Muskies Frazzle FSU in NCAA Round 2-Cruise to 91-66 Blow-out Win!!
By Andy Mac Williams, 3/19/2017

So much for the integrity and accuracy of NCAA Tournament Seeds!! #11 Xavier made mincemeat of #3 Florida State(ACC runner-up) Saturday night in Orlando winning in a walk 91-66!! XU led almost wire-to-wire implementing their ball control game plan to perfection to advance to the Sweet 16 next Thursday in San Jose against #2 Seed Arizona(coached by Sean Miller).The Muskies koed #6 Seed Maryland 76-65 in their opening NCAA game Thursday. XU executed at a high level scoring efficiently(56%FG-65% from three-77%FTs) and stifling a high octane FSU offense that had averaged 83PPG. Xavier is on a March Madness roll winning 5 of the last 6 games scoring 76 PPG-allowing a stingy 65PPG.

MUSKIES PITCHED A COMPLETE GAME:

Xavier had to force FSU into a halfcourt game. They did so in spades!! X took care of the ball themselves(only 9 turnovers )-they shared the ball unselfishly(20 assists on 30FGs)-they made the extra passes(inside-out-low to high-high to low) leading to super accurate shooting through wide open threes(11-17 from long range)-lay-ups and dunks. FSU came into the game as the NCAA leader in dunks with 180. Xavier beat the Noles at their own slamming jamming game. Tyrique Jones alone stuffed it five times(13 points-4 rebounds in just 17 minutes).

The defense was nasty sticky good. Zones worked so XU stuck with them. Florida State stood around and tried to shoot the Muskies into spreading out. X stayed disciplined and they rebounded well out of the zones(36-33 board edge vs a huge opponent) limiting FSU to primarily one-and-done possessions. The Noles could never get running!! I'd predicted a 71-69 Xavier win. Those extra 20 points on offense were a pleasant suprize and made the last 10 minutes on long celebration. I expected the squeaky tight defense against an impatient FSU team.

ANATOMY OF THE VICTORY:

Xavier came right out playing with energy and focus. They got great shots.Frosh Tyrique Jones started for a reason. He dunked twice to show FSU that XU could more than equal the Seminoles' size and toughness. Florida State ran a ton of players in and out of the game early trying to wear XU down and overwhelm the Muskies with fresh bodies. They sprung the press early. The tactics backfired. Xavier was ready and carved the Nole defense like an Easter ham. All coach Leonard Hamilton accomplished was to screw up his own team's continuity.

X got great shots-valued the ball-got Trevon Bluiett involved early and stuck to their sub rotation. Sean O'Mara stepped right up again(11 points-2-2FGs-7-7FTs-5 rebounds-3 assists-3 blocks in 21 minutes). Kaiser Gates morphed from wild card(11 points vs Maryland after struggling at the Big East Tourney in NYC) to Mr. Dependable(14 points on 5-6FGs with 4 made threes and 5 rebounds in 30 minutes) against FSU . The second half threes kept Florida State at bay. The baseline drive for two showed Gates' versatility and extreme athleticism. He's just scratching the surface!!

Bluiett was fabulous(29 points-game icing FTs 10-14-6 rebounds-3 assists). Trevon didn't just settle for threes and stepback twos. He attacked the rim and made FSU pay.His solid ballhandling was vital in cracking the FSU press J.P Macura darted everywhere-keying the zone-irritating the already frustrated Seminoles-distaining the long quick threes-attacking the basket-assisting 5 times with just one turnover.

PG Quentin Goodin was solid against several tough FSU defenders(6 points-5 assists). I was worried when "Q" went to the bench with 3 fouls-and XU leading by 13 and 14:30 left. Give J.P.,Malcolm Bernard and Bluiett credit!! They protected the ball against FSU pressure and actually built the Muskie lead to 17 with Goodin out.Ball game over at that point!!

Kudos to Malcolm Bernard-the consummate selfless Senior. He showed up as almost an afterthought in July as roster insurance against a Myles Davis meltdown. Great get by the coaches!! Pete Gillen used to say "Seniors either get better or they get worse and become a problem as they see the end of basketball." Bernard has milked a ton of positives out of his opportunity. He's been an indispensable Swiss army knife doing whatever is needed to win down the stretch. And he's loving the ride!!

RANDOM THOUGHTS:

Xavier's NCAA mantra is attack and finish!! They use the black lower seed jerseys as a symbol-motivator and incentive.This is Chris Mack's fourth NCAA Sweet 16 team in eight seasons(2010,2012,2015,now 2017 ). The Mack NCAA record is 9-6 so far. The three point FG is usually a break even or worse statitical category for XU. Not against FSU!! Xavier made 11of 14 while Florida State shot blanks(4-21). That's plus 21 points from long range. Xavier won by 25 with a plus 6 points at the FT line.

Tyrique Jones smiles a lot. He reminds me of Seton Hall's BIG Angel Delgado in that regard. Announcers always comment on how friendly and fun Delgado looks on the floor. I'm sure he's a nice guy.I know Tyrique is a good fellow in my limited interactions with him. But both guys are nasty physical hard to play against posts. They seem to enjoy bouncing bodies and dominating their man. I'm not saying Tyrique will evolve into a double-double machine like Delgado,but he shares a similar demeanor and relishes dishing out bruises down low.

Arizona is next Thursday at the SAP Center in San Jose,California(home of the NHL San Jose Sharks).#1 Seed Gonzaga and #4Seed West Virginia are on the other side of the West Region bracket. Zona is a #2 seed at 32-4. They tied with Oregon for the regular season PAC12 title at 16-2 then won the PAC Tourney with victories over Colorado,UCLA and Oregon. Sean Miller is the coach. That means packline defense.

UA has won 6 in a row. They start two 7 footers from Europe and they're much better organized than Florida State. Arizona beat Xavier at Staples Center in LA two years ago in the Sweet 16. We'll have much more info on the Arizona Wildcats early next week.




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