After ending Saint Joseph's undefeated season in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament last Thrusday, the Musketeers became the first team in A-10 history to win four straight games and claim the tournament title. Xavier knocked off Dayton 58-49 in the final to receive the league's automatic bid to the Big Dance.
"I don't think I've been more proud of this group of young men," Xavier coach Thad Matta said. "The road that this team has had to take to get to this night has been an incredible ride. I credit our guys for never giving up."
Winners of 13 of their past 14 games, Matta's squad posted a 23-10 mark on the season, and went 7-4 against the NCAA Tournament field. The Musketeers will make their fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA this year.
Led by the senior backcourt of 6-foot-4 Romain Sato (16.1, 8.0) and Lionel Chalmers (16.0), Xavier outscores its opponents by 8 per game (70-62). The Musketeers also start 6'0 sophomore Dedrick Finn (8.0, 112 assists), 6'9 freshman Justin Doellman (7.3), and 6'9, 245-pound senior forward Anthony Myles (10.4, 6.8). Myles led the A-10 in offensive rebounding (3.5 per game) this season.
The Musketeers get contributions off the bench from 6'6 freshman Justin Cage (22 minutes per game), 6'8 freshman Brandon Cole (9 minutes), 6'9 sophomore Will Caudle (10 minutes), and 6'4 junior Keith Jackson (11 minutes). Cage, who started four games this season, leads the reserves with 4.8 points per game.
"They beat Cincinnati earlier in the year, and blew out Saint Joe's," University of Louisville Coach Rick Pitino said. "So they're one of the hottest teams in the country and a very difficult opening matchup. But when you're a ten seed you expect a very difficult opening matchup."
"We know they're a very talented team," senior forward Luke Whitehead said. "And we're just going to be ready to play our best basketball against them."
Xavier, who went 13-3 at home, was just 10-7 on the road and in neutral court games combined this season. They lost to Indiana 80-77 in overtime at the John Wooden Tradition, lost at Mississippi State 82-70, lost at Iowa State and beat Alabama and Cincinnati at home.
Louisville has faced Xavier 41 times and owns a 25-16 record against the Musketeers.
Tipoff is slated for about 9:40 Friday night following the Miss. State/Monmouth game.