By Andy Mac Williams, 3/2/2018

Xavier Nation celebrated after Wednesday evening's 84-74 Cintas Center Senior Night win over Providence. The Muskies clinched a share of their first BIG EAST regular season title. Villanova almost cooperated by losing at Seton Hall. The Wildcats dodged a bullet though and won 69-68 in overtime at Newark. Although Villanova's been leaking some oil lately(4-3 last 7 games), chances are VU will win in Philly Saturday against Georgetown so it's up to Xavier to validate the title-beat DePaul Saturday in Chicago(12 noon EST-FOX) and win the championship outright.

A victory against the Blue Demons opens a few doors. XU nets the #1 Seed in the BIG EAST Tournament next week at Madison Square Garden. They would play the early Quarterfinal Thursday at noon(FS1) against the 8-9 winner from Wednesday(Georgetown or St Johns).

A Xavier loss and a Nova win would push the Muskies down to the #2 Seed in NYC meaning an evening game Thursday at MSG. A defeat by De Paul would be considered a "bad" loss by the NCAA Selection Committee and possibly require two or three Xavier wins in NYC to get the Muskies back in the race for a #1 NCAA Seed?? Who knows??

An XU "W" in Chicago makes things neater and cleaner and delivers on an important season goal for the players and coaches-namely a BIG EAST Championship with no "CO" included.


Xavier started both halves with incredible energy-forcing turnovers-owning the glass-winning the 50-50 balls. This team can muster defensive mojo when it has to. Give PC and Coach Ed Cooley credit! The Friars used every tool and tactic to stay within range. Provi is an NCAA caliber team. They should make the field of 68. It would be Cooley's 5th straight NCAA bid.

The Seniors went out in style. Sean O'Mara started and played superbly(10 points-6rebounds-4 assists-2 steals in 15 minutes). Sean seems primed for another strong post season ala last year's BIG EAST Tourney and the NCAA Elite 8 run. O'Mara is part of a long line of four year Muskie BIGS who've hung in there and improved and become huge impact players(Eddie Johnson,Tyrone Hill, Derek Strong,Aaron Williams,David West,Jason Love,Kenny Frease,james Farr).

J.P. struggled with foul trouble, but fueled a strong second half start with 6 quick points and 5 hustling rebounds.

Karem Kanter undressed the young PC BIGS with his slick post moves(10 points in 13 minutes).

Trevon scored a smooth efficient 23 as XU closed the game out with a familiar pattern making 11 of 12 FTs in the final four minute war. Bluiett slapped an exclamation point on his Cintas career with an acrobatic slam dunk in heavy traffic.


Xavier is now 21-0 in games where the opponent has scored less than 80 points. That bodes well for the NCAAs. Big Dance games tend to be lower possessions and slower tempo and more half court. The Muskies can win games a number of ways in the 60s-70s or 80s. That 80 defensive bar is a low one for them and should be achievable.

Coach Mack may be more likely to weave in zone looks in the NCAA against teams Xavier seldom plays. BIG EAST opposition scouts the 1-3-1 and 2-3. They usually shoot Xavier out of it quickly. Teams like FSU and Arizona last season did not handle the zones well either because they didn't prepare well of were too stubborn to. TEAM 96 can deliver sticky multi-stop and kill defense when they need to.


The Blue Demons' numbers(11-18 overall-4-13 BIG EAST-6-9 at home) look bleak, but this team is much improved. DU led XU by 16 early in the second half at Cintas in early January. Xavier rallied to win 77-72 using patience-forcing 23 turnovers-employing the 1-3-1 zone and getting a terrific all court game from J.P. Macura.

6-6 Junior Max Strus(17PPG-6 boards) scored 33 for DePaul in Cincy. Frosh PG Justin Roberts attacked the basket for 16. Grad transfer BIG Marin Maric(Northern Illinois) played well but got into foul trouble. Maric had a great February for DU(15PPG-10rebounds). 6-6 Eli Cain is the PG by default because of injuries. 6-5 Brandon Cyrus is improving at 2 guard. 6-7 PF Tre Mc Callum plays his final home game.

The DePaul bench is thin(Roberts and 6-7 Frosh Paul Reed). They score only 73PPG and struggle at times to shoot FTs. DU does work hard and they crash the offensive glass. Their new Wintrust Arena in Chicago's South Loop has been a plus.(7,000 average crowd).

They've played Notre Dame(with Bonzie Colson) and Northwestern close and lost by one in BIG EAST home games to St Johns and Creighton. DU beat Marquette 70-62 at Wintrust last Saturday in front of 9,000.

X will be motivated on many levels though. Xavier 85 De Paul 76 Hello MSG and NYC!!!

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