Congratulations, Xavier. You are officially the darlings of the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
The No. 11 Musketeers were heavy underdogs against No. 3 Florida State and No. 2 Arizona in each of their last two games. Didn’t matter. Xavier embarrassed the Seminoles, 91-66, in the Round of 32 this past Saturday and stunned the Wildcats, 73-71, in the Sweet 16 on Thursday.
“This is why being a college basketball analyst is better than being a weatherman,” FOX Sports college basketball analyst Vin Parise said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “You could be wrong every other day, and it doesn’t make a difference. You can’t predict any of this stuff.”
Xavier, which faded late against Arizona, used a 7-0 run to get off the mat and reach its first Elite Eight since 2008 – when, ironically enough, Sean Miller was the head coach and Chris Mack was an assistant.
“Xavier is a great story,” Parise said. “Think about it. Xavier is in the play-in night of the Big East Tournament, that Wednesday night. They beat DePaul. I truly believe the way they limped into the tournament – 3-7 over their last 10 – I really believe if they don’t beat Butler that Thursday, I don’t think they get in. Think about it: They beat Butler, and (the committee) snuck them in as an 11-seed. What Chris Mack has done without Edmond Sumner is remarkable.”
Sumner, who averaged 15.0 points and 5.0 assists in 21 games this year, was lost to a torn ACL in January. The Musketeers struggled in his absence but have certainly found their footing. Trevon Bluiett scored 25 points against Arizona – and is averaging 25.0 points per game in the tournament – while Malcolm Bernard (15) and J.P. Macura (14) combined for 29.
Arizona (32-5) knocked Xavier out of the Sweet 16 in 2015, but on Thursday, Mack got the best of his former boss, who is still searching for a Final Four.
“You’re talking about two guys that know each other inside and out,” Parise said. “Not to take anything away from Xavier, (but) this is going to sting in the Arizona community. This was a collapse. For them to be up by seven that late and allow Xavier to end the game on a 9-0 run, Sean Miller is not going to get a lot of sleep the next few days. This is the year everybody thought he was going to break through.”
Xavier (24-13) will face No. 1 Gonzaga (35-1) in the Elite Eight on Saturday at 6:09 p.m. ET.