Xavier is one of just four programs to have made the Sweet 16 in four of the past five years, putting their name along side Michigan State, Kansas and North Carolina.
But given that the Musketeers are the only team from outside a power conference left in the NCAA tournament, the dreaded “mid-major” label will undoubtedly get pulled out at some point during their Sweet 16 matchup with Baylor tonight.
While calling this program a mid-major is unfair — and likely to get you an earful from head coach Chris Mack — what is fair to say is that the Musketeers are the underdogs. Beyond the fact that they are a No. 10 seed and needed a run in the Atlantic 10 tournament just to get an at-large bid, Baylor is the No. 3 seed, fourth-place finisher in the Big 12 and a team with NBA talent up and down their roster.
Making matters worse for Xavier is that they are beat up.
Dez Wells, who is Xavier best athlete as a well-built, 6’5″ wing, played just eight minutes against Lehigh on Sunday after injuring his toe. According to Mack, “he’s not 100 percent, but he’s going to give it what he can.”
“It’s going to be a game-time decision. It really hasn’t changed from the beginning of the week.”
Wells isn’t the only game-time decision for the Musketeers. Andre Walker took a shot to the head against Notre Dame and only played 20 minutes against Lehigh.
“He’s had some migraine headaches over the last couple of days,” Mack said. “It’s just smarter for us, especially with a fifth-year player who’s been through the rigors of college basketball and knows what the NCAA tournament is all about, to just sort of stay back and continue to get rest so he can be able to go.”
The Musketeers are going to have their work cut out for them tonight, and playing with two banged up starters certainly isn’t going to help matters.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Syracuse vs. No. 18 UConn, 3:30 p.m.
For the first time since the Orange departed the Big East, the two former rivals will square off. Today’s battle will take place at the Battle 4 Atlantis, as the Orange knocked off Charlotte yesterday and the Huskies dispatched Michigan. To get ready for this battle, I’d suggest ready through the conversation @NoEscalators had with himself last night.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 25 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Gonzaga, 1:00 p.m.
The other semifinal in the Battle 4 Atlantis could end up being just as good, as the Aggies — who might be the second best team in the SEC — square off with a Gonzaga team that has one of the best front lines in the country. This will be a good test to figure out just how good both of these teams are.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1. No. 20 Wichita State vs. USC, 2:00 p.m.: The Shockers will be without Fred VanVleet for this event. It will also be a chance for us to gauge just how good this 4-0 USC team is.
2. No. 23 Xavier vs. Alabama, 12:00 p.m: The Musketeers should have no problems dispatching Alabama.
3. No. 8 Villanova vs. Stanford, 4:30 p.m.: The Wildcats are, once again, as good as any team in the country. Josh Hart might be the nation’s most underrated star.
4. No. 14 Cal vs. San Diego State, 12:00 a.m.: Tyrone Wallace and company have been awesome this season. They get their first real test of the season tonight.
5. Providence vs. Evansville, 7:00 p.m.: Evansville is one of the nation’s best mid-majors, good enough to give the likes of Wichita State and Northern Iowa a fight in the Missouri Valley. And Providence? They got a kid named Kris Dunn. Heard of him?
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- No. 3 Michigan State vs. Boston College, 6:30 p.m.
- No. 11 Arizona vs. Santa Clara, 11:30 p.m.
- No. 17 Notre Dame vs. Monmouth, 6:30 p.m.
No. 2 Maryland finally found their rhythm on Wednesday night, blowing out a good Rhode Island team, 86-63, in the finals of the Cancun Challenge.
Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon combined for 34 points and eight assists on 13-for-14 shooting and Robert Carter added 15 points, nine boards, three assists and three blocks. Peak Maryland, which is what we saw tonight, is really dangerous.
But Peak Maryland wasn’t the story after the game, as tempers flared in the waning minutes.
It started when Maryland coach Mark Turgeon called a timeout with less than two minutes remaining. Jake Layman had just hit a three to put Maryland up by 24 points and Turgeon wanted to get his walk-ons in the game. Hurley said to the Maryland bench, “We’ll see you again, boy,” according to Inside Maryland Sports, which prompted this reaction from Turgeon:
After the game, the two teams had to be separated in layup lines. According to reports from IMS and from the Baltimore Sun, Hurley was cursing at Maryland players as he was shaking their hands after the game. According Doug Gottlieb, who called the game for CBS Sports Network, Trimble said that the Rhode Island team wanted to “fight us”: