There are only four teams still standing in the Big East this year, and Xavier is one of them. Tonight at somewhere around 9:30pm Eastern time, the Musketeers will tip off against Georgetown for the honor of facing either Villanova or Providence in the conference tournament final. A season of mild turmoil is now behind the Musketeers, they are in the big dance no matter what happens, now it's time to grab a first Big East title.
How did we get here?
Georgetown 60-55 Creighton
Creighton is 20 points spread over an entire season from being 10-8 in the Big East and in the conference semifinals. Those 20 points never came though, and they dropped another gutting one last night. Georgetown doesn't always win pretty, and this was another example of that. As points aren't awarded for style though, they won't care. The Hoyas shot .378/.353/.769 and advanced solely because they made 20 free throws where the Bluejays only attempted eight. DSR came within five of scoring fully half of teams points, went 7-7 from the line, and jarred four three pointers. Georgetown turned Creighton over 18 times, including three in the decisive stretch.
Xavier 67-61 Butler
You know this one, right? Xavier played rotten basketball to start each half, rallied late, and somehow won. Some people on Twitter have rammed into my head that Butler has a dog as a mascot, ruining my theory that Alex Barlow was the mascot. Barlow himself went for 22/4/1 and very nearly put Xavier in a very tenuous situation come Sunday. He didn't though, because Xavier put five players in double figures and very nearly fought Butler to a standstill on the glass. For more coverage of Xavier's overtime win, read last night's Boxscore Breakdown.
Xavier won both matchups in the regular season by double digits. First came a New Year's Eve thrashing of the Hoyas 70-53 at the Cintas Center. Xavier desperately needed a road win later in the year, and got that in the form of a 60-53 win at the Verizon Center. Georgetown nearly rallied in the second game, but was nowhere close in the first.
Can Xavier stop DSR? Georgetown's point guard is the them when the game gets late. If you don't believe, you can ask his coach, who said exactly that last night. The Hoyas look for Smith-Rivera whenever they can, and he shoots until it goes in or the final horn sounds. Last night only Josh Smith joined him in double figures. If DSR doesn't get going or is forced to be inefficient, Xavier is at a massive advantage.
Who will play? It wasn't just that JP Macura started, it was that he played an extremely rare 14 minute trillion. For a player who didn't add very much to the game, he got an awful lot of run. On the other hand, Larry Austin Jr. played only three minutes and managed two rebounds and an assist. Those three minutes were the only ones that Dee Davis didn't play.
Will the Musketeers make some threes? 5-15 last night wasn't bad, but Xavier can't afford to get any worse from deep. Trevon Bluiett knocked down a huge shot, as did Dee Davis, but the team that was pouring in threes earlier in the season is gone. Most worryingly, Myles Davis has gone very cold. This issued could be somewhat alleviated by shooting better than 60% from the line.
Stay focused: Everyone knows the win last night cemented Xavier as a tournament team. That doesn't mean the job is done. There were times even last night that the Musketeers looked a bit lackadaisical, the Hoyas will punish that far more harshly than Butler did.
Win the battle on the boards: If you believe the numbers, Xavier should have the edge here, but that doesn't account for the fact that the Musketeers will likely play four over one like they did the last time they faced Georgetown. It will be incumbent upon Trevon Bluiett and the guards to get more involved in the rebounding and not trust Jalen Reynolds and Matt Stainbrook to do it all. James Farr could potentially explode in this game if given a chance.
Post low: Last night, Butler pushed Xavier out of the blocks and the offense suffered for it. Stainbrook must, must establish himself down low for the Musketeers to work effective offense. If he's setting high again, it's going to be another night of bad offense.