Conference: Big East
Record: 21-13 (9-9)
NCAA Tournament Seed: 11 (West)
How they got to the Big Dance
Xavier started off the 2016-2017 college basketball season hot, winning its first seven games. Then, the Musketeers traveled to take on then-No. 9 Baylor and suffered their first loss of the season. After a close loss on the road to Colorado, Xavier would go on to win its next six games.
During that six-game winning streak, Xavier picked up its first three conference wins. Xavier next went on the road, where it lost to then-No. 3 Villanova and then-No. 12 Butler. The Musketeers lost again at home to then-No. 7 Creighton before beating Georgetown to end the skid. In their final non-conference game of the season, Xavier lost to rival Cincinnati.
Xavier then went on to win its next four games, including a big win on the road against then-No. 22 Creighton. After that, Xavier’s rollercoaster season went back downhill again, as the Musketeers lost six out of their final seven games before the Big East Tournament.
Xavier opened the Big East tournament with a win against DePaul before upsetting then-No. 18 Butler. Xavier’s run in the Big East Tournament came to an end with a heartbreaking loss to Creighton. With less than 10 seconds remaining, Creighton’s Marcus Foster drained the go-ahead three to knock out Xavier.
Why they’re a legitimate contender
Xavier is a strong rebounding squad. The Musketeers average 38.1 rebounds per game, good for 66th in the country. They were also strong on the offensive glass, averaging 12.4 rebounds per game. Xavier should match up well with smaller teams and teams that struggle to rebound the ball, and those extra possessions can be the difference between winning and losing.
Xavier does a decent job of moving the ball around the floor, averaging 15.1 assists per game. The team’s ability to spread the court will help it when it faces the better defensive teams in the tournament.
Why they’re not a legitimate contender
Xavier had a very up and down season this year. When it wasn’t at the top of its game, it was able to take down ranked squads. When it wasn’t, it got crushed by stronger sides. In eight games against ranked opponents this season, the Musketeers went 1-7. When you look at the teams that make up the NCAA Tournament, this does not bode well for Xavier.
Overall, Xavier is a pretty average team. The Musketeers are pretty good at rebounding and moving the ball, they can score and they can play defense, but they are not great at anything. They do not have any glaring weaknesses but at the same time, they do not have any standout strengths.
Player to watch: G Trevon Bluiett
Junior guard Trevon Bluiett had an outstanding season for Xavier this season, leading the team in scoring with 18 points per game. All season, Bluiett has been a scoring threat, and can hit the 3 as well. In Xavier’s loss to Cincinnati, Bluiett went off and scored 40 points and went 9-of-11 from beyond the arc.
On other nights, Bluiett struggled to get the ball in the hoop. In Xavier’s win against Georgetown in December, Bluiett shot 0-10 in 26 minutes of action, scoring a single point from behind the free throw line In the tournament, much of Xavier’s success will ride on his ability to score. It will need the Bluiett who showed up against Cincinnati, not the one who appeared against Georgetown.