Thursday March 6, 2014
When: 7:00 pm Eastern
#6 Villanova Wildcats (26-3, 14-2) vs. Xavier Musketeers (20-10, 10-7)
RPI: Villanova: 4 | Xavier: 46
KenPom: Villanova: 7 | Xavier: 43
Cintas Center (Capacity: 10,250)
Where: Cincinnati, OH
TV: Fox Sports 1
Radio: 1210 WPHT
Odds: Villanova -2.5 | O/U OFF
Yes, I used the word penultimate.
Villanova has won 17 of the 21 matchups, and are 14 for their last 17, including an 81-58 victory back in early February. They've been squaring off since 1952, which was also a Wildcat win. In February, the Wildcats played relatively ugly in the Pavilion, playing to a 28-22 halftime score, but stormed out of the gates and dropped 53 on them in the second half. Darryl Reynolds even saw a minute of playing time.
More from our team sites
More from our team sites
You used to be able to say that outside of a trip to Atlantis, the Musketeers were a relatively dominant team. And although they have fallen a bit lately (most notably a loss to Seton Hall), they still should be able to make the NCAA Tournament, even if they lose to Villanova and fall in the first round of the Big East tourney. But many people fail to see the struggles they've noticed on the road this year.
Xavier went 1-3 at neutral sites this season, with a win against crosstown rival Cincinnati, and the three losses in the Bahamas. Their only true road win in the non-conference schedule was a 3-point victory at Alabama.
In the Big East, they went 3-6 (with wins against Butler, DePaul, and St. John's) away from Ohio, and are 7-1 so far at home within the conference. The only loss came against Seton Hall, which is sort of baffling. Regardless, this is not a piece of cake, even with Villanova on a roll.
By now, you should know Semaj Christon. He's good. He's shooting 45% from deep and is averaging 17 points per game. The man plays 35 minutes a game and will be a tough matchup for the 'Cats.
But the key to the game will be rebounding, especially with Matt Stainbrook out with an injury. Stainbrook is the Big East's second-leading rebounder, so the Musketeers will have to make up for that loss in order to keep pace.
Chris Mack's Twitter account is that of a real person, not just a coach-bot. He started coaching at Xavier in 2005, but didn't grab the head coaching job until 2009, when he took over for Sean Miller. He went to St. Xavier High School and attended the University of Evansville before transferring to Xavier University.
As a shout-out to the team that just toppled the Blue Devils, Mack was an assistant coach at Wake Forest before signing on as Miller's assistant in 2005.
I went to Wikipedia, and outside of the names Brian picked for the last preview, I recognized a total of 0. But it's worth noting that Musketeer grad Senator Jim Bunning once threw a perfect game for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1964.
Reaching back through the time machine, I discovered that Frank Robinson attended Xavier before going on to a Hall-of-Fame career. Lloyd Ward, CEO of the US Olympic Committee in 1984, and Bill Kelly, owner of Jelly Belly, are Xavier grads.
If Brian or I missed someone important, let us know in the comments!