Xavier’s Season: Outside of an abysmal Thanksgiving in the Bahamas, the Musketeers had an extremely successful non-conference season. They had a 17 point win on a neutral court over Cincinnati, which only got more impressive as the season wore on. They won five of their first six conference games putting themselves in position for an NCAA bid, but then a three game slide put them right back with the rest of the Big East bubble teams. Inconsistency plagued the Musketeers after that slide, finishing the year with four losses in their final nine contests. Chris Mack’s squad seemed to solidify a bid with a home win against Creighton; however, they gave it right back with a loss to Seton Hall two days later.
Xavier’s Road: Thursday vs. #6 Marquette, Friday (if necessary) vs. Creighton/ (Georgetown/Depaul)
Xavier’s Prospects: The Musketeers can certainly do damage in this tournament and they have what it takes to cut down the nets, but the biggest obstacle is overcoming the MCL of Matt Stainbrook. The earliest he could return would be on Saturday, so they would have to go through Marquette and likely Creighton without him. Semaj Christon was a unanimous first team All-Big East selection, so with him on the floor they will always be in the thick of things. The Musketeers will need Jalen Reynolds, freshman big man, to step up in Stainbrook’s absense.
NCAA Prospect: As we tweeted earlier in the week one win in Madison Square Garden will give Xavier a 71.5% chance of receiving a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Then if they get to the finals, getting a second win, they will have a 91.1% chance (both of these numbers are according to TeamRankings.com). The difference between one and two wins is playing in the First Four in Dayton versus getting a bye to the Second Round.
Buzz’s Take: I love this Xavier team, and really think they have a chance at not only competing in this tournament, but winning it. They are desperate for wins and have the star power in Christon to get it done. However, the matchups without Stainbrook will be tough. The Musketeers will have to deal with Davante Gardner and Chris Otule of Marquette without their primary big. I think Chris Mack can overcome this though and I predict Xavier to not only beat Marquette, but also roll through Creighton to get to the finals on Saturday.