No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 11 Xavier Prediction, Game Preview

    Arizona vs. Xavier prediction and game preview, as the No. 2 Wildcats and No. 11 Musketeers face off in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament.

    March 18, 2017

    Arizona vs. Xavier prediction and game preview, as the No. 2 Wildcats and No. 11 Musketeers face off in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament.

    Sean Miller’s Wildcats (32-4) advanced to the Sweet Sixteen by putting behind a rough first half of play against No. 7 St. Mary’s on Saturday night. The Wildcats were 10-of-29 from the field and 1-of-7 from 3-point land in a sluggish first 20 minutes of play. But Kadeem Allen, Lauri Markannen, Allonzo Trier and Co. eventually pulled away for a 69-60 win over the pesky Gaels to advance to San Jose in the West Region.

    Meanwhile, it seemingly wouldn’t be March without Xavier (23-13) in the Sweet Sixteen. Chris Mack’s Musketeers thoroughly dominated third-seeded Florida State, scoring a 91-66 win on Saturday in Orlando, looking nothing like a team that lost a key player as well as six straight games at one point this year. Mack is headed to his fourth Sweet Sixteen at the school, and it’s the eighth time in program history that the team has made it this far in The Dance.

    Arizona vs. Xavier Game Preview

    Date: Thursday, March 23
    Venue: SAP Center, San Jose, CA
    Region: West

    Arizona Wins If …

    It gets back to its efficient and productive ways on offense. Arizona reached the second round on a five-game win streak behind an offense that was clicking. That did not happen in the first half against Saint Mary’s. Trier and Markannen need to get off to much better starts against a Xavier team that loves to play defense and put up points at the other end. Falling behind early is a recipe for disaster for Miller’s squad.

    Markkanen was efficient from the field against North Dakota in the first round, as he connected on 8-of-12 field goals for 20 points. Rawle Alkins also had 20 points and didn’t miss a shot all night. The pair of freshmen are key to alleviate some of the scoring pressure off of Trier.

    Xavier Wins If …

    The Musketeers come out as aggressive as they did in the win over Florida State. Mack’s squad completely outplayed the Seminoles in most every aspect of the game. The Musketeers had the advantage down low, taking advantage of second-chance points, which was very surprising because FSU is much much bigger and more athletic. FSU was outscored in the paint, 36-26. Xavier also had the advantage in bench points, which was quite surprising because Leonard Hamilton has a deep squad. The Seminoles should have had the edge in those areas, but they didn’t on Saturday. Xavier needs to keep that same aggressive mentality against ‘Zona. It also helps to have a star player like Trevon Bluiett, who scored 29 points in the win over the ‘Noles.

    FSU was completely flustered by the Musketeers’ half-court zone defense, so Mack’s squad will try to fluster Arizona and force a low shooting percentage like the ‘Noles endured. Additionally, he needs Sean O’Mara to continue to play well. His late-season ascent into becoming a key offensive weapon has been vital for this team. But as important against FSU was its 3-point shooting. Xavier hit nearly 65 percent from downtown, converting 11 of 17 from long range.

    Arizona vs. Xavier Prediction

    Mack, who should be Indiana’s top choice to replace Tom Crean, lost his most important player and point guard in the middle of the season yet is still headed to the Sweet Sixteen. In a high-scoring affair, Arizona gets off to a much better start and gets key buckets in the final minutes from Trier in a close win.

    Arizona vs. Xavier Score Prediction: Arizona 78, Xavier 73

    MORE: Complete NCAA Tournament Bracket, Previews, Predictions


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