DOWN THE STRETCH W/ XAVIER TEAM 98!!
Andy Mac Williams,
Sorry about my absence from this site over the past few weeks. I'm recovering from hip replacement surgery(#2 for me) and post op has been more challenging than expected. I decided to focus my Muskie thoughts on twitter @mm_andymac to reduce computer time and manage the pain created by sitting at my computer desk. Things are improving so I'm trying a long form pre-BET info dump today.
MUSKIES AND NCAA:
I've contended since BIG EAST season opened that 9 conference wins would earn any BE team an NCAA berth. The league posted its best ever non-conference number since New BIG EAST formation in 2014( #3 Power Conference behind Big 10-almost even w/ BIG 12). Once you post a league NET and start conference play you are locked in. It still looks like 7 BIG EAST NCAA Bids to me. Most national brackets agree(per Bracket Matrix). CBS(Jerry Palm) and FOX(Mike DeCourcey) have 7 in.
ESPN( Joe Lunardi) is an old grump w just 6 excluding Xavier(First 4 out). Bracket Matrix includes Muskies in 134 of 141 brackets tracked w/ average seed of 10.68. Xavier's NCAA NET is 45, w/ 5 Strength of Schedule. 5-6 road record,3-11 Quad 1 wins, 16-1 Quad 2 through 4(no bad losses).
CBS projects XU as 10 Seed playing 7 seed Iowa in main draw at Sacramento. FOX sees Xavier in Dayton next Tuesday or Wednesday vs NC State in First 4 Game. ESPN has XU in First Four out. IMHO Muskies are in the main draw-probably 10 Seed out west(Spokane or Sacramento) playing a 7 seed(Iowa,USC,BYU, USC, Colorado, St Mary's, Arizona State). X's 8-10 BE record is not great but tolerable. 12 Power Conference teams since 2014 have earned NCAA Bids w/ sub .500 conference records(BIG EAST, BIG 12, BIG 10, ACC, SEC).
DePaul is NET Quad 2 on neutral floor in BET Wednesday at MSG( 9:30 PM-Fox Sports 1). A win gives Xavier a 20-12 record w/ Villanova Thursday in BET Quarterfinals(7PM-Fox Sports 1). A loss to DU muddies the waters( 3 straight Xavier losses for 19-13 w/ NET slipping toward 50) and brings NCAA subjectivity into the equation.
TEAM RANKINGS website gives XU a 99.5% NCAA shot at 20 wins and a 97.5% chance at 19 wins. Give me 20 w/ a "W" over DePaul and I'm content heading into Selection Sunday w/ good probability of avoiding a First 4 game at Dayton.
Muskies should be a clear favorite over Blue Demons. X beat DU twice. 67-59 in Chicago February 4 and 78-67 at Cintas February 25. X started well in both wins-dominated the glass-got balanced scoring and managed plenty of defensive stops. DU finished 3-15 BE and struggled late in games consistently due to poor FT shooting and inconsistent outside sniping. DePaul has not defended the "3" well either.
They rebound it well w. BIGS Paul Reed( 14PPG-9.6 REBS-2nd Team All BE) and Jalen Butz and BE All Frosh team member Romeo Weems, but Reed has missed 3 games in a row w/ hip pointer and his status for Xavier in BET is not clear. Xavier beat DePaul twice w/ Reed playing well. DePaul(15-16 overall) is playing for a possible NIT bid. Coach Dave Leitao's job may be on the line.
Xavier may have Paul Scruggs available(missed PC and Butler losses w/ tweaked hamstring). DU certainly has talent w/ Reed and Weems and PG Charlie Moore, but they give up a ton of open shots-tend to turn the ball over a lot and lack depth. Reed's minutes have been absorbed by 6-7 Arkansas transfer Darious Hall and 6-11 Frosh Nick Ongenda and 6-6 GW transfer D.J. Williams. Xavier has more to play for w/ better talent and a more organized approach.
BIG EAST NEWS: Two Muskies won BE All Conference recognition(Naji Marshall-1st Team and Tyrique Jones-2nd Team). Zach Freemantle and Kyky Tandy were named to All Frosh Team. Creighton is #1 BET Seed. Blue Jays play 8-9 Georgetown-St Johns winner from Wednesday(7PM-FS1) on Thursday in first of 4 Quarterfinals at noon(FS1).
CU will apparently be without PG Marcus Zegarowski(2nd Team All BE). He tweaked a knee late in Saturday's win over Seton Hall. Will Coach McDermott start BE 6th Man of the Year Denzel Mahoney or go w/ lightly played Frosh G Shareef Mitchell?
Streaking Providence(4 Seed) w/ 6 wins in a row meets 5 Seed Butler at 2:30 Thursday in second Quarterfinal.
Thursday night at 7 It's 2 Seed Villanova hopefully vs Xavier. Nova's won 7 of 8. VU has claimed the last 3 BETs(2017,2018 and 2019) and 4 of 6 since New BIG EAST formation in 2014. X lost to Villanova in BET Semis last March-controversial OT defeat.
Late game Thursday 6 Seed Marquette leaking oil w/ 6 losses in last 7 plays 3 Seed Seton Hall.