This is a huge game for the Xavier Musketeers because a win here means they should easily be in the NCAA Tournament field. I think they should be in almost no matter what happens, barring a loss to Butler and then a first-round loss at MSG to Depaul.
Xavier needs to shoot well from the outside
This has often been a Musketeers’ weakness this year, but KyKy Tandy cannot be overlooked. I will throw in Paul Scruggs as well, who was out at Providence but looks like he will be ready to go for this game. Butler’s weakness on defense has been defending the perimeter and Xavier must take advantage of the outside shot to try to free up the inside for Tyrique Jones, Zack Freemantle etc.
Xavier has won 8 of the last 12 games between the teams and in many cases the games have been decided on the boards and this will probably be the case once again on Saturday night.
Sean McDermott led the way for the Bulldogs with 16 points and 14 rebounds in the Bulldogs blowout win over St. John’s, so when he is on he can dominate a game. Naji Marshall is a player like McDermott who can put his team on his back. If either of these guys heat up it may decide the game. Two other key figures are for Butler’s Kamar Baldwin and for the Musketeers’ Tyrique Jones, who has been a walking double-double for most of this season.
Prediction: Look for Xavier to play smothering defense and for Butler to struggle to score. I think the Musketeers will get big efforts from Zach Freemantle and KyKy Tandy and the Muskies will pull away in the last few minutes after a hard-fought game.
Musketeers 71, Bulldogs 64
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