Championship Or Bust: Xavier Musketeers

By Emily Van Buskirk / @Emilnem & Josh Naso / @silverfox8008

National championships are hard to come by, and just because you are ranked at the top doesn’t mean somebody from the bottom won’t knock you off on the road to Houston. It’s true that the stronger your ranking, the smoother your path to success, but not everybody has an airtight case (Villanova, I’m looking at you). That is where we come in.

In honor of the beginning of the arguably the best month in sports, we at TSFJ have decided to celebrate the calm before the madness by breaking down each of the AP Top 5-ranked teams. Will they make a national title run or not? Let’s figure out your bracket together.

First up: The No. 5 Xavier Musketeers

Why They Will Win It All

Last week was a bit of a roller-coaster for Xavier. After knocking off top-ranked Villanova on Wednesday, the Musketeers were faced with a classic trap game. Coming off the high of their big win, they traveled to Seton Hall to face a Pirates squad that was sitting squarely on the bubble and would love nothing more than a win over the No. 5 team in the nation to bolster its résumé. Xavier certainly got trapped, getting throttled by Seton Hall from wire to wire. Despite the setback, the Musketeers are still a very real threat to win it all.

Xavier currently sits in second place in a very solid Big East at 25-4, 13-4 in conference play. The Musketeers have quality wins over Michigan, Dayton, Cincinnati, Butler, Providence and the aforementioned victory over Villanova. They are one of the best offensive teams in the country, scoring over 80 points per game. They also share the ball extremely well and can rebound with the best of them, a huge plus come tourney time.

Senior James Farr (10.3 points, 8 rebounds) and junior Jalen Reynolds (9.5 points, 6.5 rebounds) lead the way up front and along with junior Myles Davis provide leadership. But it’s a pair of youngsters who really make the Musketeers go.

Sophomore Trevon Bluiett leads the team in scoring at 15.1 points per game while also grabbing 6.5 rebounds per game. The X-factor for Xavier is 6-5 freshman Edmond Sumner. Sumner is not yet a finished product, but the kid can score in bunches. He has the ability to create his own shot and can get to the rim at will. He also can get his team a basket when it needs one most and can carry the load when the team’s offense isn’t clicking. Sumner is the type of player who can be invaluable to a team looking to make a deep tournament run.

Xavier has already shown it can hang with any team in the country, and its rebounding and scoring ability provide an opportunity to go on the most important six-game run in college basketball.

Why They Won’t Win It All

People, including Josh, want to say that the loss to Seton Hall was the result of a Villanova hangover — a veritable trap game. But actually, it exposed some flaws that will keep the Musketeers from cutting down the nets in April.

Matching up against a top defensive team proved difficult for Xavier, who shot only 39 percent from the field and 37 percent from beyond the arc. The Musketeers were outrebounded 44-39. Seton Hall had 10 first-half offensive rebounds, which the Pirates turned into 16 points. For comparison, the Musketeers grabbed 11 first-half offensive rebounds but only parleyed those into three points.

But it’s not just this game. In Xavier’s losses to Villanova, Georgetown and Creighton, the Musketeers shot below 40 percent each time. In the loss to Creighton, Xavier shot 30 percent form the field and went 1-21 from three-point land. That’s 4.8 percent.

The problem with the Musketeers is that they lack the ability to pull themselves out of a hole, a quality you need desperately in the tournament. A one-and-done format does not bode well for a team that cannot shake off poor shooting or posses the ability to mount a significant comeback. This is why Xavier is not long for your bracket.

For the Musketeers, the frustration can be very real.

Don’t be like this Chris Mack.

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