You've had all week to get ready for the Sweet 16 and the game is almost here. Your Xavier Musketeers are about to face the Arizona Wildcats in Los Angeles. You already know how good the Wildcats are, but we still need to know more about them. To help out, we talked to our good friend Jason Bartel over at Arizona Desert Swarm.
1.) Here we are in the sweet 16! How does it feel to be through to the second weekend?
Honestly, if Arizona hadn't made it out of the first weekend, Tucson might have been burned to the ground. It's been the expectation for this team since the beginning of the season to at least be this far, if not the Elite Eight or Final Four. But it is nice to not have been one of the higher seeds to go down last weekend.
2.) This Arizona team has been downright impressive this year with only three losses. What has been the key to your success?
Defense and the team-first mentality. As you guys probably know, Sean Miller preaches defense, and that's where the success of his teams comes from. But on the offensive end, there are six guys that can get hot on any night and carry this team to victory. Those three losses have come against lesser opponents because there was a lot of hero ball going on. As long as the ball is moving around on the offensive end, this team has been unbeatable.
3.) We've heard a lot about freshman Stanley Johnson, but who else on this Arizona team does Xavier fans need to be aware of?
Honestly, Stanley Johnson may be the fourth-most important player on this team, even with his ridiculous size and skills. Senior point guard T.J. McConnell is the heart and soul of this team, and it seems like he never has an off game. Another name to know is Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. I'm guessing the TV crew will focus on his shimmy at the free throw line, but he may be the best defender in the country, and he's able to guard anyone from 1-4 on the court. And if Gabe York gets hot from behind the arc, things could get ugly fast.
4.) Speaking of Stanley Johnson, he seems to be going either 5 or 6 in this years draft. Do you agree with that or do you think he'll go higher or lower?
Yeah, I think the NBA guys are infatuated with his size and strength, and his ability to shoot the ball. But even with his NBA skill set, make no mistake that this team can win even when he's not on. Take the game at Utah for example. Stanley was 3-19 from the field, and Miller benched him for the final minutes, and the Wildcats came back and won. This team's success isn't dependent on him at all.
5.) Thank you for beating Ohio State. Not really a question, just a thank you from someone who does not like Ohio State.
You are very welcome. It was nice to get them back for two years ago.
6.) As you are probably aware, this is the first time that Sean Miller has faced his former team. Do you think there will be much emotions to this game or will be it be strictly business on both sides?
If this game had happened a few years ago, maybe there would be more emotions. But it's been a while since he came here, and all of those players have gone their own ways now. I would think Miller probably has more emotions going up against Thad Matta and Ohio State then against Xavier. Also, being around him this year, I can't imagine him being a super-emotional dude.
7.) Prediction for how this will go?
I think this will go similar to the Ohio State game on Saturday. Xavier probably keeps it close in the first half, but then Arizona will go on one of its signature runs early in the second half, and hold a double-digit lead the rest of the way. Let's say, 75-62 final score with Arizona hopefully playing Wisconsin on Saturday.