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Indiana receives Player of the Week honors, poll votes

Williams named Co-Big Ten Player of the Week, ESPN.com National Player of the Week

Sophomore forward Troy Williams was named Co-Big Ten Player of the Week Monday afternoon along with Maryland’s Jake Layman. It is Williams’ second Player of the Week honor and he was the last Indiana player to be recognized as the conference’s P.O.W. (March 10, 2014).

The sophomore was also named ESPN.com National Player of the Week by Andy Katz.

Williams recorded the first double-double of his career in Indiana’s win against No. 23 Butler on Saturday when he tied a career-high 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting and grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds. He also had three assists, two blocks and two steals. He is averaging 13.2 points and a team-best 5.8 rebounds per game this season.

Indiana moves up in the polls

The Hoosiers received 11 votes in the AP Top 25 Poll, which was good for No. 32. The votes came from The Journal Gazette’s Chris Goff (22nd), Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis (23rd), the Alabama Media Group’s Brandon Marcello (24th), The Salt Lake Tribune’s Jay Drew (25th) and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Paul Zeise (25th).

Wisconsin is No. 6, Maryland is No. 15 and Ohio State is No. 21 in the AP Poll.

Indiana received seven votes in the USA TODAY Coaches Poll, which ties them for No. 36 in the poll.

Butler and Michigan State, who were ranked in both polls last week, dropped out of the polls.

Success against ranked opponents

According to Stats Inc., since the start of the 2011-12 season Indiana has both the best record and most wins against ranked opponents among Big Ten teams, excluding the conference’s recent additions — Maryland and Rutgers. The Hoosiers are 17-12 in that span against teams in the top 25, followed by Michigan State at 15-14.

Yogi Ferrell becomes Indiana’s 48th 1,000-point scorer

Indiana junior point guard Yogi Ferrell accomplished a feat Saturday afternoon that he admittedly never expected to achieve in his career.

A made free throw in the final minute of Indiana’s 82-73 victory against No. 23 Butler, one of Ferrell’s 20 points in the game, was his 1,000th career point at Indiana, a mark that only 47 other Hoosiers have reached.

“It means a lot,” he said after the game. “Coming to Indiana, I never expected to make 1,000 points. But I think over the years I have gotten better thanks to my coaches. It is just a huge honor.”

It took Ferrell 79 games to reach the milestone, an average of 12.7 points per game.

Don Schlundt, a Hoosier player from 1951-54, holds the Indiana record for fewest games (43) to reach 1,000 career points as well as the highest scoring average per game (23.3) among the program’s 1,000-point scorers. Calbert Cheaney (1989-93) holds the Indiana career scoring record with 2,613 points.

Ferrell is only five points away from tying Jared Jeffries for 47th on Indiana’s all-time scoring list with 1,008 points, and the Indianapolis native is the program’s first player to reach the 1,000-point mark since Will Sheehey did last season.

Butler junior guard Kellen Dunham, an Indiana native, said Ferrell is very good, but pointed out that the Indiana point guard’s leadership has come a long way.

“You can see him commanding his guys out there,” Dunham said. “He’s a threat outside, as well as inside driving, passing. I see a lot of improvement in his game and I’m very happy for him.”

Indiana coach Tom Crean also praised Ferrell after the Hoosiers’ nine-point victory.

“He doesn’t always get nearly the national credit he deserves for what kind of two-way player he is,” Crean said. “He wants to guard, it doesn’t matter who we ask him to guard, he will take that matchup and he’ll do the right things with it.”

Indiana’s milestone victory shows signs of frontcourt development, tenacity

INDIANAPOLIS — Saturday was a day of milestones for the Indiana Hoosiers when they held off No. 23 Butler, 82-73, in Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the first leg of the Crossroads Classic.

Indiana coach Tom Crean earned his 300th career win.

Junior point guard Yogi Ferrell became the 48th Hoosier to reach the 1,000 career-point mark.

