MUSKIES FACE HUGE WEEK!! SCOUTING PROVIDENCE!!
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier's already off to a flying start this week and they haven't even played since their 89-77 road win at Georgetown last Wednesday night. XU ascended to #3 nationally in the latest AP Top 25(highest ever rating in program history). The Coaches proved more fickle than the media types. They left the Muskies 4th moving Duke up to 3rd. And Naji Marshall was tapped as BIG EAST Frosh of the Week for the second week in a row based on his play at G-town(21 points in 37 minutes with 7 rebounds-4 assists and 3 steals).
The weekend bye was well timed for Xavier. Villanova's 89-83 overtime loss to Creighton in Omaha Saturday has set the table for the Muskies. CU rallied from 8 points down late to force the OT and gift wrap a one game BIG EAST Conference lead for Xavier(13-3) over Villanova(12-4) with two to play.
X controls it own destiny now. They win the BIG EAST outright with a Senior Night "W" at Cintas Wednesday over Providence(6:30PM-EST-FS1-Senior Ceremonies on court begin at 6PM) and a road victory Saturday afternoon in Chicago against De Paul(12 noon on FOX). Villanova plays at Seton Hall Wednesday(8:30 on FS1) and then home in Philly Saturday versus Georgetown.
Xavier gets to hang a BIG EAST Championship banner with two wins plus they net the #1 Seed in the BIG EAST Tournament next week at Madison Square Garden in New York City. That means a 12 noon Quarterfinal game next Thursday at MSG against the 8-9 First Round winner from Wednesday evening and possibly an easier path to locking down a #1 Seed in the NCAA Tournament???
It's all good for Xavier. There will be no play-in game in NYC like last March(although that worked out well with two MSG wins-an #11 NCAA Seed and a run to the Elite 8). There will be reduced drama this Selection Sunday with a #2 Seed as a worst case scenario and a favorable NCAA First Weekend Site a certainty(Detroit, Pittsburgh, Nashville or Charlotte).Two wins are no sure thing, but the opportunity is tremendously juicy.
The PC Friars can't be overlooked(18-11 overall-9-7 in the BIG EAST involved in a four way tie for third with Butler-Seton Hall and Creighton). Coach Ed Cooley has PC on the path to a 5th straight NCAA bid.
The Friars won impressively at Georgetown last Saturday 74-69. Two weeks ago PC upset Villanova 76-71 forcing 19 VU turnovers. Providence has posted 4 BIG EAST road wins. Cooley starts three impactful Seniors. When they all play well, PC is hard to beat.
PG Kyron Cartwright is a dynamic lefty. He led them at G-town(16 points-9 assists) and helped bury Xavier in Rhode Island on January 6th(19 points-9 assists-4 steals) in an 81-72 PC victory. XU did not play well that day(15 turnovers-outscored at the FT line-Bluiett and Macura limited to 21 total points). Expect a much more robust Muskie effort on Senior Night in Cincy.
The Friars other Seniors include Forward Rodney Bullock(15PPG-6 Rebs) and sniping Wing 6-6 Jalen Lindsey.(10PPG). Soph Wing 6-7 Alpha Diallo is a double-double waiting to happen. He has NBA talent.
The BIGS(Kalif Young and Nate Watson) are imposing physically, but still learning to play defense. Xavier can exploit them with the three headed Center Monster. The PC bench is deep. Isaiah Jackson(6-6) scored 18 as a sub in Game 1 against Xavier. Malik White is a dependable PG option. Drew Edwards is a versatile piece defensively.
The Friars struggle at times shooting FTS. They are break even in rebounding. Cooley has been using some zone defense to slow tempo and protect his youthful big guys. Xavier should win this considering what's on the line for them and the Senior Night thing, but if Cartwright, Bullock and Lindsey all play their "A" games this could be very close.
SO LONG TO THE SENIORS!!
Trevon, J.P. and Sean remain from a blockbuster 2014 recruiting class. They have produced 100 wins over four seasons with three(soon to be four) NCAA bids-a 6-3 NCAA Tourney record-a Sweet 16(2015) and an Elite 8(2017) and 3 Crosstown Shootout wins over UC.
Bluiett is now second on the All Time Xavier Scoring List(2142 points) and second in made three point field goals with 303. Romain Sato(2001-2004) holds the record(307).
Macura is 20th in career points(1449) and #1 in irritating enemy fan bases(Wisconsin-Butler-Seton Hall etc) and coaches(Mick Cronin).
O'Mara is playing huge BIG MAN minutes. He played his best in last season's NCAA Tournament run and scored the winning FG against Arizona in the Sweet 16.
Grad Transfer Karem Kanter is the fourth Senior. His impact after arriving from Wisconsin Green Bay has been large starting with Baylor and UC and continuing into the BIG EAST.
This group may be the most productive in Xavier history right now. If they add a BIG EAST Regular Season Title and maybe a BE Tournament Championship and then make a deep NCAA run, it will be no contest-the best recruiting class ever.