Xavier Update

It's hard to classify a team that has reached the Sweet Sixteen the past three seasons and two Elite Eights this decade as one that is just happy to be in the NCAA Tournament. But one could excuse Xavier if there was just a hint of that feeling.

The Musketeers labored for the first two months of the season, a team searching for its identity after the departure of Jordan Crawford to the NBA and a season-ending injury to top 3-point threat Brad Redford. Xavier was 8-5 and lost by 20 points to city rival Cincinnati before resurrecting its season.

No. 6 seed Xavier (24-7) will face No. 11 seed Marquette (20-14) on Friday at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. The winner will face either No. 3 seed Syracuse or No. 14 seed Indiana State on Sunday.

Marquette has an extensive history against Xavier dating back to when the teams were members of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference from 1988-1991. In their most recent meeting, Marquette beat the Musketeers 71-61 last season in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.

Despite their difficult journey this season, the 18th-ranked Musketeers are tournament-tested and expecting to do well. They are pleased to be slotted in Cleveland, which is less than a four-hour drive from campus.

"We see it as an opportunity to advance to the second round, and not just happy to be here," senior guard Dante Jackson said. "We've always had a really good following no matter where we've been. I think our team is expecting a big crowd. We hope that all of Xavier nation comes out."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Xavier and Michigan State are the only two teams that have reached the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 in each of the past three seasons.

--Senior G Dante Jackson has played in 10 NCAA Tournament games for Xavier during the past three years.

--Junior G Tu Holloway was named Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year. Chris Mack was named A-10 Coach of the Year.

COACH: Chris Mack, two years at Xavier, second postseason appearance (second NCAA Tournament).

KEYS TO VICTORY: Xavier is at its best when guards Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons penetrate the lane to create scoring opportunities for post men Kenny Frease and Jamel McLean, or draw contact to get to the free-throw line. Holloway and Lyons shoot 87 percent and 73 percent from the foul line, respectively, while shooting better than 34 percent from 3-point range.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think there was a big-time hunger on Dayton's part. I think you throw on top of it the motivating factor of us beating them twice. I don't think it was a lack of focus on our part. That's in the past. Who cares? We're in the NCAA Tournament. We'll be excited to play on Friday".-- Coach Chris Mack, on recovering from a quarterfinal loss to Dayton in the Atlantic 10 tournament.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL GAME PREVIEW:

vs. Marquette, March 18, NCAA Tournament second round

KEY MATCHUPS: Marquette is led by senior Jimmy Butler, an all-Big East honorable mention guard who averages 16 points per game. Junior guard Darius Johnson-Odom, an all-Big East second-team selection, averages 15.9 points. The Golden Eagles struggle to defend 3-point shooters, and Xavier's Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons can be effective from 3-point range.

SCOUTING REPORT: One major point of emphasis for Marquette in preparation for its game against Xavier is defending the 3-point arc. The Golden Eagles allowed 36 made 3-pointers in three Big East Conference tournament games, including a season-high 13 in a quarterfinal loss to Louisville. Including a loss to Seton Hall in the regular-season finale, Marquette gave up 48 3-pointers in its final four games.

PLAYER NOTES

--Junior C Kenny Frease and senior F Jamel McLean were a force in the post late in the season. Frease is among Xavier's most improved players, averaging 11.7 points and 7.1 rebounds. McLean leads the team with 8.4 rebounds per game.

--Junior G Tu Holloway, who averages 20.2 points per game, was named third-team all-American by FOXSports.com. He also was named Yahoo Sports Honorable Mention All-American.

--Xavier played this season without junior G Brad Redford, who suffered ACL and medial meniscus tears in his left knee in the preseason. The dual tears have prolonged his rehab. Redford was not expected to begin running until at least April.


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