The Hoosiers also picked up their Big Ten-leading second win against a ranked opponent of the season.

However, the difference in the game was more intricate than quantifiable statistics from record books and box scores.

Indiana’s frontcourt played its most complete game of the season, Ferrell showed incredible resiliency from the first half to the second, and halftime adjustments on defense allowed the Hoosiers to shut down Butler’s Kellen Dunham, who scored 18 points in 17 first-half minutes.

When Indiana’s backcourt struggled in the first half as Ferrell picked up two quick fouls that limited him to nine minutes in the period and as the Hoosiers’ trio of backcourt starters started 2-of-14 from the field, the team’s saving grace came from an unlikely and unpredictable source — its frontcourt.

Forward Troy Williams, who has historically only played in a blazing fast fifth gear, and center Hanner Mosquera-Perea, who has been nearly invisible on the boards at times and inconsistent offensively during Indiana’s non-conference slate, led the charge. After being manhandled by Louisville’s wealth of post players in Madison Square Garden and subsequently identified by Crean in the post-game press conference as players who need to improve their rebounding, Indiana’s frontcourt duo learned from past mistakes and overwhelmed Butler.

“Against Louisville, we weren’t very successful on the boards, but in practice the last couple of days and in our last game, we worked on rebounding and it seemed to show today,” Williams said.

Williams tied a career-high 22 points and recorded the first double-double of his career after grabbing 11 rebounds. Mosquera-Perea toyed with a double-double of his own, scoring eight points and pulling down nine rebounds. As a team, Indiana recorded a plus-eight advantage on the boards.

“We had to win the backboard battle, we felt, to win the game and we did,” Crean said. “Our guys stayed committed to that.”

Mosquera-Perea was a constant defensive presence at the rim, blocking four of Butler’s shots and altering several others.

Indiana missed Ferrell at the end of the first half when the Hoosiers squandered a 10-point lead in the final four and a half minutes as Dunham scored seven points in less than a minute.

“It was almost like a hot air balloon that got all the air taken out of it when he got that second foul,” Crean said.

Dunham had 18 points on six shots in the half and he was able to position his body to draw fouls that sent him to the free throw line time after time.

With the game knotted at 38 at halftime, Indiana had lost the momentum it had worked so hard to build.

“We didn’t play what I would call a 40-minute game, we had some lulls at the end of the first half after we got up 10, that we’d certainly like to have back, but we learned from it,” Crean said. “We responded from it in the second half.”

Sensing the urgency of playing well coming out of intermission, Crean started redshirt junior Nick Zeisloft and sophomore Collin Hartman in place of freshmen James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson. Crean said the rationale was that Indiana needed an older lineup with players who were more mentally mature.

After being held scoreless and spending more time on the bench than on the court in the first half, Ferrell responded authoritatively. His first field goal of the game didn’t come until there was 13:48 remaining in the second half, but Indiana’s preseason First Team All-Big Ten honoree scored 20 points in the 11 minutes he played in the second half.

“We need his leadership on the court and off,” Crean said, “and in the second half he brought it at a high level.”

As Dunham, Butler’s leading scorer who only scored five points after halftime, cooled off, the Bulldogs struggled to find an offensive rhythm. Indiana’s defense was at its peak in crunch time. The Hoosiers led by one point at the six-minute mark, but buckled down and had five consecutive stops on defense. In the final three minutes, Indiana only surrendered one made basket.

“That’s the sign of a team that’s trying to grow up and get better,” Crean said.

Saturday’s win will be remembered for Crean’s 300th career victory, Ferrell’s inauguration into an elite group of Hoosiers and the boost in Indiana’s non-conference resume, but between the lines of the box score are the signs of the development of the Hoosiers’ frontcourt and a collective tenacity that could pay greater dividends down the road.

“Frankly we’ve made a lot of progress since the Louisville game,” Crean said, “in mindset, will, tenacity, all of those types of things.”

