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 7 seed, the 2004 Xavier Musketeers!
In his third (and final) year at Xavier, Thad Matta had the program clicking. They were coming off of a disappointing showing in the tournament, winning just one game as a 3 seed in David West's senior year, but he had a deep and talented squad back and his system was well and truly installed.
This team took and made a ton of threes and took care of the ball well. On defense, they didn't force a lot of turnovers, but they kept opponents out of the lane and didn't allow easy shots from anywhere. In a trademark of Marta teams, they very rarely fouled. Matta had put together a tough and disciplined squad.
Senior guard Lionel Chalmers (16.6/3.3/3.2) led the line, providing toughness and a unique brand of clutch shot-making. At 6'5" and chiseled out of granite, his backcourt mate Romain Sato (16.3/8.0/2.3) was just too big and strong for A10 guards. He was the team's best rebounder and cash from the line. Sophomore Dedrick Finn (8.5/2.1/3.4) filled in at both guard spots and led the team in assist rate.
Aside from Chalmers and Sato, the only other player to start all 37 games was big man Anthony Myles (10.6/6.9/0.9). He led the team in offensive rebounding, and it wasn't particularly close. Freshman forwards Justin Doellman (7.3/3.6/1.7) and Justin Cage (4.6/3.4/1.1) flashed the potential that they would make good on as four-year guys, with Doellman having a silly inside-out game and Cage employing a bruising, athletic form of ball that made him play a lot bigger than the 6'6" the program showed.
The bench filled out with big men Will Caudle and Brandon Cole, who combined to average 6 and 5, and Keith Jackson.
Things got off to a rocky start. Xavier won three buy games to open the year, then lost away from home to Ball State and a mediocre Indiana team. They briefly got right with a win over Miami (OH) in one of the sincerely ugliest basketball games I've ever seen, but their 8-4 non-conference record was an unimpressive mish-mash of performances that touted a win over Alabama as the only positive result of note.
The conference season began in miserable fashion. After opening with a win over URI, Xavier dropped 5 of 6, with the opponents'names being enough to turn one's stomach: Duquesne, Saint Joseph's (who was good that year), Richmond, GW, Dayton. Only a win over La Salle offered a respite. Seven games into A10 play, Xavier was 10-9 (2-5) and the Shootout loomed.
Lionel Chalmers took over. First he hit a step-back dagger for the last of his 20 to carry X over #10 UC as the Muskies held the Bearcats without a basket in the last six and a half minutes. He dropped 23 on Fordham, including 7 made threes, in the next game, then another 20 on Richmond. Three weeks after Xavier bottomed out against Dayton, he went for 17/5/4 to lead X past UD for a sixth-straight win. In all, X won 9 of their last 10 to hit the tournament season with some serious momentum.
First was the conference tournament and - after a win over St. Bonaventure that was so perfunctory it's not even getting its own sentence - undefeated national #1 Saint Joseph's awaited.
Xavier ran them off the court. X shot 71% as a team, and Lionel Chalmers dropped 23 on 10-13 shooting. Romain Sato chipped in a cool 24 and 11 and Anthony Myles showed up for 19 and 9. Xavier dominated a team that has barely been challenged since Christmas basically from wire-to-wire. From there X thumped GW behind 26 from Chalmers and 18 and 11 from Sato before holding Dayton without a field goal for the last 8:31 of the championship game to erase a seven-point deficit and win the A10's auto bid.
Xavier drew Louisville in the first round and needed something special to advance. Down 14 in the second half, X ripped off a 41-17 run to close it. Chalmers had 25 on 8-13 shooting, Sato added 24, and Myles had 15-11. The Muskies drew Mississippi State - who had beaten them earlier in the year for a chance to advance to the Sweet 16. Chalmers was again on one, pouring in 31. He had help from Dedrick Finn, who had 22 and made 5 threes, and Justin Doellman, who scored 11 points in 5 minutes during the decisive second-half run to put the game away.
Next up and next down was Texas, who fell victim to 27 from Romain Sato. Chalmers had a modest 14/7/6, and Xavier shot 13-16 from the line down the stretch to ice it.
Only Duke stood between Xavier and the Final Four. Chalmers had 17, Sato had 10 and 11, and Myles had 16 and 10. A pair of rapid fire questionable calls fouled Myles out with 6:22 remaining, and X couldn't quite get over the hump without him.
This was the first of three Elite Eight runs for Xavier, but I sincerely believe they were robbed of a Final Four appearance by the officials. Please respect my privacy during this difficult time.