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Some early Xavier v. Arizona thoughts

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Xavier will take on Arizona on Thursday in the Sweet 16. This is not our preview.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-West Regional-Arizona vs Xavier
Our current #5 is much better than this guy was when we played Arizona.
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

So I guess we’re doing this again. The nice people at CBS/TBS/TNT/TruTV will focus on the fact that Chris Mack and Sean Miller once coached together and are still friends; that’s fine. What happens on the court will be a lot more interesting than that.

Even aside from Xavier’s blistering hot shooting from behind the arc, the Muskies had some good matchups with how Florida State tries to play the game. No such tilts jump off the page against Arizona. The Wildcats do a lot of things well, and they mesh pretty well against what Xavier is trying to do.

Lauri Markkanen is going to be a problem. He’s a 7-foot center who can step out and hit threes. He draws a ton of fouls and doesn’t commit very many. He’s a dominant rebounder. He hits his free throws. On paper at least, he’ll be a handful for Xavier’s big men, whether it’s in a zone or man up.

Allonzo Trier is a 6’5” guard who can score it from all over, but he represents a much more manageable threat for the Muskies. At least we’ve seen players like him before.

Xavier took the game to Florida State at least in part because Coach Mack is so much better a game coach than Leonard Hamilton is. I don’t think Xavier is going to have such a decided advantage in that department on Thursday. Mack will have a good game plan drawn up, but Xavier fans know as well as anyone does that Sean Miller is no slouch in that department.

There aren’t any easy matchups left. To make it to the Final Four, you’re going to have to beat good teams unless you’re the ‘91-’92 Cincinnati Bearcats. This is where things get interesting. I’m excited to spend the next four days in gut-churning anxiety waiting for tip off.