Halftime: Indiana and No. 23 Butler are tied at 38

INDIANAPOLIS — If you were told before the tip-off for Indiana vs. No. 23 Butler that Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. would shoot a combined 1-of-10 in the first half, you probably wouldn’t like the Hoosiers’ chances in game. However, Indiana went into halftime tied at 38 with Butler after the Hoosiers’ supporting cast rose to the occasion and rebounded well. Indiana had a 25-18 rebounding advantage in the first half.

Troy Williams’ excellent play against Grand Canyon last Saturday carried over to Bankers Life Fieldhouse as he led Indiana with 12 points. Not only did he crash the boards and play under control in transition, but he made his first three-pointer of the season. Hanner Mosquera-Perea had a strong half with six points, five rebounds and three blocks, showing his dominance defending the rim.

Indiana led by as many as 10 points in the half, but sloppy play and an offensive takeover from Butler guard Kellen Dunham allowed the Bulldogs to scrap back into the game. Dunham led all scorers with 18 points, many of which came from the free throw line. The junior sharpshooter was 4-of-6 from the field and a perfect 9-of-9 from the charity stripe.

Ferrell sat on the bench for much of the half after picking up two early fouls.

Indiana to face No. 23 Butler in Crossroads Classic

It’s been two years since No. 1 Indiana and unranked Butler met in Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the Crossroads Classic, when a pesky Butler team hit almost half of its three-point attempts and knocked off the previously unbeaten Hoosiers in overtime thanks to a runner from walk-on point guard Alex Barlow.

A lot has changed in two years. Only seven players who played in the teams’ December 2012 meeting still play for their respective universities, which doesn’t include former Hoosier Austin Etherington, who transferred to Butler in the offseason. Butler has changed head coaches twice — from Brad Stevens to Brandon Miller to Chris Holtmann — and conferences once.

But what hasn’t changed is the challenge that the Crossroads Classic presents to all four of its participants.

“The bottom line is every time you’re in it, you’re playing a very tough opponent,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said Friday. “That’s what’s most important.  That’s what’s most challenging.”

The script has been flipped from Dec. 15, 2012; this time unranked Indiana (8-2) gets a chance to upset No. 23 Butler (8-2). It will be the Hoosiers’ third game against a ranked opponent this season and their second time playing away from Assembly Hall.

With final exams in Indiana’s rearview mirror, Crean & Co. hope to carry over their success in the classroom to their play on the court.

“We’ve had a productive week hopefully in the sense we’ve been able to get some rest and get energized,” Crean said. “The residual effect is they’re a little more rested when they practice and play because it’s a little bit more exciting when they are there than the drudgery of the long days because they’re spending so much time on their schoolwork, preparing for the exams.”

Crean said initial film studies of the team’s best non-conference opponents — SMU, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Butler and Georgetown — began in the summer. The Hoosiers then reviewed the film in the fall before the season started and built upon their specific game plans once the season started.

Butler’s film and advanced statistics show that the Bulldogs are a strong rebounding team and they’re among the most efficient defenses in the country on a per-possession basis.

Unlike Indiana, Butler isn’t littered with former four- and five-star recruits, but that doesn’t hinder the Bulldogs’ execution on defense or relentlessness on the boards. With only one player taller than 6-foot-8, Butler has comparable height to Indiana, but the Bulldogs make up for a potential lack in size with physicality in their box outs.

“They’re very aggressive on the glass,” Crean said. “They’re going to create a lot of contact when they go to the glass. If you’re not prepared for it, you’ll end up three, four, five feet from where you started.”

Butler’s best rebounding performance of the season came in the Battle 4 Atlantis, when the Bulldogs out-hustled and out-muscled No. 5 North Carolina on the boards to the tune of a 57-40 rebounding advantage en route to an eight-point win. Butler interim head coach Chris Holtman’s team had 29 offensive rebounds against the Tar Heels, a facet of the game that could be an issue for an Indiana team that is 275th in the country in defensive rebounding percentage.

Crean said the Hoosiers will have to be committed to boxing out because Butler’s forwards and wings crash the boards every time a shot is taken.

