate Pierson and Garrett Suedekum attended Brentwood Academy in Nashville; the same high school that produced Jacksonville Jaguar All-Pro CB Jalen Ramsey. The Pierson and Ramsey families are friends. 

The Bruins rank top 25 nationally in 12 statistical categories, including first in assists per game and total assists, second in scoring offense and assist to turnover ratio, fifth in field goal percentage, and sixth in offensive efficiency and defensive rebounding.

This marks the first meeting between Belmont and Maryland.

2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship Belmont vs. Maryland Game Notes

NCAA Media Day Quotes - Belmont

NCAA Media Day Quotes - Maryland

Belmont University men's basketball has earned postseason invitations 13 of the last 14 seasons, including eight berths to the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins have won 17 conference championships since 2006 - third-most nationally over that span (Gonzaga, Kansas). Belmont is one of only six NCAA Division I programs outside the Power 5 to post Top 100 RPIs eight consecutive seasons (BYU, Gonzaga, Saint Mary's (CA), San Diego State, Wichita State). Belmont is one of only nine NCAA Division I programs to win 19 or more games 14 consecutive seasons (BYU, Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Louisville, Michigan State, North Carolina, San Diego State). Belmont University men's basketball boasts an NCAA-leading 17 CoSIDA Academic All-America selections since 2001 and is one of only three NCAA Division I programs to make the NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) Honor Roll every year of existence.