What They're Saying: Arizona vs. Xavier

Arizona takes on Xavier Thursday. Read on to see what the national media is saying about the Sweet 16 matchup.

"Like most players, he's gotten so much better. Should have been, could have been, Pac-12 player of the year. I remember that he's a phenomenal defender, a guy that made the right play at the right time, which is why Sean took him. He wanted a guy that really steadied their ship and made high IQ plays and has a toughness about him.”

- Chris Mack, Cincinnati.com

“The Musketeers should not be underestimated. They have beaten too many good teams, and will be prepared to give the Wildcats a serious fight. But the only team in the nation that seems to be playing more effective basketball than Arizona is Kentucky, and it's difficult to envision Xavier escaping with a win.”

- Tim Marcin, International Business Times

“I think it's business like usual for us. We understand that, we hear what people say. But does it really affect us? No. Do we use it as motivation? Sometimes. But by no means are we 'The Little Engine That Could.' We're not the Little Sisters of the Poor. We're Xavier basketball. We've been to the Sweet 16 once or twice. It's one of those things that people can say what they want and we'll listen, we'll hear it, we'll digest it, but what it comes down to is how we're playing and that's about it.”

- Matt Stainbrook, AP

“Only two teams in the country are in the top 10 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. One of them is Kentucky. The other is Arizona. This is a well-rounded team that can win in multiple ways, and that’s crucial for any team that makes a run to the Final Four. With wings Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, the Wildcats have two of the best players remaining in the tournament, as well as two potential first-round picks (Johnson will be a lottery pick) in June’s NBA draft.

“Arizona is very good inside the arc offensively, ranking 19th in the country in two-point percentage. Xavier, meanwhile, is 212th in two-point defense. The Wildcats should be able to control the pace in their Sweet 16 matchup with Xavier. No matter if they play Wisconsin or North Carolina, they’re going to be the best defensive team on the floor. They proved in their early-season win over Gonzaga that they can handle top-level offenses. Arizona has been one of the best teams in the country over the last two months. They could keep that rolling right into April.”

- Michael Beller, Sports Illustrated

“What do Arizona and Sean Miller bring to the table?  A brilliant team, for one.  They've won 33 games to this point, having dropped only three.  The good news?  Those three losses came to subpar competition on the road.  And while Los Angeles is much closer to Tucson than Cincinnati, the ‘Cats have had a history of slipping up on the road this year. While their three losses have come by a combined nine points to UNLV, Oregon State, and Arizona State--three teams not in the field of 64--they're blemishes nonetheless.”

- Jesse Borek, Big East Coast Bias

“In the larger picture, there is still little separation between the second-seeded Wildcats and No. 1 seed Wisconsin. But if we’re taking into account the first weekend of tournament play, Arizona made a bigger statement with two double-digit wins, including a total shut down of Ohio State freshman sensation D’Angelo Russell (3-of-19 shooting against the Wildcats), than the Badgers did by getting pushed late into the second half before beating Oregon in the Round of 32.

“The Wildcats also got to the free throw line 51 times in two games and point guard T.J. McConnell is setting a terrific tone (19 points, six rebounds, six assists and five steals against the Buckeyes). In no way is Wisconsin spiraling, but the Badgers shot a middling (for them) 43.1% against the Ducks and were tied with the No. 8 seed with five and a half minutes left. “We know we can play better,” guard Josh Gasser said after the victory over Oregon. “Really, we know we’re going to have to play better if we’re going to beat teams coming up.”

- Brian Hamilton, Sports Illustrated

“If anyone is going to have this Arizona team well scouted, it's going to be Chris Mack. He knows Sean Miller as well as anyone after being an assistant under him at Xavier for five years. He'll probably just try to clog the lane and the area inside the 3-point line as much as possible, and force Arizona to shoot from the outside. That strategy worked for a half for Ohio State, and my guess is Mack can wring it out a little bit longer than Thad Matta did with his talented roster. Eventually, Arizona should pull away and win by 8-12 points or so, but this could be fun late in the second half.”

- Sam Vecenie, CBS Sports


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