I don't know about everyone else, but I am exhausted from yesterday. Not only the Gonzaga game, which was something else, but then the emotional roller coaster that was the Xavier win over Arizona. However, there is no time to think about what happened yesterday, as both teams will be back on the court in less than 30 hours with a Final Four berth on the line.
So, who are the Musketeers? Let's check it out:
KenPom Ranking: No. 30
Big East: Finished 7th
RPI (Heading Into The Tourney: No. 37
Why Are They In The Elite 8?
Simply because they are playing their best basketball of the season and have impressed in every round of the NCAA Tournament. After beating Maryland in the opening round, Xavier put together the best performance of the tourney, with an utter dismantling of the No. 3 seed, Florida St. With all of the momentum heading into the Sweet 16, it looked like the run was going to end, as they trailed Arizona by 8 with under four minutes left. However, this is a resilient team, and a couple of timely defensive stops led to a thrilling comeback win.
In Trevon Bluiett, the Musketeers have one of the elite scorers left in the tournament. After averaging over 18 ppg during the season, he is average a cool 25 ppg in the tournament. He is far from an elite athlete, but he uses his body really well to score, and if he is open, he will drill the shot. Along with Bluiett, the Musketeers have a Kyle Dranginis clone in JP Macura. The talented guard does everything really well, including being a disruptive force on the defensive end of the court. He is a really good scorer and seems to be a big emotional force behind this team. If the Zags can slow down Bluiett and Macura, they have a great chance to win the game.
Where Do They Struggle?
Tempo is going to play such a key role in this game. Similar to Northwestern, Xavier wants to slow this game down and limit the number of possessions. If Gonzaga can rebound and push the tempo in a smart way, it will take the Musketeers out of their comfort zone, and also not allow them to setup a recently deployed zone defense that has caused some havoc for teams. Also, outside of Bluiett and Macura, I'm not sure this team has any other elite scorers. Malcolm Bernard can really shoot the ball, but he scored 15 points against Arizona, after averaging only 6.6 during the season. If Gonzaga can take away the perimeter scoring, which I am sure is the goal (and something that the Zags have done well all season outside of 25 minutes against BYU), Xavier could struggle to score.