Muskies in Big East and NCAA Hot Water!!!
By Andy Mac Williams, 2/27/2017

A Xavier win Sunday at Cintas against Butler would have righted the ship and relieved the pressure. A "W" over the Bulldogs would have been a huge NCAA bid enhancer considering their killer resume'. The game was close and competitive(7 ties and 17 lead changes). Xavier led 71-69 with 5:43 left when J.P. Macura capped a 6-nothing Muskie run with a steal and a dunk. After that, things unraveled. Five straight empty Xavier possessions led to a game clinching Butler run and added up to an 88-79 BU victory.

Good for them-Butler clinches the second seed in next week's Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden(behind Villanova). They solidify their lofty NCAA RPI at #10. They get to rest until Saturday afternoon at Hinkle Field House when they host Seton Hall on Senior Day. And they keep alive realistic chances for a Top 16 NCAA Seed and a possible first and second round slot at Banker's Life Field House in their Indianapolis backyard.

Not so good for the Muskies!! The losing streak mounts to 5 in the Big East. The record dips to 18-11 overall and 8-8 in the conference-pulling XU down into a 4 way(No Skyline included) tie for fourth in the league with Marquette,Providence,and Seton Hall.

If the season ended today(maybe because of a meteor strike or a world-wide plague??).XU would be the 7th Seed in the Big East Tourney facing a Play-in Game next Wednesday at MSG against DePaul with a rested Butler team waiting Thursday in the Quarterfinals. But the season actually ends Saturday( you can look it up!!) and the Muskies can pull their NCAA bacon out of the fire with a home win Wednesday(9PM vs Marquette at Cintas) and a road victory Saturday afternoon in Chicago(2PM- All State Arena-Fox Sports Ohio) against DePaul.

WHAT HAPPENED AGAINST BUTLER??

Xavier played hard IMHO. Trevon Bluiett maybe wasn't 100% on the twisted ankle, but he gutted it out for 39 minutes(21 points-5 rebounds-3 assists). Rashid Gaston and Kaiser Gates started and Malcolm Bernard,Tyrique Jones and Sean O'Mara responded well coming off the bench. Turnovers were down. The packline defense looked sticky. XU was sharing the ball and built a 28-24 lead with about 7 to play before halftime.

PG Quentin Gooden was attacking the rim vigorously. He drove deep into the paint and was hammered by two Bulldogs-no call- Tyler Wideman was credited with a block(more like a tackle??).Q ended up in a heap and Wideman took off for the other end of the floor. J.P. Macura set up in the lane to absorb a charge. He had time to take out his stop watch-start it and wait for Wideman. Tyler leveled J.P. and the call was "BLOCK"???? 4 point swing for Butler. J.P. is hit with foul 2 and sits the final 6 minutes of the half. BU hits a late shot and leads 38-37 at the break.

SECOND HALF RESILIENCE!!!

Xavier kept bouncing back after halftime. Butler went zone when they grabbed a slight lead and the Muskies forced them out of that defense several times with strong execution. XU overcame a frustration technical foul against Sean O'Mara(and a resulting four point play) to forge that 71-69 lead.Next Butler possession Andrew Chrabascz pushed off with his lead arm repeatedly and Bluiett was called for a block or hold or something?? PG Gooden was forced to the bench with four fouls.Gaston took a bad shot. Bluiett,Bernard and Macura coughed up live ball turnovers. Goodin returned and gave the ball up also.

BU played four guards interchangeably. XU could not match the depth.Seven second half Xavier turnovers led to 14 BU points. The Muskies won the rebound numbers resoundingly(41-34). XU was plus 5 points at the FT line and even in made three pointers. Fast break buckets off live ball turnovers were the difference. It was a great evenly matched college basketball game for 35 minutes IMHO. Those last 5 were the killer.

SO DOES TEAM 95 HAVE ANY HOPE??

You better believe it!!! The NCAA RPI fell 5 spots to 26 after the loss to Butler. XU must stop the bleeding against Marquette(8-8)-another NCAA hopeful. MU's RPI is 72. They lost a weird game Saturday at Providence 73-69 blowing a 12 point second half lead on the road. Moisture on the floor seeping up from the hockey rink almost forced the game's cancellation. Three MU players fouled out(Frosh 3 point sniper Marcus Howard-34 points vs XU a week ago Saturday and BIGS Luke Fischer and Matt Heldt). Marquette has struggled on the road(3-6 away from Milwaukee).

Defense isn't a strong point nor is rebounding and inside play. The Golden Eagles can shoot it though(83PPG- #1 NCAA from three at 42.3%-#6 NCAA in Effective FG% at 57.1-#7 NCAA from the FT line at 77.8%). They poured it on against Xavier in Milwaukee just over a week ago winning 83-61. Guards Howard and Andrew Rowsey combined for 52 points on National Marquette Day.(It wasn't a Holiday for me! How about you??) MU led 19-2 early. XU was tagged with multiple technical fouls. Trevon Bluiett did not play. Marquette rained in 13 threes. Coach Steve Wojo is looking for his first NCAA berth in his third MU season. He's scrambled his line-up and lived by the three pointer. Marquette almost has to beat XU then win their home finale Saturday against Creighton to climb into an NCAA spot. It's two desperate teams-XU vs MU-Wednesday at Cintas.

Xavier has the home court advantage on Senior Night (So long to Tim Stainbrook, Malcolm Bernard and Rashid Gaston). Is it Trevon Bluiett's last Cintas game if he decides to go pro?? Marquette is a deeper team and a better shooting group. XU is much better than they showed in Milwaukee!! Should be compelling!!




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