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Xavier vs Kansas St
The Xavier Musketeers (26-8) have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the fourth consecutive year behind the guidance of first year coach Chris Mack. The Muskies made it to the Elite Eight in 2004 and 2008. They will have to do something in their next game that they couldnít do in the regular season if they wish to stay alive; defeat the Kansas State Wildcats (28-7). Coach Frank Martin has the Wildcats roaring and poised for their first Elite Eight appearance since 1988. Both teams have improved since they met on 12/8 when Kansas State won 71-56. Expect a much closer game this time around. Both teams will have blood in their eyes.
Kansas State has looked like a team possessed in the first two games of the Big Dance. They smashed North Texas by a score of 82-62. Denis Clemente had 17 points on 6-12 shooting in that game. He also had 6 assists. Jacob Pullen added 15 points, 3 assists, and 3 steals. Curtis Kelly was also hot with 15 points and 4 blocks despite playing just 17 minutes. They looked poor at the free throw line sinking 13 of 20 shots (65%). If Xavier is able to keep the game close then KSU will need to sink those shots.
The Wildcats got off to a fast start in their second round game against BYU. They led 41-31 at halftime and ended up taking the game 84-72. This is impressive because BYU finished the year with a very solid record of 30-6. KSU made amends for their poor free throw shooting in the first game draining 27 of 30 free throws. Jacob Pullen played his best game of the year. He had 34 points while sinking 7 three pointers and going 11-11 from the charity stripe. Denis Clemente was also solid with 19 points. Clemente and Pullen are clearly one of the best guard tandems in the entire nation. They will give Xavier problems if they are able to score like they did against BYU.
The Xavier Musketeers were supposed to have a ball game on their hands in the first round against the Minnesota Gophers. That wasnít the cause as the X-Men dominated to register a 65-54 win. G Jordan Crawford went nuts and put up 26 points and grabbed 6 rebounds while dishing out 5 assists. He sank 5 of 11 three pointers. We are always critical of teams that donít do well from the charity stripe; Xavier was 12 of 19 in this game. They won the battle of the boards and played well enough to dispatch a team that delivered a blow out to Purdue just days ago.
The second round of the NCAA Tournament pitted Xavier against Pittsburgh. The Panthers sent the Musketeers packing last year. That wasnít going to happen again. G Jordan Crawford came up huge again. The sophomore had 27 points on 9 of 15 shooting. Senior Jason Love looked strong with 14 points and 8 rebounds. Dante Jackson missed two critical free throws at the end of the game that couldíve cost Xavier had Pittsburgh been able to tie the game up with a there pointer as time expired. They ended the game 15-23 from the line. They canít afford to shoot like that against Kansas State.
We expect this game to be much closer than the regular season game. Xavier was playing poorly at the time, and their star player Jordan Crawford has gained more confidence and skill. This is evident by the fact that he had 26 and 27 points in the first two rounds. Kansas State has a great guard duo with Pullen and Clemente. They will need great play from both. In our eyes this game comes down to free throw shooting. The team that hits their free throws will win. We think that team will be the Kansas State Wildcats.
Once again we'd recommend taking a close look at the 1st half line. At this level, any of the remaining teams can play with any of the others, for at least 20 minutes. The difference at this level is usually the bench, which comes into play down the stretch.
Our number on this game is Kansas St by 5. So, right around the posted line.
That being the case, we'll take our chances with the underdog Xavier here and
look for this game to be of the buzzer beater variety. We'll also take a close
look at Xavier in the first half.