By Andy Mac Williams, 2/20/2018

All the elements were present at Cintas Saturday afternoon for a watershed Xavier victory setting the stage for a breakthrough Muskie BIG EAST Regular Season Championship. Villanova did not cooperate winning 95-79. The Wildcats arrived seemingly leaking late season oil with veteran guard Phil Booth injured-some suspect defensive numbers-four Frosh in the rotation and two losses in their last three starts. Their precision offense(most efficient nationally in the last 10 years) hadn't been bailing them out(19 turnovers and 3-20 three point shooting in a mid-week loss at PC)(17 for 76 from outside the arc over that three game stretch-25%).

There's a reason Nova has not lost back to back games in 5 years spanning 170 games(longest such streak among the 351 NCAA Division 1 teams). Actually it's several reasons!! VU is dedicated to their system. They bluntly deal with their short comings and correct their errors quickly. They have great talent that sacrifices personal stats for team success and they have coaching and player continuity.

Villanova did not mess around in Cincinnati. Their first half performance put Xavier in a near impossible hole-down 51-37 at the break. VU made 11 of 19 from three in the first 20 minutes and Chris Mack thought 8 of those 11 makes were very well defended. 6 Wildcats swished "threes". Nobody beats Nova when they shoot it like that. XU did not play badly. The Muskies made all 10 of their Free throws. They won the rebound numbers.

Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura combined for 18 points.,but Villanova scored 24 more points for "three" and the XU BIGS missed a bunch of shots around the rim.


Give Xavier credit! They steadily carved away VU's lead-down to 3 points at 62-59 with an eternity left(12:43). Remember, Xavier had little margin for error.

VU BIG Omari Spellman was clearly irritated with XU guard Paul Scruggs. Scruggs had outworked Spellman digging to double him on the offensive end. Spellman grabbed a defensive rebound after a Tyrique Jones lay-up miss and Scruggs tied him up. Jump ball-X gets possession with the arrow-worst case.

Spellman loses his cool and tries to yank the ball away. He pushes Scruggs as whistles blow. The officials go to the replay. Somehow they tag both Scruggs and Spellman with technicals and toss in an extra foul for Scruggs. In my mind Xavier is shooting two FTS with Bluiett automatic at the line plus X gets the ball now down one point. In reality Villanova somehow got the ball???

Give VU credit for capitalizing. They go on a 9-2 run and take the game over winning 95-79.


The Muskies' defense is a concern. They've given up 65-51 and 44 points in the past three halves played. Kaiser Gates is struggling(4.3PPG-last 7 played-3 for 25 from three). He did not score vs Nova and played just 8 minutes. Gates grabbed 10 rebounds against Georgetown in the Muskies' comeback 96-91 OT win at Cintas February 3rd.

X will need a functional Kaiser Gates in the rematch against burly G-town Wednesday night in DC(6:30PM-EST-FS1). The Muskie three headed Center Monster will have to pick up the pace. Sean O'Mara, Karem Kanter and Tyrique Jones were not dominating in the Villanova game. Against Hoya twin towers Markus Derrickson and Jesse Govan the group has to be better.

Xavier still leads the BIG EAST(12-3) by a half game over Villanova(11-3). XU has three to play(at Georgetown,then a bye week,home to Providence, at De Paul) while VU plays four times(home to DePaul, at Creighton, at Seton Hall, home Georgetown). If X and V have identical's a co-championship despite Nova's two head to head wins.

VU would get the #1 BIG EAST Tournament seed-the 12 noon Thursday start time in NYC and the match-up with the 8-9 winner from Wednesday plus the home jersey in a potential BE Tourney Title Game against Xavier. X would get an evening game Thursday in the BE Quarters against the 7-10 winner from Wednesday at MSG.

The pundits did not penalize Xavier too severally for the loss to Villanova(still #4 in both National Polls). X and VU swapped places in the NCAA RPI with Xavier slipping to #3.


The Hoyas(15-10 overall, 5-9 in the BIG EAST) have won two in a row(home Seton Hall 83-80 and at Butler 87-83). GT is coming off a bye week(have not played in 8 days). The Hoyas are 8th in the BIG EAST-a game behind Marquette(6-8) with a chance to climb into 6th and avoid a Wednesday play-in game in the BE Tourney at MSG. GT is learning to close games(1-3 in OT). They gave Xavier a hell of a tussle at Cintas(20 ties-21 lead changes), Xavier needed a near miracle Trevon Bluiett 4 point play to force overtime before winning 96-91.

The Hoyas own the best one-two BIG combo in the league. Jesse Govan(6-10 265) is more Mr. Inside(23 P-9R vs XU). 6-7 240 Marcus Derrickson(19P-15R XU #1) is on a tear(49 points -25 rebounds last two games). GT rebounds well and is deadly from the foul line.

Patrick Ewing snared two very good Frosh despite a late recruiting start. 6-7 Jamorko Pickett starts(10PPG). He scored 21 at Xavier. 6-3 Jahvon Blair is the super sub(19 at Xavier). 6-6 Junior Kaleb Johnson is the small forward. It's point guard by committee with Senior Jonathon Mulmore starting-Sophomore Jagan Mosely the best defender and driver and transfer Tre Dickerson grabbing more minutes lately(18 points at Butler).

Ewing has his team competing and positioning itself for a possible NIT bid. A win over Xavier is a resume' homerun for the Hoyas. Home court advantage at 20,000 seat Capital one Arena in Washington has not been huge(average attendance so far 7400). GT is just 2-4 in BIG EAST home games so far.

Xavier needs to pull a "Villanova" and regroup quickly after Saturday's disappointing Cintas loss. Stickier defense and solid rebounding should beat Georgetown.

That BIG EAST Title is still a strong possibility with a strong finish over the last three games before New York starting with the Hoyas.

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