Explorers Face Muskies in season finale

It's has been a long and frustrating season for the Explorers. Irony would have the Explorers pitted against the A-10 leading Xavier Musketeers in their last game. Coach John Giannini's squad is coming off their worst performance of the year against Massachusetts and this game doesn't figure to be any easier. Also, seniors Sean Neal and Mike St. John play their final game at Tom Gola arena.

Xavier probable starters: (22-7, 12-3)

24 Drew Lavender 5"7 JR. G
34 Stanley Burrell 6"3 JR. G
15 Justin Doelman 6"9 SR. F
3 Justin Cage 6"6 SR. F
1 Josh Duncan 6"9 JR. F

4TH year head coach Sean Miller is looking to send his Muskies to a second straight NCAA tournament appearance. They are coming off a 72-62 win over St. Joseph's Wednesday night. Justin Doellman led the way with 15 points and was joined in double figures by fellow senior Justin Cage and by sophomore B.J. Raymond off the bench with 10. Xavier is a team that can score inside or out. They share the ball on offense and have three players scoring in double figures for the season. Led by Doellman, juniors Stanley Burrell, and Oklahoma transfer Drew Lavender they have plenty of weapons at their disposal. Powerful Josh Duncan and do-everything Cage are just shy of double figures averaging 9.9 pts per game. Unbelievably this Xavier team has just about every starter averaging double figures per game. How do you get to be 22-7 overall and 12-3 in the conference? Incredibly Xavier is in the top 6 of every offensive and defensive statistical category. They are experienced and talented and just don't beat themselves. Defensively Justin Cage is a monster. He hounds the opponent's best player every night. He is one of those players who is always in the right spot at the right time.

The Explorers are coming off an embarrassing 103-62 loss to Massachusetts. By far their worst performance in a season filled with sub-par performances. Ruben Guillandeaux was the bright spot in the game scoring a team high 21 points. La Salle scored the first basket of the game before the Minutemen scored 16 straight points and never looked back. Without Guillandeaux the Explorers shot 29% from the field. La Salle's two top scorers, Darnell Harris and Rodney Green remain in a funk and that has contributed mightily to the Explorers woes. La Salle is 5-10 at Gola this year as the Muskies come into town. Sean Neal saw 21 minutes in the game, most of the season and contributed 4 points and 5 assists.

This is a tough game to predict. Not with regards to who wins but whether La Salle comes to play. Already eliminated from A-10 tournament play the Explorers came out without any energy against Umass. One would think that the pride factor and the fact that senior day festivities honoring Mike St. John and Sean Neal will take place may help the Explorers forget this game means little to their season in the standings. However, how they respond may go a long way for the coaching staff evaluating their players in the environment they find themselves in. Can they play on pride? Make no mistake the game means a lot to Xavier. They need to win this game in order to clinch the overall #1 seed in the A-10 tournament. They are currently tied with Massachusetts but with a head to head win they hold the tie-breaker. A win over the Explorers assures them top seed.

Keys to victory :

Control Lavender's dribble penetration
Play with effort, energy, pride, and passion
Keep turnovers down