For the second year running, Villanova Wildcats have the opportunity to lock down the outright BIG EAST championship at the Cintas Center. Xavier Musketeers has plenty of motivation too - they're trying to secure an NCAA Tournament bid and a win over the #6 Wildcats would surely put a bow on their resume.
WestCoastd'Artagnan, from the very solid Xavier blog Banners on the Parkway was kind enough to get us caught up to speed on Xavier's season and what he makes of Saturday's game.
For the second straight season, Xavier is on the bubble - albeit it on the right side of it - what do they have to do to become a lock?
The bubble is never a stable place to be in. Last year Xavier got sent to the play-in realm where we looked bad against NC State and never saw the field of 64. Heading into Monday's game against St. John's I thought that we would be sealed with a win, but that did not happen. At this point I am thinking that win either against Villanova or Creighton (one is obviously easier then the other) and a win on the Thursday of the Big East Tournament should do it. It is always hard to see what the committee wants, but I think they are two wins away from sealing it.
What's the ceiling for Xavier in the NCAA Tournament? Can they make a run to the second weekend as a 8-9-10 seed?
Xavier has shown flashes of great basketball, so the sweet 16 just might be possible. The best case scenario is we earn a 10 seed, and face someone like Ole Miss or Georgia, win that game then come out swinging against a 2 seed. So I would say that the ceiling is the sweet 16. Round of 32 is absolutely doable and I think that is the more realistic option. Others would say that we are doomed in the first round, but I like to be an optimist.
Given the turn of events at SMU, Justin Martin doesn't appear to be a big loss - who has stepped up this year to replace his production?
Justin Martin was an enigma during his time at Xavier. He was extremely talented but often lazy. He could make a big offensive play and then make absolutely zero sense on defense five seconds later. Because of that, he was not a huge loss but he was still a piece that we wish we had. I do not think that we have had one player completely take his place, rather certain guys being more productive. They did not play the same position, but Remy Abell has been a solid, consistent player all year for Xavier. He is something that J-Mart never was, so I think he has been a welcomed addition. Also we have seen freshman Trevon Bluiett be a beast this season, so having a freshmen arrive like that is definitely a welcomed sight. So yeah, Abell in the "he's consistent and that helps" way and Bluiett in the statistical way.
Give me your All-BIG EAST 1st and 2nd teams - any notable exclusions?
Wow that is tough. Ok, first team:
Darrun Hilliard, Sir'Dominic Pointer,D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, LaDontae Henton, and Matt Stainbrook.
Second team: Kris Dunn, D'Angelo Harrison, Matt Carlino, Roosevelt Jones, and Joshua Smith.
I think at this point with how they have imploded and had plenty of team dynamics issues I could not in good conscious pick anyone from Seton Hall. Too messy for me so I left them out.
Xavier has quickly become a top-of-the-table program in the BIG EAST - life is good? Or can and will things get better?
Great question. Right now we are thrilled that this Big East is working out. I honestly prefer being a better Big East program than a #1 Atlantic 10 program. Now that being said, life is good but things need to improve. Xavier has become a name in college hoops in the last 20 years, yet the farthest we have ever gotten is the Elite Eight. This program is craving a final four appearance to solidify ourself. Last year's recruiting class was big and I am hoping that if we can consistently do that then we will get better and hopefully win a Big East championship in the next few years.
It came up on our blog the other day - any chance Chris Mack can be wooed to another job?
I think it depends on the job. Mack is a Xavier guy and from Cincinnati so I think that he would turn down almost any offer. The name is escaping me right now but there were whispers that he was leaving last summer to take a Pac-12 job but he chose to stay and I think that is what he wants to do. Now if Kansas comes calling later we will see, but I do not think that Chris Mack could easily be wooed to another job.
Give us your prediction - will Villanova clinch the conference title at the Cintas Center for the second straight year or will X make them wait?
As much as I would love to see Xavier pull it off, get the win, and boost their tournament resume, it will not happen. Villanova is going to win this game by about 10. One day the tables will turn, but unfortunately that probably will not be this Saturday.