How Did We Get Here?
Xavier got seeded #1 in the West Region after winning the Big East Regular Season and going 28-5 in the regular season. Texas Southern was placed in the First Four in Dayton and beat NC Central after finishing the regular season 15-19 and then winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament.
What is at Stake?
The beauty of this tournament is that the only thing at stake is your season continuing another day at this point. It doesn’t matter who you have beaten previously, what your RPI, KenPom, or AP rank is. If you want to keep playing basketball: win. If you do not do that, your season is over.
Will there be a hangover? The last game Xavier played featured a collapse for the ages and a terrible performance from Trevon Bluiett. The Musketeers can’t carry that with them into the NCAA tournament. A nice quick start would go a long way toward allaying fears.
Where is Kaiser Gates? Gates was excellent when Xavier buried St. John’s, a one man offensive handicap as the wheels came off against Providence. If the Musketeers are going deep into this tournament, they need Kaiser to be at his best. Last year, Gates stepped up in the Big Dance. Doing that again would be a boon to Xavier’s chances.
Can Xavier stay fresh? A runaway win would give Xavier a chance to rest some of the big guns. It may not be necessary for everyone to spend a long time cooling their heels, but it would also be good to see Trevon and JP staying far away from the 35 minute mark.
Be aggressive- Texas Southern is there for the taking defensively. Xavier is one of the best offensive teams in the nation. Mike Davis is going to have a plan to slow the Musketeers down, but he’s not going to have the horses to execute it. X needs to come out and hammer the Tigers early.
Bury the game- Along with that comes the killing instinct that Xavier has lacked at times this year. There is no reason for this game to be close at halftime, let alone in the second half. On the other hand, the Musketeers tend to switch off at the most inopportune of times. Letting the Tigers even sniff history would unnecessarily energize them. Xavier needs to get the job done early.
Stay classy- If this isn’t always the goal, I don’t know what is.