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The reasons to think this can happen

Florida St is imposing on paper, but that hardly means this is a game that Xavier has no chance in.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Maryland vs Xavier
Let’s see some more celebrating tonight
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Make no mistake about it, Florida St is tough. This is the best team that Xavier will have played since all the way back in the Big East tournament. The Seminoles are big, they are fast, they are athletic, and they want to dunk and throw shots and do all the things that big athletic guys like to do. There is no way to look at the footage of them physically dominating FGCU and not be a little bit concerned about tonight’s game. These guys can flat out play.

But there’s no reason for Xavier fans to descend into a pit of despair just yet. RaShid Gaston and Tyrique Jones may not be seven feet tall, but they match the athletes that the Seminoles bring to the table. Those two being available is a reason for hope but it is hardly the only one.

Xavier has seen this before:

The Seminoles are 19th in the nation at blocking shots. While that is impressive, it’s not even the best that the Musketeers have seen this year. Both UC (let’s not talk about that) and St. John’s block shots at a better rate than Florida St. does.

Xavier can get on the glass:

Florida St. is excellent on the boards, but they aren’t as good as the Musketeers. The Seminoles don’t defend the defensive glass all that well and, while they try to get on the offensive glass, they don’t do that as well as Xavier tends to prevent it. Multiple bites at the apple on one end and one shot possessions on the other are one way X can control this game.

It is possible to get to the line:

Florida St. has five different players that would foul out if they were forced to play 40 minutes. They are going to slap and flail until they block a shot. If they have to whack an arm or head or two to do that, they will. Xavier doesn’t shoot well from the line but, God help them, this would be a great time to do it.

Xavier can make three pointers:

Gulf Coast got off 28 three pointers but only made eight. When teams shoot over 31% behind the arc against the Seminoles this year, they are 8-12. When that number jumps up to 37% that goes to 6-6. Xavier shot 39% against Maryland.

The Musketeers can control the tempo:

The Seminoles, as athletic teams do, love to run. They are 36th in adjusted tempo and take only 15.2 seconds per possession, 17th in the nation. Xavier, you may well be aware, plays a lot more slowly than that. If the Musketeers can keep the pace slow and frustrate the Seminoles, they can keep themselves in the game and keep Florida St. at an arm’s length.