Sunday marked a milestone for Xavier Basketball. With the field for this year’s NCAA Tournament officially set. Now comes a challenging journey on the road to another potential milestone.
The Xavier Musketeers got a No.1 seed for the first time in school history. Receiving the top seed in the West region. Ironically the same region they were in last year. Xavier’s early exit from the Big East Tournament ultimately didn’t hurt them much. Given the way other conference tournaments played out.
The Musketeers got the fourth overall seed, which seems appropriate. They deserve one of the top four overall seeds. After all winning the Big East regular season title isn’t a small feat. The Musketeers have played like a top four team for much of the season. However, losing the conference tournament title was a setback. Their tournament placement reflects that without discounting the regular season.
Xavier will face the winner of a First Four matchup to start the tournament. Facing either North Carolina Central or Texas Southern on Friday night. The Musketeers won’t have to go far for their first round game. Xavier will be in Nashville, TN for that and a potential second round game. They will have some local company in the Music City.
Crosstown rival Cincinnati Basketball will also play in Nashville on Friday. Cincinnati is the South region’s second seed; facing Georgia State. They won both the American Athletic Conference’s regular season and tournament title. In previous years Xavier or Cincinnati were often sent far from home. I can’t recall an instance where both teams played first/second round games in the same city.
Turning back to the Musketeers, their tournament outlook features some potential rematches. If Xavier wins on Friday they could face a rematch on Sunday. Potentially facing Florida State Basketball in the second round. Xavier beat Florida State in the second round last year. Florida State will face Missouri Basketball in the first round.
There’s also the possibility that Xavier could face Gonzaga Basketball. The team that knocked Xavier out of the NCAA Tournament last year. That potential rematch could come one round earlier than last year’s game. In a West regional Sweet 16 game in Los Angeles, CA. The two teams met last year in the Elite Eight in nearby San Jose.
Those are just rematches against teams Xavier faced in last year’s tournament. The Musketeers might also face Providence Basketball in the West regional final. The team that knocked Xavier out of the Big East Tournament. One thing looks clear for the Musketeers going into the tournament. The West region will be a tough and challenging one for them.
Xavier’s tournament outlook looks interesting because of those potential rematches. Some analysts last night figure the Musketeers could be the first eliminated No.1 seed. An understandable prediction for the fourth and final No.1 seed. Nonetheless, this is in my view a Xavier team that could do something historic this March. What Chris Mack often refers to as “Team 96” has the potential to go to the Final Four. Something the Musketeers have never accomplished in school history.
Things are in place for that to be a potential reality. This team is healthy and features many of the best players on Xavier’s last three teams. Including Trevon Bluiett, a player that could win many accolades this March and April. Along with talented newcomers Naji Marshall and Kerem Kanter. However, nothing is guaranteed in College Basketball in March.
Tip-off for Friday’s Xavier game is scheduled for 7:20 PM Eastern time. The first round matchup will be televised on TBS. For a deeper look at this year’s bracket click here.