“Where they’ve had big numbers offensive rebounding-wise, it didn’t appear to me the opponent was committed to blocking them out,” he said. “No question about it, rebounding will be a huge factor in the game tomorrow.  No matter who wins it, that number is going to probably have a lot to do with it.”

Saturday’s matchup will feature the clash of contrasting styles of play. Indiana is at its best when it turns the game into a track meet and its top-10 offense can rain three-pointers on opposing defenses. While the Bulldogs have won games scoring in the 60s and the 90s, they prefer a slower tempo that allows their top-20 defense and physical rebounding to win games.

On offense, point-forward Roosevelt Jones and sharpshooter Kellen Dunham lead the way for the Bulldogs.

“It’s very hard to put anybody out there because of that size and the way that he plays,” Crean said of Jones. “When he’s able to drop his shoulder, he’s really going to a runner, a floater type of shot. You just have to be very efficient, stay in front of him, not give him any angles, and at the same time you got to block him out.”

Crean said the Hoosiers didn’t do a very good job slowing him down two years ago and Indiana will have the chance to get revenge on Jones and Butler Saturday afternoon when the state’s top college basketball talent is showcased in Indianapolis.

“We have a lot of respect for Butler, a lot of respect for how they play,” he said. “I think our guys are excited to go in for that challenge and play in that environment.”

Takeaways and observations from the opening weekend of March Madness

The madness is under way and it is as awesome as ever. Nine lower seeded teams won in the first (technically the second) round. Four more upsets occurred en route to the Sweet Sixteen. Here are some takeaways, observations, facts, and figures about the first three rounds of the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament:

  • A No. 12 seed has defeated a No. 5 seed in 11 of the past 12 seasons and in 22 of the past 24 years. 2013 was no exception; in fact, it was even more extreme than normal. Three No. 12 seeds (Oregon, California, and Ole Miss) pulled off an upset against a No. 5 seed (Oklahoma State, UNLV, and Wisconsin).
  • For the first time ever, a No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 seed in the same region lost in the round of 64. New Mexico, Kansas State, and Wisconsin were defeated in the West Region.
  • The Mountain West, which was the toughest conference in the country in the regular season according to RPI, has been completely eliminated from the tournament after a 2-5 showing for its five teams that made the tourney.
  • The Pac-12 may have been under-seeded and is getting hot at the right time. Two Pac-12 teams with No. 12 seeds (California and Oregon) defeated No. 5 seeds and the conference put two teams (Arizona and Oregon) in the Sweet Sixteen. Arizona defeated No. 11 seed Belmont by 17 points and No. 14 seed Harvard by 23. Oregon topped No. 5 seed Oklahoma State by 13 points and No. 4 seed Saint Louis by 17.
  • Teams from the state of Florida are 6-0 and all three (No. 2 seed Miami, No. 3 seed Florida, and No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast) are in the Sweet Sixteen. Florida and Florida Gulf Coast will face each other on Friday.
  • Big Ten Tournament Champion Wisconsin is the only Big Ten team that did not win a game in the tournament. The conference is 10-3 and has a team in the Sweet Sixteen in each region.
  • For the third year in a row, there was a matchup between a No. 12 seed and No. 13 seed in the round of 32. No. 12 seed Ole Miss and No. 13 seed La Salle faced off in the West Region. Last year it was No. 12 South Florida and No. 13 Ohio that matched up in the Midwest Region and two years ago No. 12 seed Richmond and No. 13 seed Morehead State played in the Southwest Region.
  • No. 13 seed La Salle is doing its best to model itself after 2011 Virginia Commonwealth, who was a No. 11 seed. The Rams played in the First Four before making a Final Four run, where they lost to No. 8 seed Butler. The La Salle Explorers finished tied for third in the A-10, then defeated No. 13 seed Boise State, No. 4 seed Kansas State, and No. 12 seed Ole Miss to reach the Sweet Sixteen. They will face No. 9 seed Wichita State on Thursday.
No. 13 seed La Salle will attempt to follow Virginia Commonwealth's footsteps as a First Four team to make the Final Four. (Image courtesy of www.usatoday.com)
No. 13 seed La Salle will attempt to follow Virginia Commonwealth’s footsteps as a First Four team to make the Final Four. (Image courtesy of http://www.usatoday.com)
  • Only two of the four Naismith Award finalists remain in the tournament–Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Michigan’s Trey Burke. Georgetown’s Otto Porter Jr. and Creighton’s Doug McDermott did not make it out of the first weekend.
  • The main color of the past nine NCAA Champions was blue. Eight (Duke, La Salle, Arizona, Marquette, Florida Gulf Coast, Florida, Michigan, and Kansas) of the remaining schools have blue as their main color.

