Louisville, KY December 23, 2015 :CHARRON ELLIOTT
We are a little over a month in the 2015-2016 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball season and there have been a lot of surprises already this year. The biggest surprise to a lot of basketball analysts and fans alike may be the stellar play of the Xavier Musketeer’s, a basketball program that has been on a rise ever since the hire of head coach Chris Mack in 2009. Mack has led the Musketeers to a record of 134-71 (not including the teams wins this season), and three Sweet Sixteen appearances including last year. The Musketeers finished the 2014-2015 season with a record of 23-14 and were 9-9 in Big East Conference games.
This year for the Musketeers has been historic as they are 12-0 and ranked as the 6th best team in the country in numerous basketball polls. Xavier opened up the season with some close home games in early November against Miami of Ohio and Missouri. They were able to defeat Miami of Ohio 81-72 and won against Missouri 78-66. Then Xavier faced the then 24th ranked Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor. Xavier was very determined to get an upset win against the Wolverines and were looking to stun the Michigan fan base. The Musketeers did just that defeating Michigan 86-70 and getting their first signature win of the season. Xavier outrebounded Michigan 47 to 29, including 18 rebounds by the Musketeers offense.
The Musketeers would then have a home game against Northern Kentucky in which they won 78-66. The next task for Xavier would be the nationally televised Advocare Inivitational in Orlando Florida. They opened up the tournament against the Alabama Crimson led by new head coach Avery Johnson. Xavier defeated Alabama convincingly 64-45, as they out rebounded Alabama 47-31. They also played stellar defense against the Crimson Tide forcing them to shoot just 30% from the field. Next game up was the USC Trojans and let’s just say it was an absolute onslaught by the Musketeers as they were up 54-27 at halftime. Although USC did fight back later in the game to make the final score 87-77 Xavier. Again the Musketeers out rebounded their opponent, this time they had a plus 13 advantage on the glass including 14 offensive rebounds. Xavier’s most impressive win of the tournament came in the championship game of in which they blewout their in-state rival the Dayton Flyers 90-61. In the game the Musketeers forced 22 turnovers and held the Fryers to just 25% from behind the three-point line. Xavier also shot nearly 52% from the field and 42% from behind the three-point line.
Xavier defeated both Western Kentucky and Wright State at the Cintas Center by more than 30 points each. The next test for the Musketeers would come from another rival, this time it would be the Bearcats of Cincinnati who were ranked in the top 25. Xavier came out on fire busting out to a 42-26 lead over Cinccinati in the first half. The Bearcats would fight back in the second half to make the game closer, but Xavier managed to win the game 65-55. Junior guard, Myles Davis shot nearly 70% from the field and led the Musketeers in scoring with 17 points.
Xavier didn’t really have any problems facing the Auburn Tigers last Saturday as they defeated Auburn 85-61 in the Cintas Center. However in Tuesday night’s game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, the Musketeers were challenged. Xavier was down 28-43 at half time against Wake Forest and looked to be on the verge of being upset. However the Musketeers defense limited the Demon Deacons to just 27 points in the 2nd half, while the offense scored 50 points. Freshman guard Edmon Sumner finished with a career high 21 points to go along with nine rebounds for the Musketeers.
So the question is are the Musketeers for real? Well considering that there are only five undefeated teams left in NCAA Men’s Division I basketball, I would say yes. However that isn’t my only reason let’s consider the following;
1.Xavier defeated two top 25 ranked teams handily in Michigan and Cincinnati.
2 Xavier defeated their in-state rival in Dayton 90-61 win, who is probably an NCAA tournamnet team.
3. Xavier out-rebounding their opponents by nearly 13 rebounds a game.(Top 20 in the country)
4. Xavier is shooting nearly 45% from the field and averaging 81 points per game. This means that they are pretty good offensively.
5. Trevon Blueitt, who is the Musketeers leading scorer is averaging nearly 15 points a game, to go along with eight rebounds, while shooting 45% from behind the three-point line.
However for those doubters against the Musketeers, Xavier will play at Villanova on New Year’s Eve. Villanova is ranked as the 17th best team in the country and this will be the first game in Big East conference play for both teams. Xavier will also play Butler on January 2nd, a Bulldog team that happens to be ranked in the top 10 as well. If the Musketeers are able to defeat both teams in a tough back-to-back schedule it would be hard to argue that they aren’t a serious threat to go deep in the NCAA Tournament in March.