By Andy Mac Williams, 3/9/2018

It's early, but so far Xavier TEAM 96 is thriving in March Madness!! Last Saturday XU clinched the outright BIG EAST regular season title with a tight road win at DePaul(65-62) and earned the #1 BIG EAST Tournament seed. Thursday evening at Madison Square Garden Xavier was forced to play another "road" game in the BE Quarters meeting play in game survivor St Johns on their home away from home at MSG. Ther Johnnies had gone 3-3 this season at the World's Most Famous arena with a stunning upset of Duke included. The three losses (Villanova,Seton Hall and Georgetown) had all been close. X blew SJU's doors off 88-60 to advance to Friday night's BIG EAST Semi-Finals against Providence(6:30PM-FS1).

St Johns hung around in the first half trailing 33-29 at the break mainly because Xavier BIGs could not finish inside. The Red Storm was living by the three pointer(5-15). The hand writing was on the wall. XU attacked inside and manuvuered SJU into severe foul trouble. After the half the Muskies just took off steadily building their lead. St Johns kept pressing. Xavier kept scoring. The final margin was 28 points.

SJU players(Bashir Ahmed) took exception in the handshake line claiming XU ran up the score. Pushes and shoves were exchanged. St Johns made their own bed by continuing to press. Tempest in a tea pot!! Nobody was hust. Nobody will be suspended!!


X is now 10-2 in road games. Seldon does a #1 Conference Tourney Seed have to play a road game especially in the Quarterfinals. Xavier just powered right past the cinderella Johnnies who'd beaten Duke and Villanova. Xavier dominated on the glass(42-30 rebounds)-took care of the ball(just 7 turnovers against the BE's top gambling defense)-got to the FT line-made threes-shared the ball and played sticky defense.

Kaiser Gates was NCAA stellar(like last March against Maryland and FSU). Gates scored 16 with 4 made "threes' and 4 rebounds. He was one of three Muskies who hounded St Johns star Shamorie Ponds into a 4-14 shooting game with 3 turnovers. Naji Marshall guarded Ponds also as did Quentin Gooden. Kaiser is Xavier's wild card with his size, foot speed and shooting ability.

J. P. Macura played the perfect Batman to trevon Bluiett's Robin much like last season's NCAA Elite 8 Run. J.P. played balls to the wall at MSG(9 points-5 assists-4 steals-6 rebounds). He and Trevon embraced before the opening tip and they were off to the races, Bluiett scored 27 and shot it to perfection in the second half and he added 7 rebounds. Karem Kanter was sneaky smooth around the rin(12 points in 17 minutes). Sean O'Mara had trouble finishing early, but he kept punching inside. The effort, feistiness and enthusiasm were first rate. It's a great start to hopefully a long March expereince. for the Muskies.


The Friars were fighting for their NCAA lives against Creighton in the Quarter Finals Thursday and they won 72-68 in overtime. It was a physical scrappy draining victory. PC should be the 6th BIG EAST NCAA BID(Xavier, Villanova, Butler, Seton Hall, Creighton and the Friars). Coach Ed Cooley seain he welcomed another shot at Xavier after the Muskies beat PC 84-74 on Senior Night at Cintas 9 days ago.

Provi won over Xavier in Rhode Island 81-72 back in early january. It was BE road game #1 for XU Frosh Naji Marshall and Paul Scruggs. Bluiett and Macura did not play well. PC eniors Kyron Cartwright(PG), Rodney Bullock(PF) and Jalen Lindsey(WING Shooter) did play well. PC is large on the wings and deep ay guard. Isaiah Jackson(6-6) is a stud off the bench. Malik White is a strong guard sub.

The two BIGS Young and Watson can struggle defensively. Coach Cooley played a small line-up last nite in beating Creightomn. Against Xavier;s three BIGS he has to go BIG at least some of the time. PC has clinched their 5th straight NCAA berth. They expended mega effort last night.

XU is just warming up. The Muskies have a #1 NCAA Seed in their sights and a win over Providence keeps that goal on target with Duke and Kansas still alive inn their conference tournamnets. And X would relish another shot at Villanova.

VU won in a walk over Marquette last evening(94-70). Nova plays Butler tonight at MSG. I like Xavier over PC 84-76 for a rematch with Villanova Saturday in NYC. Both XU and VU should be NCAA #1 Seeds if they win tonight at get to the BE Final. Xavier might need to beat VU to get the Midwest Regional NCAA #1 instead of being sent out West???

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