The future of the new Big East

The Big East announced this week that the conference’s basketball-only schools, which have been referred to as the Catholic 7—DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Villanova—will leave on June 30, 2013.

While early reports indicated that these universities would create their own conference under a new name, the Catholic 7 will retain the “Big East” label in addition to playing its conference tournament at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, New York.

As the new Big East looks to expand to a 10 or 12-team conference, the universities have three options in which they can add new members—only Catholic schools, only private schools or open the conference to public universities.

The initial rumors are that the new Big East will acquire Butler and Xavier from the Atlantic 10 Conference as well as Creighton from the Missouri Valley Conference to expand to a 10-team conference for the 2013-14 season.

The new Big East would like to reach at least 12 teams by 2014. Dayton and Saint Louis are the front-runners for the final spots for the new conference. Richmond and VCU have also been given consideration for admission to the new Big East.

Here is a look at the potential additions to the new Big East:

Butler Bulldogs

Conference: Atlantic 10

Record: 24-7 (11-5)—T-3rd in the A-10

Record over the past decade: 241-96 (.715 winning percentage)

Regular season conference championships: 18

Conference tournament championships: 7

NCAA Tournament History:

Appearances: 11—1962, ’97-98, 2000-01, ’07-11

Record: 18-11

Sweet Sixteen: 5—1962, 2003, ’07, ’10-11

Elite Eight: 2—’10-11

Final Four: 2—’10-11

National Championship Runner-Up: ’10-11

Butler has been one of the best teams in the NCAA Tournament in the past five seasons, with two national championship game appearances and another Sweet Sixteen run. Led by Brad Stevens, who at only 36 years old is one of the best young coaches in college basketball, Butler has skyrocketed from a middle-of-the-road team in the Horizon League to the front of the national spotlight. Butler University has the size of a mid-major but its recent accomplishments have earned the men’s basketball program the prestige of an established power 6 conference team.

Xavier Musketeers

Conference: Atlantic 10

Record: 17-13 (9-7)—T-6th in the A-10

Record over the past decade: 236-105 (.692 winning percentage)

Regular season conference championships: 17

Conference tournament championships: 10

NCAA Tournament History:

Appearances: 23

Record: 21-23

Sweet Sixteen: 6—1990, 2004, ’08-12

Elite Eight: 2—2004, ‘08

Xavier is one of the best examples of a mid-major that has achieved sustained postseason success. The Musketeers have been a staple for the NCAA Tournament in the new millennium. Since the 2000-01 season, XU has only missed the tourney once, in 2005. The Muskies have made a name for themselves with five Sweet Sixteen appearances since 2004, including each of the past four seasons, and Elite Eight berths in ’04 and ’08. While a 17-12 record is a down year for Xavier’s standards, the Musketeers have defeated two ranked opponents in their past three games as they make a final push for the NCAA Tournament. Led by the probable Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year, point guard Semaj Christon, and an accomplished young coach in Chris Mack, the Xavier Musketeers have a bright future once their rebuilding process is complete.

