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Xavier Might Accidentally Win the Big East
I’m not sure why I am doing this to myself, but I have fully convinced my dumb brain that Xavier could win the Big East. You might be asking yourself, “Drew, why do you think that a team that lost 7 out of their last 9 games can win the Big East?” And that’s a fair question, but I think Xavier was finally able to stop the flooding with a nice win over Georgetown and I think they’re going to build off of that win.
The Musketeers begin their Big East Tournament run with their third matchup with Butler. Xavier hand led them in their first two go-arounds, but it’s always tough to beat a team three times in one season. Xavier is finally getting their whole roster fully healthy, while Butler’s Jair Bolden will be a game-time decision.
Tonight’s the chance to get a statement win to start the Big East Tournament. Xavier is a 6.5 point favorite and they have to cover against a bad Butler team. They’ll need all the momentum they can get before their potential rematch with Providence. They’ve already played two instant classics with the Friars, so they know they can compete with them. Also, I think a second-round matchup with Providence is significantly better than running into a Villanova buzzsaw in Xavier’s second game at the Garden.
If Xavier wants to make noise in the Big East Tournament, their upperclassmen need to take full control of a game. Nate Johnson has finally begun to play like himself for the first time since his injury, but the Musketeers will need more than just a big scoring day from Johnson. They need their ex-all-Big East players, Paul Scruggs and Zach Freemantle, to shoot somewhere near their career averages. Fremantle is shooting just 20% from beyond the arc, while Scruggs is only knocking down triples at a 33% clip. They have to be better, the buck stops with them.
Most importantly for Xavier, what type of defense will we see. If Jack Nunge and Freemantle can hang with faster players on the perimeter, and stay out of foul trouble, it will take a lot of pressure off our guards. This will let Colby Jones and Scruggs extend their defense beyond the three-point line and take more risks. Team defense needs to happen to shut down these high-power Big East offenses.
I’m not sure why, but I’m buying in on an upset run for Xavier. Will this most likely lead to inevitable disappointment, yes, but isn’t that the whole point of being a fan?
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