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 4 seed, the 2010 Xavier Musketeers!
Chris Mack was only 39 years old when he was promoted to take over from Sean Miller. Mack wasn’t the easy choice, there were plenty of more experienced names floating around, but he came with Miller’s recommendation and with the advantage of knowing the team he was taking over.
That team changed a bit in the first season away from Miller. Mack played at a much faster pace and, a year after bigs had been three of Xavier’s top four in usage, installed a guard heavy offense. On defense this season began the heavy emphasis on the packline and Kenny Frease chasing ballhandlers near mid-court. One of those was a good thing,
The story of this season begins with Indiana transfer Jordan Crawford. Crawford was a lanky scorer who wanted the ball and wanted to shoot it. Lost in the 20.5/4.7/2.9 that Crawford posted was the fact that he was almost bloodlessly efficient for a guard. His assist rate of 20.3% was that of a middling point guard, his turnover rate of 14.3% was elite for just anyone. Mix in 39% three point shooting and 77% free throw shooting and you get an offensive efficiency of 111.2 for a guy who used the ball on 29% of Xavier’s possessions and shot more than all but 11 other players in the nation. Crawford was absolutely amazing this season for X.
But he was far from a one man show. A sophomore guard who insisted on being called Tu was also on the team. Holloway existed a little bit in Crawford’s shadow, but he was no slouch this season. 12.1/2.4/3.9 doesn’t tell the story of a small guard who got to the line a lot and knocked down 84.6% of his attempts there while also running the offense alongside a ball dominant scorer. Jason Love was hammering the glass and finishing off perhaps Xavier’s greatest ever development from a guy who played four minutes per game as a freshman to a guy who started 35 as a senior and nearly averaged a double double doing it.
Jamel McLean was a menace on the glass at both ends. Dante Jackson was the warrior heart of the team and joined Brad Redford in shooting over 40% behind the arc. A freshman who oozed swagger everywhere he went frequently spelled Holloway in the backcourt. While Mark Lyons would earn his fame as a shooting guard, he ran the point a lot for this team. Kenny Frease and Andrew Taylor round out a list of nine guys who averaged double digit minutes. This team was deep, and it was good depth.
Xavier scored 100+ points three times this season. They scored 92 and 96 and lost. They were over 85 12 different times. These guys filled it up. On the 8th of December, though, they only scored 56 in a 15 point loss to Kansas State. Five days later, though, they were back to winning ways in one of the most memorable Crosstown Shootouts ever. Dante Jackson was a whirlwind of malevolent energy and got himself a technical, Jason Love grabbed 19 rebounds, and Tu Holloway had the first Tu Holloway game, pouring in 26 when Jordan Crawford could never quite get rolling. Xavier won a double overtime instant classic.
The next game was equally famous, but not for nearly the same reasons. On the road at ranked Butler, Xavier came back from a 14 point deficit to lead late when Gordon Hayward scored with 1.8 seconds left. After a bizarre stoppage involving a stopwatch being brought in from the stands, officials determined that Hayward had actually scored with no time left and the game was over. Xavier’s shocked players left the court sharing a sense of disbelief with everyone else watching. Rumor has it that Tu Holloway vented his frustration on a drinking fountain, but it seems difficult to believe that indoor plumbing is one of the features of the barn Butler plays in.
All of this just set the stage for one of the greatest NCAA tournament games of all time. After ripping through the A10 at 14-2, Xavier earned a six seed in the big dance. The Musketeers made light work of Minnesota and then played what would have been considered a classic to dispose of Pitt. No one remembers that game though because, with the Elite Eight beckoning, Xavier met Kansas State again. This one was played at Xavier’s pace and went back and forth into double overtime. Jordan Crawford (32) and Tu Holloway (26) went blow for blow with Jacob Pullen and both scored to keep the game going as Xavier fell in one of those rare games where even a loss wasn’t soul crushing. It was the Wildcats who may have won, but it was Xavier that made the history.