Xavier has to be the surprise of this year’s tournament; the Muskies were a Top 10 team at the start of the season. Injuries changed all of that and even though the Muskies had a brutal schedule, it’s amazing the Muskies have made it this far. Arizona has been one of the best teams all year, and they have been playing at a very high level. On paper, this seems to be an athletic mismatch, but just look at Xavier’s blowout win over an athletic Florida State team, and you know this game is going to be a competitive battle all the way.
Xavier needs to come out as aggressively as they did against Florida State. They neutralized all of the Seminoles advantages by basically being relentless the entire game. Look for the Muskies to employ a zone defense against the Wildcats, just like they did against the Seminoles. The biggest key of all for the Muskies will be on the boards where they outrebounded Florida State by double digits. If they can control the boards, they win this game.
Arizona needs to come out clicking on offense; they cannot afford to fall behind an aggressive Xavier team. Trier and Markannen need to have a better start than they did against St. Mary’s in the second round of the tournament. The Wildcats must hit the boards hard, Xavier earlier in the year were not a good rebounding team but something has clicked with the Musketeers over the last few weeks, and they will challenge everything the Wildcats do.
Coach Millers teams in the past have looked tight in big game situations. If they do that in this game, they will lose. there is no reason to think that Xavier can win this game, but if the history of the Musketeers shows anything, it shows that you can never count them out come tournament time. Xavier 75 Arizona 74
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