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.