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Xavier reached the Big East Tournament Final before bowing down to Marquette, but the Musketeers amassed a five-straight positive streak prior, flexing their muscles at the most important time. Xavier boasts victories against Marquette, West Virginia, Providence, Creighton, and UConn twice each in the regular season, enough to earn it the No. 3 seed in the Midwest Regional.
The Musketeers have to play the NCAA Tournament without Zach Freemantle, one of their best all-around players, but they’ve grown more accustomed to his absence since he injured his foot in late January. This team has four players scoring in double-figures and loves to spread the wealth.
Last National Championship: None
Last Final Four: None
2023 Title Odds: +5000 (as of March 13, 2023)
Why Xavier Will Make a Run
This team plays some of the best offense you’ll see in the country. They share the ball beautifully – Xavier is atop Division I in assists per game (19.9) – and have players who can hit from anywhere on the court. The Musketeers are first in the Big East in points per shot (1.33) and lead the league in three-point percentage (39.5). Any Xavier game that’s played to the tempo that this team prefers will have a lot of scoring. This could be a death kneel for certain opponents.
Xavier does a good job of cleaning up on the defensive glass. The Musketeers held their opponents below 10 offensive rebounds in more than 70 percent of their games so far this season, making up somewhat for their defensive deficiencies. Though Xavier doesn’t do as well on the offensive boards, it still does better than most, and you can consider this a very good rebounding team as a whole.
Why Xavier Will Exit Early
Defense is not Xavier’s strong suit. There is not a single player on this roster with a defensive rating below 100. The Musketeers aren’t great at defending triples, giving up 36.1 percent from three. Xavier’s opponents have shot better than 43 percent from deep on 12 separate occasions this season.
With the tempo Xavier prefers, it makes plenty of sense that its opponents would get a lot of shooting opportunities. That’s not what’s worrisome – what’s worrisome is that the Musketeers can sometimes switch off defensively, and if they come across an explosive team well-prepared to run with them, all those extra shots will heavily impact the final score. That’s not to mention the 15.9 personal fouls that Xavier commits on average per game.
What It’ll Take to Win
Xavier has to outscore everybody, plain and simple. This is not a team that hangs its hat on its defense. If Xavier is to win the national championship, it will be done with remarkable scoring runs, high-octane shooting, and ball movement that dizzies defenses.
At least two of Souley Boum, Colby Jones, Adam Kunkel, or Jack Nunge will have to go off in every game for Xavier to accomplish the ultimate, and the more the merrier. Jerome Hunter has taken on the role of replacing Freemantle well, but he’s not capable of producing at that same level. It’ll take a gigantic effort from the four main scorers to pull Xavier over the line considering the likely scorelines of its showdowns. The Musketeers have only been held below 80 points 12 times this season – they’re 4-8 in those games.