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NCAA tournament team previews: Xavier Musketeers

Semaj ChristonSemaj Christon would have been a candidate for Big East Player of the Year if Doug McDermott wasn't in the conference. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

As part of its preview of the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. For more teams, click here.

Record: 21-13, 10-8 in Big East

RPI/SOS: 51/43

Adj. Offense/Adj. Defense: 111.3 (51st) / 100.2 (77th)

Impact player: Semaj Christon, sophomore guard. 17.1 ppg, 4.2 apg, 6.3 fouls drawn per 40 minutes

Case for:

The best thing Xavier has going for it is Christon. There were stretches this season when the Musketeers’ sophomore guard looked like the frontrunner for the non-McDermott Big East Player of the Year Award (that was a thing, in case you were wondering). Christon scored in double figures in every conference game this season and, in one four-game sequence in early January, averaged 25 points as he led the Musketeers to a 3-1 record. The Musketeers excel at offensive rebounding, a reliable predictor of tournament success. In Big East play, only Providence grabbed a higher percentage of its own misses. Forwards Matt Stainbrook (10.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and Justin Martin (11.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg) form a productive frontcourt duo that can cause matchup issues. The Musketeers aren’t one of the faster teams in the field – they average 65.8 possessions per game, good for 204th in the country – but they make good use of their trips down the floor. Xavier’s offense ranks inside the nation’s top 40 in points scored per possession.

Case against:

Stainbrook injured his knee in the Musketeers’ loss to Seton Hall earlier this month. If he’s not playing at full strength, Xavier will have to heap even more of its offensive workload on Christon. On the other end of the floor, the Musketeers have struggled to get stops for most of the season. Big East opponents rang up 1.076 points per possession against Chris Mack’s team. Xavier struggles to defend the three-point line, allowing opponents to score 30.6 percent of their points beyond the arc and shoot 35.4 percent on long-range attempts.  Another issue for Xavier is its propensity to commit turnovers. The Musketeers have coughed the ball up on nearly one out of every five possessions (18.7 percent) while turning over opponents on only 17.0 percent of their possessions, good for 254th in the country.

Prediction: Beat N.C. State in the First Four but lose to Saint Louis in the second round.

View complete bracket predictions from SI.com’s panel of experts

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