Andy Mac: March Madness Analysis & Xavier-Pitt Preview
By Andy Mac Williams, 3/18/2023

Saturday Xavier and NCAA Hoops Update-3 Seed XU will play 11 Seed Pitt in NCAA Round Two Sunday afternoon in Greensboro( 12:10 EST Tip-TV IS CBS). Four BIG EAST teams will go Sunday. Providence was knocked out by Kentucky Friday late 61-53. 2 Seed Marquette gets 7 Seed Mich. St.5:15 Sunday on CBS. 4 Seed UConn plays 5 Seed St Marys (6:10 on TNT) and 6 Seed Creighton draws 3 Seed Baylor(7:30 on TBS). Saturday evening-7:45 on CBS-It's Midwest Region 2 Seed Texas playing 10 Seed Penn State. The winner there plays the Xavier-Pitt winner in Sweet 16 at Kansas City next Friday. More thoughts on Muskies' 72-67 bounce back win over Kennesaw State. XU made just 2 of 12 "3s"(low water mark for the season, but made up for it by turning the ball over just 10 times and shooting a ton of FTs (22-30).

X toyed w/ disaster trailing by 13 w/ less than 10 minutes to play. Colby Jones stayed on the floor w/ 4 fouls for about 6 minutes. XU missed 4 of7 FTs in the final war and Souley Boum missed a wide open lay-up, but Muskies survived and advanced basically because of the defense (timely stops-working in some zone and Jack Nunge's HUGE blocked shot w/ about 4 seconds left. Xavier is 9-4 since Zach Freemantle's injury.

In the 9 wins XU is scoring 84 points and allowing a stingy 72 PPG. In those 9 wins X is averaging just 10.7 turnovers but in the 4 losses the turnover number soars to over 14/game The lesson is take care of the ball and get defensive stops and the rest will fall into place, I guess! Sticky defense and ball security win NCAA Tourney games trumping fancy shooting numbers.

XU gets almost 2 full days between games from Friday afternoon to Sunday. Sean Miller wants more from his bench Sunday vs Pitt. Frosh Des Claude is vital here. He was playing in his 1st NCAA game Friday and looked tight(just 1 FT and 4 turnovers). I expect Des to return to form vs Pitt. They don't pressure much on "D". BIG Cesare Edwards only played 3 minutes vs Kennesaw St. X needs more from him and Pitt plays three young post guys so maybe Cesare can step up.

Pitt will be playing their 3rd game in 6 days(Tuesday in Dayton they beat Mississippi State 60-59 then got an extra day before playing Iowa State Friday in Greensboro and winning ugly 59-41). Usually First Four winners Tuesday play Thursday? So Pitt got a break. The turn around to play XU Sunday is much shorter.

Pitt is loaded w/ experience and good guards(24-11 overall, 14-6 ACC tied for 3rd in a 15 team league). Using their ACC stats-76 PPG-71 Points allowed. Even up in rebounding. Good shooting at 45% overall FG-36% from"3" and 78% FTs.

Five talented experienced guards highlight the roster.All five are transfers. Four are 3 point snipers (Blake Hinson-Iowa State, Nelly Cummings-Colgate, old friend, Greg Elliot-Marquette and Nile Sabande-Miami Redhawks).

Fifth year Coach Jeff Capel (the Duke guy) has three 3 point shooters on the floor almost all the time. The other guard is a moose(6-4,215 Jamarius Burton-Texas Tech) 15PPG-5 REBS-4 Assits-1st Team All ACC. Sabande was ACC 6th man of the Year.

Pitt spreads the floor-moves the ball-opens up driving lanes and makes almost 10 "3s"/game. The vets know how to play defense but probably don't enjoy it much.

Capel has 3 BIGS. 6-11 Federico Fedirico from Finland jumps out of the gym(2 blocks/game) and dunks. He's just back from a sore knee and played some minutes vs Iowa State after missing Tuesday's Mississippi State game. Two 7 foot twins from the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain split time on the floor. Guillermo and Jorge Diaz Graham are thinish (200 pounds apeice) but talented. Guillermo plays more and had a key blocked shot late vs Mississippi State. They split about 18 minutes/game(6 points-5 rebounds-maybe a "3" now and then). The twins get more PT if Federico comes up hurting.

Ken Pom has Xavier winning 81-76. Las Vegas likes XU by 5.5. This is no easy roll to KC for the Muskies! Pitt can bury a ton of "3s" if they get open shots. The guards are all 5 year dudes looking to go out w/ a bang. X would seem to have an advantage inside w/ Nunge and Jerome Hunter and hopefully Cesare chipping in. It's maybe a coin flip? A trip to the NCAA 2nd Weekend is the prize. All this in Year One of Sean Miller 2.0!!

AROUND THE BIG EAST

It seems Rick Pitino may be on the verge of taking over at St Johns? He would inherit a talented roster. No St Johns players have hit the transfer portal so far. We're talking Posh Alexander, Addae Wusu,Joel Soriano, AJ Storr, O'Mar Stanley, Pinson, Frosh G Colby King. Pitino adds a couple more to that and they play all their games at MSG and you got a BE contender.

Georgetown remains a hot mess after firing Patrick Ewing. PG Primo Spears is in the portal (59 points in 2 games vs Xavier) as is good Sophomore Jordan Riley. Maybe Pitino will go there or at least use the Hoyas as leverage vs the Johnnies? The two good Butler guards Jayden Taylor and Chuck Harris are in the portal (each w/2 years eligibility I believe.

The rumor mill has PC coach Ed Cooley considering moving on, but he's like the Mayor of Providence? He should be a hot commodity (National Coach of the Year in 2022).

This is all too much fun. We need more XU hoops at least into next weekend IMHO.




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