Making a case for Xavier to win the NCAA Tournament

Xavier certainly wasn’t a pre-tournament favorite to make the Final Four, but the Musketeers have everyone’s attention now.

Submitted Photo

Assistant sports editor Robert Hughes.

Being Cinderella has to be pretty great. One day, you’re getting ridiculed by everyone. The next, you’re going to the ball with Prince Charming. The only problem is that the clock has to strike midnight eventually.

Xavier plays Gonzaga in the Elite Eight. Neither team has ever made the Final Four, so something’s gotta give. Here’s why Xavier will not only make the Final Four, but win the whole darn thing.

Midnight is Over

For the Xavier Musketeers, midnight has already come and gone. They’re just waiting for their happy ending.

With a record of 18-6 in early February, things were looking great for the Musketeers. A No. 1 or No. 2 seed may have been unlikely, but it certainly wouldn’t have been the No. 11 seed Xavier was eventually granted by the NCAA Tournament committee.

Then the bell rang.

A slew of losses began on Feb. 11 with a 73-57 defeat against the eventual overall No. 1 seed Villanova Wildcats and didn’t stop until nearly a month later.

Losing six games in a row is bad, especially when there are only seven regular season games left. Using the conference tournament to build some momentum, however, is good.

Creighton defeated Xavier in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament, 75-72, but Xavier had picked up three much-needed wins in a row just before narrowly getting knocked out.

In the NCAA Tournament, the Musketeers made quick work of their first two opponents by beating Maryland 76-65 and bludgeoning Florida State, 91-66.

No. 2 seed Arizona tested Xavier, but couldn’t remove the glass slipper and lost, 73-71.

Balanced Scoring

Three players average more than 14 points per game for the Musketeers, including Edmund Sumner, J.P. Macura and Trevon Bluiett, who leads the squad with 18.7 points per game.

Bluiett has upped his scoring even more in the NCAA Tournament, and is averaging 25 points per game in the Big Dance.

It hasn’t been just Bluiett shouldering the load for the Musketeers, however. Xavier is getting help elsewhere, including the bench.

Macura is pitching in 11.3 points per game in the first three rounds of the NCAA Tournament, and bench player Sean O’Mara is adding 12.3 points per game from the post.

Bluiett might be the star of the show, but every Cinderella needs a little help from friends to find a happy ending.

Problems

The Musketeers are statistically average in relation to the rest of the country. Xavier is 127th in in scoring, putting up 75.1 points per game, and 140th in scoring defense, allowing 71.0 points per game.

In the NCAA Tournament, however, stats don’t really matter, but they are a good indicator of how a team will perform. And when the next opponent is 15th in the nation in scoring with 83.1 points per game, it raises a question mark. Gonzaga is an experienced team with the ability to score frequently and from anywhere on the court.

If the Musketeers can stall the Bulldogs’ scoring attack, then things will be looking up for the Cinderella of the tournament. If not, midnight may strike yet again.

Edited by Nathan Odom

Submitted Photo