Creighton Bluejays

Conference: Missouri Valley

Record: 27-7 (13-5)—1st in the MVC

Record over the past decade: 231-105 (.688 winning percentage)

Regular season conference championships: 15

Conference tournament championships: 12

NCAA Tournament History:

Appearances: 17

Record: 10-18

Sweet Sixteen: 3—1962, ’64, ‘74

While junior Doug McDermott has been the recipient of most of the media’s attention at Creighton, the Bluejays have long been successful before the school’s leading scorer ever stepped foot on campus. In the past decade, Creighton has failed to reach 20 wins only once and the Jays have finished no worse than fourth in the Missouri Valley standings during that time span.

Dayton Flyers

Conference: Atlantic 10

Record: 17-13 (7-9)—T-11th in the A-10

Record over the past decade: 209-120 (.635 winning percentage)

Conference tournament championships: 2

NCAA Tournament History:

Appearances: 14

Record: 14-16

Sweet Sixteen: 6—1952, ’65-67, ’74, ‘84

Elite Eight: 2—1967, ‘84

Final Four: 1967

National Championship Runner-Up: 1967

Unfortunately for Dayton, its best seasons were before any of the current Flyers players were born. The Flyers have a respectable winning percentage in recent years but they lack banners and trophies to show for it. They were selected to the NCAA Tournament four times since the turn of the century but were eliminated in the first round on three occasions. Dayton also lacks the elusive Atlantic 10 regular season champion honor and the team has only won the A-10 Tournament twice. Regardless of Dayton’s lack of post-season accomplishments, the Flyers are a solid team year in and year out.

Saint Louis Billikens

Conference: Atlantic 10

Record: 24-6 (13-3)—1st in the A-10

Record over the past decade: 183-125 (.594 winning percentage)

Regular season conference championships: 6

Conference tournament championships: 1

NCAA Tournament History:

Appearances: 7

Record: 4-8

Sweet Sixteen: 2—1952, ‘57

Elite Eight: 1952

While SLU’s most accomplished seasons were in the 1950’s, the Billikens are on the rise. In 2011-12, Saint Louis won 26 games and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Billikens won the regular season A-10 title this year with a 13-3 conference record and they were ranked as high as 16th. Saint Louis Head Coach Jim Crews has led the team through the death of SLU’s former coach, Rick Majerus, and many analysts believe that the Billikens could be a sleeper in March.   

Virginia Commonwealth

Conference: Atlantic 10

Record: 24-7 (12-4)—2nd in the A-10

Record over the past decade: 222-92 (.707 winning percentage)

Regular season conference championships: 9

Conference tournament championships: 8

NCAA Tournament History:

Appearances: 11

Record: 11-11

Sweet Sixteen: 2011

Elite Eight: 2011

Final Four: 2011

Virginia Commonwealth is not new to the NCAA Tournament—the Rams participated in March Madness five seasons in a six year span in the early 1980’s. However, VCU then went dormant for nearly two decades before re-emerging as a force to be reckoned with in the postseason. The Rams knocked off Duke in ’07 then made a Final Four run in 2011, in which they lost to a fellow Cinderella team in Butler in the national semifinal. VCU’s move to the Atlantic 10 has paid off as Shaka Smart & Co. have proven themselves against stronger competition than they faced in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Richmond Spiders

Conference: Atlantic 10

Record: 18-13 (8-8)—T-9th in the A-10

Record over the past decade: 180-144 (.556 winning percentage)

Regular season conference championships: 5

Conference tournament championships: 6

NCAA Tournament History:

Appearances: 9

Record: 8-9

Sweet Sixteen: 2—1988, 2011

While Richmond has only one conference honor, 2011 A-10 Tournament champion, since 2001, the Spiders are known for their performances in March. In 1984, Richmond took down Charles Barkley and No. 5 seed Auburn. In 1988, UR defeated the defending national champion, Indiana, in the opening round and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen after beating Georgia Tech. Then in 1991, the Spiders became the first No. 15 seed to beat a No. 2 when they topped Syracuse. While Richmond hasn’t been able to sustain regular season success, the Spiders are deadly in the NCAA Tournament. 

