#818 University of Arizona Wildcatsvs.#817 Xavier University Musketeers
Written by Chris Kubala
Xavier Musketeers (23-13 SU, 17-18 ATS, 16-19 O/U) vs. #4 Arizona Wildcats (32-4 SU, 19-14-3 ATS, 17-18-1 O/U)
NCAAB: Thursday, March 23, 2017, SAP Center at San Jose, San Jose, California, 10:09 pm ET
Spread: Arizona -7.5, Over/Under: 145
It’s a Sweet 16 matchup of the NCAA Tournament out in the Golden State. The 11th seeded Xavier Musketeers try to continue their surprising run as they battle the second-seeded Arizona Wildcats in a West Region regional semifinal tilt Thursday night. Xavier blew out third-seeded Florida State 91-66 Saturday to advance to the Sweet 16. Arizona had a tougher matchup but dispatched seventh-seeded Saint Mary’s 69-60 Saturday night. These teams met in a similar 2 vs. 11 seed matchup on March 26, 2015 with Arizona taking a 68-60 win in that contest.
Xavier seemed left for dead after their struggles down the stretch when Edmond Sumner went down with torn knee ligaments. The Musketeers reached the Big East Tournament semifinals and followed that up by beating sixth-seeded Maryland and bombing third-seeded Florida State. Xavier took a 10 point lead at the half and poured it on in the second half as they blasted the Seminoles. The Musketeers shot 55.6 percent from the floor and drilled 11 of their 17 three point attempts in the win. Xavier was led by Trevon Blueitt, who had 29 points as one of five players in double figures.
The Muskeeters come into this contest 124th in the nation with 75.1 points per game. Xavier is 87th in rebounding with 37.4 boards per contest and tied for 78th with 15 assists per game. The Musketeers are 139th in scoring defense as they give up an average of 71 points a game at this point of season. Xavier is shooting 45.8 percent as a team this year. The Musketeers average 7.2 three pointers a game and have knocked down just 34.9 percent of their attempts from long range. Trevon Blueitt is the team’s leading scorer with 18.5 points plus 5.7 rebounds a game. Edmond Sumner contributes 15 points, 4.3 boards and five assists a night while J.P. Macura is good for 14.3 points plus 2.9 dimes per game. Sumner is done for the year after suffering torn knee ligaments earlier this season. RaShid Gaston, Sean O’Mara, Kaiser Gates, Tyrique Jones, Quentin Goodin and Malcolm Bernard each contribute at least 4.2 points a night.
Arizona had a fight on their hands but finally put away a gritty Saint Mary’s team to advance to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in the last five years. The Wildcats trailed by one at the half but ratcheted up their defensive pressure to outscore the Gaels 40-30 the rest of the way. Arizona shot 45.1 percent from the floor and went 4 of 11 from beyond the arc. The Wildcats limited the Gaels to 5 of 21 from beyond the arc. Arizona held the edge at the free throw line as they hit 19 of 23 to Saint Mary’s five of eight. Lauri Markkanen led four Wildcats in double figures with 16 points and 11 rebounds in the win.
The Wildcats are above average in scoring offense this season, ranking 99th in the nation with 76.7 points per game. Arizona is 119th in rebounding with 36.7 boards a night and 171st by dishing out 13.5 assists per contest. The Wildcats are 39th in scoring defense as they allow 65.8 points per contest. Arizona knocks down 47.8 percent from the field as a team on the year. The Wildcats are sinking 6.6 three pointers a night on 39.6 percent shooting from downtown. Lauri Markkanen is second the team with 15.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per contest. Kobi Simmons puts up 8.8 points per night while Rawle Alkins contributes 11.1 points per game. Dusan Ristic (10.7 points, 5.5 rebounds), Kadeem Allen, Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Chance Comanche all contribute at least 5.9 points a game. Allonzo Trier, who returned to the team in January after missing 19 games, has put up a team leading 17.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. He adds another proven scoring threat for coach Sean Miller.
Xavier has played some of their best basketball since the start of the Big East Tournament. Still, one has to wonder how much more coach Chris Mack can get out of this team. The Musketeers have been blessed by hot perimeter shooting lately but should that faucet suddenly get turned off, Xavier could be in trouble. Arizona battled to get past Saint Mary’s and that was a gut check win. The Wildcats are improved depth wise with Trier back and with Markkanen finding his jumper, they have good weapons. Look for the Wildcats to slug their way to the Elite Eight as they end Xavier’s impressive run.
Xavier has been putting up solid offensive numbers in recent games, including the demolition of Florida State in the second round. The Musketeers have been hot from three point range lately and the win over the Seminoles was no different as they drilled 11 of their 17 attempts. Arizona was more methodical in their second round win over Saint Mary’s after being one of three teams to break the century mark in the opening round of the tournament. Both teams are above average on the offensive end of the floor but can Xavier survive if the threes aren’t dropping?
The over is 5-1 in the Musketeers last 6 games following a straight up win of more than 20 points and 6-2 in their last eight games against Pac-12 opponents. Arizona has seen the over go 4-0 in their last 4 games following a ATS win, 4-1 in their last 5 overall, 4-1 in their last 5 games following a straight up win and 4-1-1 in their last 6 neutral site games. This one should ease its way past the number.
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Christopher Kubala has been crunching stats and following sports for over 30 years. His in depth analysis and passion for sports have led him to writing books about sports, regularly being featured on sports talk radio and as the go-to person for any obscure trivia. He keeps an eye on transactions and statistics like a hawk, especially when it comes to football, both the NFL and college, the NHL, the NBA and college basketball and MLB.