MUSKIES ARE OFF AND RUNNING IN MARCH MADNESS!!
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier's tight 65-62 regular season ending win Saturday at DePaul certainly wasn't pretty or dominating, but it got the job done!! XU won their first ever BIG EAST Title ending a four year run of Villanova success. The Muskies survived 20 turnovers and spotty 6 of 22 shooting from outside the arc. The young guns led the way. BIG EAST All Frosh Team selection Naji Marshall locked up DU star Max Strus defensively(7 points on 2 for 11 shooting with no free throws and 5 turnovers) and chipped in 11 rebounds. PG Paul Scruggs scored a career high 11 points with 4 boards and 2 assists helping X navigate Quentin Gooden's foul trouble.
As usual, Trevon Bluiett found his shooting touch after halftime and led the way with 22 points. Xavier did it with defense down the stretch scoring just one FG over the last 3:50(J.P. Macura's back door lay-up from Sean O'Mara with about 1:55 to play).
DePaul had cut the XU lead to 63-62. Rebounding(plus 12 on the glass) and free throw shooting(17-19) were the core components of a road win over a feisty opponent. Marshall came up with an acrobatic block against DU's Brandon Cyrus late along with sticky defense against Strus in DePaul's final possession. Mission accomplished!! BIG EAST Title salted away!!
Xavier clinches the #1 Seed in this week's BIG EAST Tournament at Madison Square Garden in NYC. The Muskies get a Wednesday bye. They open Thursday at noon against the 8-9 play in game winner from Wednesday(either Georgetown or St Johns).
A REGULAR SEASON FOR THE RECORD BOOKS!!
Xavier finishes to 27-4 overall-their most wins ever during a regular season. The 15-3 record in the BIG EAST is a high water mark in five seasons as a BE member. XU won their most games ever at home(17-1 at Cintas) and followed that up with a strong 9-2 road performance. The Muskies held firm at #3 this week in the AP Top 25 equaling the best rating in program history.
Xavier is 22-0 when opponents score less than 80 points. They're 11-0 in games decided by 7 points or fewer. Seniors Trevon Bluiett, J.P. Macura and Sean O'Mara have now been a part of 101 career wins including 3 "Ws" in 4 tries against UC(Crosstown Shootout).
Xavier is very much in the running for a #1 Seed in the NCAA Field of 68(announced this Sunday at 6PM on CBS). Bracket Matrix which averages out 80 top bracket projection websites from coast to coast gives X a 1.08 seed(74 sites have XU #1 while 6 pessimists rate X A #2 Seed). Right now it's Virginia, Villanova, Xavier, Kansas and Duke seemingly competing for the four #1s.
Purdue and Michigan State lost to Michigan in the pre-mature BIG TEN Tourney at MSG maybe knocking them out of the one line derby. North Carolina is a popular #1Seed prospect, but they are just a 6 Seed in the ACC Tournament at Barclay Center in Brooklyn.
Duke is a 2 Seed in the ACC. They get a double bye and play either Pitt or Notre Dame or Virginia Tech on Thursday. Andy Mac predicts the Muskies get the 1 Seed by winning two games in New York City(St Johns-Georgetown winner Thursday-then the Providence-Creighton winner Friday(6:30PM-FS1). If Xavier and Villanova both reach Saturday's BIG EAST Championship game(6:30PM-FOX),they both rate a #1 NCAA Seed unless the Selection Committee goes bonkers or Duke wins the ACC Tourney.
By the way, If the Muskies earn their first #1 NCAA Seed ever, they will play in Nashville next week. That's a Friday-Sunday First and Second Round location. Ideal Xavier scenario-#1 Seed in the NCAA Midwest Regional with the road leading to Omaha for the Second Weekend with two wins in Nashville.
BIG EAST AWARDS:
Trevon Bluiett made the BE First Team for the third straight season. J.P. was snubbed(No first or second team-no honorable mention). Naji Marshall made the All Frosh team. We'll have a BIG EAST TOURNAMENT PREVIEW Tuesday!!!