The Xavier Sweet 16* features all 19 Xavier teams from the KenPom era in one bracket where Twitter polls will decide the winners. Here’s your 10 seed, the 2010 Xavier Musketeers!
Chris Mack was in his pomp for Xavier this year, and this may have been his best coaching job at Cintas. Despite losing one of the best guards in the nation in Ed Sumner, he put together a top-30 offense despite the team being outside the top 100 in EFG%. They were dominant on the glass on both ends and got to the line a ton without fouling too much on the other end.
The team's defense, particularly in the paint, was its Achilles heel, but Mack - as was his pattern - did a good job of keeping the opponents beyond the arc. This was the year the 1-3-1 came to the fore, with the length and ferocity of JP Macura, Malcolm Bernard, Quentin Goodin, and Kaiser Gates showcased in a way that a man defense just didn't allow.
Trevon Bluiett (18.5/5.7/2.1) and JP Macura (14.4/4.4/2.9) were juniors and in the process of cementing their conjoined legacy at Xavier. Ed Sumner (15.0/5.3/4.0) was, before his season-ending injury, irrepressible, assisting 30% of his teammates' buckets and getting to the line almost 7 times per game. When he went down, Q (3.4 APG) filled in admirably as a freshman.
Post play wasn't a focus, but RaShid Gaston (7.4/5.9/0.6) started early on and led a line that dominated the glass. By tournament time, Tyrique Jones (4.2/3.1/0.3) had forces his way into the lineup and Sean O'Mara (6 and 3) was providing steady production off the bench.
The team wouldn't have had a run in it without a pair of versatile wings in Malcom Bernard (6.6/4.1/1.5) and Kaiser Gates (5.8/4.0/0.7). Those guys combined to make 86 threes and, on a team stocked with offense-first players, provided some steel to the perimeter defense.
The non-conference portion of this year was kind of unorthodox. Xavier played some mediocre teams to start the year but no really bad ones the way you'd expect to see in buy games. They romped to victory in the Tire Pros Invitational in November, then came home to best UNI, the team they had beaten in the final of the event. Their two top games were at Baylor and at Colorado, and both were losses. The Baylor game was a complete capitulation, as the Bears went on a 21-2 run late to turn it into a laugher.
Despite that faceplant, the Muskies strung together a six-game win streak that included the first three games of conference play and had them looking good at 13-2. It wouldn't last. They lost 4 of their next 5 - including wasting Tre's 40-point Shootout performance - and needed a lull in the schedule to get healthy. They did just that, capping it with a comeback victory at Creighton behind 16 points on 8-8 shooting in just 18 minutes from freshman Tyrique Jones.
Then Ed got hurt. When Sumner's season ended, it looked like Xavier's did, too. They dropped six in a row in a brutal stretch of 5 KenPom tier A games and one tier B - home to Marquette. The Muskies managed to salvage .500 in the Big East by winning at DePaul on the season's final day, but you could have been forgiven for not being optimistic heading into the Big East Tournament.
After a perfunctory win over DePaul on Wednesday, Xavier had Butler and a chance to lock in an at-large bid. The Muskies went down 7 in the second half, but ripped off 10 straight to get back into it. Butler responded, but Xavier erased another seven-point deficit with 8 to play before a frenetic final minute ended with Tre sticking the gamer over Andrew Chrabascz and then telling everyone about it. Creighton hit 65% from deep to hold off Xavier in the next round, but the ticket was punched.
And what a ticket it was. An 11 seed, Xavier cracked off a 14-0 run in 4 second-half minutes to bury Maryland in the first round. Then X just wheeled Florida State, riding cauterizingly hot three-point shooting and the rich boy swagger of Trevon Bluiett to a dominant 91-66 win.
Then came maybe the best Xavier game of my lifetime. The Muskies took on Arizona and Sean Miller with a trip to the Elite Eight on the line. Heroes abounded: Tre had 25, JP dropped 14/7/5, Mal went 3-3 from deep and had 15. At the last, though, it was Sean O'Mara getting his number called on Corner Rip High-Low Counter. He dunked the gamer over the converging Arizona defense, Malcom Bernard ran down one last rebound, and it was on to take on Gonzaga for a trip to the Final Four.
You all know how that ended, as a Xavier team that was plainly out of gas finally hit the wall. The 2017 squad had its share of adversity, but its season was one of my favorites. From the emergence of my man Q to the chemistry between Tre and JP, it was a team that willed itself to 100% of its potential. When the final synapses of my brain fire as my body coasts towards room temperature, I hope they show me Malcom Bernard, forever throwing the ball into the rafters and cross-checking the incoming bench mob.