The Fifth Quarter
Xavier-Hawaii a reflection of sorts
By Jack Danilewicz
Sunday, March 10, 2002
The waiting, as Tom Petty once sang, is the hardest part. Although Hawaii did not need to sweat out making the Big Dance on Sunday, there was still the matter of where the Rainbow Warriors would end up and whom they would be paired opposite.
With that in mind, there can be no better destination for Hawaii than Dallas, a city the Rainbow Warriors figure to be more comfortable in, given that they make an annual trip there to play WAC-member SMU.
As for the match-up itself – Xavier-Hawaii – it's hard to figure out who got the tougher draw – the Rainbow Warriors, who are seeded 10th – or the Musketeers, who are seeded seventh.
If anything, both programs mirror one another in one respect: both hail from underrated conferences. Moreover, Xavier has lived largely in the shadow of rival Cincinnati – the first seed in the West Region, ironically – all year, especially in light of its 75-55 loss to the Bearcats back in December. Since that loss, the Musketeers have won 22 of their last 24, including six in a row.
Hawaii, meanwhile, was snubbed in the rankings despite receiving the best Mainland media coverage the school has enjoyed in any season to date. The Rainbow Warriors are also hitting their stride with 11 wins in their last 13 outings.
The game will be played on Friday at the American Airlines Arena in Dallas. Game time will be announced on Monday. The Musketeers (25-5) earned a berth to the NCAA Tournament by winning the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament on Saturday with a 73-60 win over Richmond in Philadelphia.
The winner of Friday's First Round game will play either second-seeded Oklahoma or 15th-seeded Illinois-Chicago on Sunday in the Second Round.
The Rainbow Warriors, who wrapped up a second consecutive WAC Tournament Championship with a 73-59 win over Tulsa in the finale on Saturday night, posted a school-record 27 wins this season.
This will be the second straight tournament appearance for the Rainbow Warriors, who are 0-3 in previous appearances, including a 79-69 loss to Syracuse in the first round of the Midwest Regional in Dayton, Ohio last March.
Xavier and Hawaii have never met, although the schools have a common opponent in Wisconsin this year. Hawai'i beat the Badgers 60-57 on Nov. 25 in the Big Island Classic, while Xavier downed Wisconsin 57-48 at the Cintas Center on Dec. 10.
The seventh seed is Xavier's second-highest ever and matches the seeding Xavier had when last winning an NCAA Tournament game. The Musketeers were a seventh seed in 1997 when they downed sixth-seeded Vanderbilt.
Xavier is 6-13 all-time in 13 NCAA Tournament appearances. Last year the Musketeers, seeded 11th, lost to Notre Dame, 83-71, in the first round in Kansas City, Missouri. Xavier's best showing in an NCAA Tournament was a run to the Sweet 16 in 1990.
Before losing to Texas that year, the Musketeers beat both Kansas State and Georgetown.
Like Hawaii, the Musketeers have been tough away from home, having won nine of 12 road games for the year. They are 3-1 on a neutral court.
The three-point shot should figure big in this one. Xavier is limiting its opponents to 30.5 percent shooting from beyond the three-point, while Hawaii will counter with the best three-point shooting team in the WAC.
Jack Danilewicz is a College Basketball Analyst for the Rainbow Sports Network. His breakdown of Friday's Xavier-Hawaii game will appear on Wednesday.