When the new Big East evaluates its options for the conference, it will look for private universities with both a history and recent track record of success in college basketball. There are no bad choices in the group—all of the teams have had some level of regular and postseason successes as well as most schools have trended upward in the past decade.

Assuming that the new Big East will only select private universities, it will likely admit Butler, Xavier and Creighton over the summer. Saint Louis is the next best team out of the private institutions. To make the Big East a 12-team conference, Dayton or Richmond would be the final school. Neither one is a bad choice. Dayton has gone further in the NCAA Tournament on more occasions. However, Richmond has more regular season and conference tournament championships; plus, the Spiders have more damage in March more recently than Dayton.

These additions should make the new Big East a stronger basketball conference in the long run than the America 12, which is the frontrunner for the schools left out of the new conference. Connecticut has won two men’s and three women’s basketball national championships in the past decade but the America 12 will lack the depth that the new Big East will have after 2014.

Big East

America 12


Central Florida






East Carolina







Saint Louis

South Florida

Seton Hall

Southern Methodist

St. John’s






Bracketology Report: Xavier Musketeers

Xavier Musketeers—(14-10, 7-4)—5th place in the Atlantic 10

Strength of schedule: 96

RPI: 98

BPI: 87

Good wins:

  • 62-47 vs. Butler
  • 57-52 vs. Temple
  • 70-63 vs. La Salle

Bad losses:

  • 56-55 vs. Wofford
  • 66-59 @ Wake Forest

Remaining schedule:

  • 2/20 @ Rhode Island
  • 2/23 vs. No. 24 VCU
  • 2/26 vs. No. 21 Memphis
  • 3/2 vs. Massachusetts
  • 3/6 vs. Saint Louis
  • 3/9 @ Butler

Xavier has made the NCAA Tournament in each of the last seven seasons and in 11 of the past 12 but the Musketeers are on pace to miss the Big Dance this year. XU Coach Chris Mack had a difficult challenge ahead of him for the 2012-13 season when senior guard Mark Lyons and sophomore forward Dez Wells left the team. Lyons and Mack disagreed about Lyons’ role on the team, which led to Lyons transferring to Arizona; Wells was expelled from Xavier University after allegedly committing sexual assault but he was never charged. XU Coach Mack had to replace all five starters from last year’s Musketeers team that made the Sweet Sixteen.

Led by freshman sensation Semaj Christon, Xavier has remained in the top third of the A-10 but the Muskies’ résumé needs some major improvement for XU to be chosen by the selection committee on March 17th. The highlight of Xavier’s non-conference schedule and overall résumé is a 15-point victory against Butler on Nov. 13. While XU has also defeated La Salle and Temple, who are fourth and seventh in the A-10, respectively, the Musketeers let too many winnable games slip out of their grasp. Xavier lost by three to Pacific, two to Vanderbilt in overtime, one to Wofford, four to Tennessee, six to Charlotte and two to Richmond.

Freshman point guard Semaj Christon has been one of the few bright spots for Xavier this season. (Image courtesy of www.bannersontheparkway.com)
Freshman point guard Semaj Christon has been one of the few bright spots for Xavier this season. (Image courtesy of http://www.bannersontheparkway.com)

While Xavier is certainly on the outside, looking in on the field of 68 teams selected for the NCAA Tournament, hope remains for the Musketeers. Three of Xavier’s final six games are against ranked opponents, in addition to a matchup against the A-10 leading Saint Louis Billikens. If the Musketeers can win three of those four games, or if they can win the A-10 Tournament, Xavier will be in the Big Dance.

Prediction: Xavier will defeat Rhode Island and Massachusetts but will lose to VCU, Memphis, Saint Louis and Butler. The Musketeers will be the No. 7 seed in the A-10 Tournament. XU will win its first round matchup but lose in the second round. Xavier’s 17-15 record will earn the Musketeers a No. 7 seed in the NIT.