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Do You Know The Way to San Jose? The Muskies Keep Dancing, Again

By: Craig James

Do you know the way to San Jose? The Xavier Musketeers definitely know the answer to that question as they’re headed to the Sweet 16 to face the Sean Miller led Arizona Wildcats. This marks Xavier’s eighth overall Sweet 16 appearance and sixth in the last ten years (death, taxes and the Musketeers getting it done in March).

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I don’t think any Xavier fan thought this team would make the Sweet 16 after that six game losing streak at the end of the regular season.  Hell, I don’t even think Chris Mack thought his team could get to this point.  His post-game comments signified that Saturday evening.  

Let’s dive in to what most college basketball “experts” and myself are calling the most impressive team performance of the 2017 Tournament.

In my blog leading up to the matchup with Florida State, I mentioned the Seminoles ability to score as they are amongst the top in the country at points per game. One would think in today’s game lots of points means they can shoot the three ball well. That’s not the case with this Florida State team, which makes them unique in way, they’re shooting just 34.7% from behind the arc this season. So with Florida State not being the best three point shooting team, how do they score? They like to get out and run.  How do you stop a team from getting out and running?  You make shots.  This is exactly what the Xavier Musketeers did Saturday night.  

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Florida State was the much bigger and more athletic team, but that didn’t stop Xavier from outscoring the Seminoles 36-26 on points in the paint.

Sean O’ Mara, once again, was huge for the Musketeers as he totaled 11 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks.  O’Mara has been fun to watch this March!  Never thought I would hear myself say those words.  The Orlando Magic are lucky they still have rims on their hoops after what Tyrique Jones did to them.  Jones was throwing down ferocious dunk after ferocious dunk Saturday night.  

Jones, a freshman, has all the talent in the world to be the next great Xavier big man. Jones doesn’t back down from anyone, and going up against the Seminoles and their size, he put on a show.  Nobody has dunked that hard in Orlando since Shaq was on the Magic (that may need to be fact checked).

Five Musketeers finished in double figures against Florida State.  Fact checking also welcomed on this, but I don’t think that has happened all season.  Xavier went 11-17 from three.  You aren’t going to lose many games when you shoot 65% from three.  Trevon Blueitt…well he way was Trevon Blueitt again on Saturday, finishing the game with 29 points. 21 of these came in the second half.  Kaiser Gates continued his hot hand as he added 14 points.  

Xavier sat in their zone most of the night.  They were really packing the zone in tight, and at times Florida State had wide open looks from three that they could not convert. The Musketeers out-rebounded the Seminoles 36-33.  This is something that should never happen for Florida State with the size they have, but the Musketeers were able to do it somehow.  

Xavier dominated Florida State in every way, shape and form Saturday night.  If you watched this game it truly was never close or in doubt what the outcome would be.  The Musketeers could have just used the famous line from Vegas Vacation when the dealer says to Clark, “How bout you just give me half your money, we’ll go out back, I’ll kick you in the nuts, and we’ll call it a day!”  

I think the Seminoles would have rather had that happen to them than experience what the Musketeers did to them on Saturday.  This was one of the most dominant wins in Xavier history, with the Musketeers defeating the Seminoles 91-66.

Ahead for the Xavier Musketeers is a matchup with the ole head coach Sean Miller. Sean Miller knocked the Musketeers out two years ago in the Sweet 16, so you would think that’s going to be a little motivation for the Muskies heading into Thursday night.  Chris Mack has led the Musketeers to the Sweet 16 four times.  As a 6 seed, 10 seed, 6 seed and 11 seed. At times Mack draws some unfair criticism from fans.  He is a great coach and Xavier is lucky to have him (hopefully IU doesn’t come calling).   Thursday night will be the Musketeers toughest test yet.  What may be even tougher are all the old Xavier Musketeer fans staying up for the 10:09 EST tipoff.  

Blog coming later this week breaking down the matchup with Arizona.  

P.S. Shout out Pat McAfee, (Barstool Sports, also used to punt footballs for a living), who with Xavier’s Sweet 16 appearance, wins a trip to Las Vegas with the Barstool crew.  Also shout out to me as I will be Pat’s plus one on the trip!                                 

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