As part of its preview of the 2016 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 statistics are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All other advanced stats are also from kenpom.com (unless noted otherwise), and are through March 14.
Record: 27–5 (14–4 Big East)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 115.8 (18th)/96.2 (36th)
Seed: East No. 2
Impact Player: Trevon Bluiett, sophomore, guard. 15.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg
The Case For: When the Musketeers are rolling, they can do everything. They boast the 19th most efficient offense in the country behind Bluiett, a first-team All-Big East selection. That offense features six players who average at least 9.6 points per game, and seven different players have led the team in scoring on at least two occasions. Guard Edmond Sumner (11.3 points per game), a Big East all-freshman team honoree, has evolved into a nice complement to Bluiett. Sumner scored 19 points and dished out nine assists in Xavier’s 90–83 win over then-No. 1 Villanova on Feb. 24. Defenses can struggle to limit all of the Musketeers’ scoring options.
Xavier is one of the best rebounding teams in the nation, ranking 20th in the country in rebounding margin (+7.5) behind forwards James Farr and Jaylen Reynolds. Coach Chris Mack’s club knows how to control the glass on both offense and defense; in that win over Villanova, Xavier outrebounded the Wildcats 42–33, including 12 offensive boards. That all-around product helped the Musketeers match a program record with 26 wins in the regular season. The last Xavier team to do that (2007–08) went on to reach the Elite Eight.
The Case Against: When Xavier loses a game, it tends to do so emphatically. It lost its first four games by an average of 15.8 points this season, and the Musketeers enter the NCAAs having los to Seton Hall, 87–83, in the Big East semifinals, a game in which trailed by as many at 17 points in the first half. That loss prevented a third meeting between the Musketeers an the Wildcats, in the Big East tournament championship game. Mack’s roster can truly shine when and if it doesn’t dig itself into early first-half deficits.
The Musketeers also must learn to take advantage of opportunities. In Xavier’s last three losses, it has turned the ball over fewer times than its opponents. Last Friday, Seton Hall committed a whopping 25 turnovers but still managed to survive its semifinal matchup. If the Musketeers can’t learn to pounce on mistakes, they’ll give most tournament teams far too many second chances.
SI Prediction: Beat Weber State in the first round; lose to Wisconsin in the second round.