The Daily Nole

West Region Second Round Primer: (3) FSU vs. (11) Xavier

Mike Olivella/FSU athletics

A trip to the Sweet 16 will be on the line in Orlando on Saturday as third-seeded Florida State takes on No. 11 seed Xavier. The Seminoles outlasted Florida Gulf Coast on Thursday night to earn their first NCAA Tournament win in five years, 86-80. Xavier defeated No. 6 seed Maryland, 76-65 and will look to advance to the Sweet 16 for a sixth time in 10 years. Saturday’s contest is set to tip off at 6:10 p.m. EST and will air on TNT.

The Basic

The Xavier Musketeers are 22-13 overall on the season, including their tournament win over the Maryland Terrapins. They play in the Big East conference, where they finished seventh in the league after posting a 9-9 conference record. They were upset in the Big East Tournament semifinals by Creighton. Earlier in the season, the Musketeers had climbed all the way to No. 15 in the AP Poll. They then lost three straight games and eventually went 3-7 in their final 10 contests. Xavier scores 74.6 points per game (146th in the nation) and allows 71.4 points per game (153rd in the nation).

Xavier Strengths

The Musketeers are very similar to FGCU. Their main strength lies in their guards, where star player Trevon Bluiett averages over 18 points and almost six rebounds per game. He dropped 21 points on 7-for-15 shooting in the first round. Behind him are capable players in J.P. Macura (14.5 PPG), Malcolm Bernard (6.4 PPG), and Quentin Goodin (5.0 PPG). Xavier lost one of its biggest components in January when guard Edmond Sumner went down with a torn ACL. Sumner had averaged 15 points per game and over four rebounds per game prior to his injury.

Despite this, the Musketeers continue to maintain a productive offense. Ken Pomeroy rankings have them at 33rd in adjusted offensive efficiency. While they may not have the gaudy numbers like other teams, Xavier makes the most out of its possessions.

It also has a surprising amount of hybrid guards/forwards. Bluiett, Macura, and Bernard are each over 6-5 in height, posing interesting match-up issues for FSU guards Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Terance Mann. Other players like RaShid Gaston and Kaiser Gates are frontcourt pieces, though once again, they are closer to small and power forwards rather than centers. It means that Florida State will need to look closely at game film to understand how the Musketeers use them.

Xavier Weaknesses

Injuries and a key departure have left Xavier especially thin when compared to their preseason depth chart. Sumner was a big loss that still hasn’t totally been replaced. Included is senior guard Myles Davis, who was suspended for 15 games and then left the program after playing in three. Goodin has played well, but keep in mind that he is a freshman who did not get major minutes until February. Xavier has a talented team that had high expectations going into this season, but the roster is simply not at full strength.

The dropoff between offensive and defensive ranking is also another concern going forward. Xavier ranks 74th in adjusted defensive efficiency. In its last 10 games, it given up at least 70 points six different times. The Musketeers did perform admirably against Maryland and their star point guard Melo Trimble, but FSU has more weapons than the Terrapins do. Hybrid players also have a double-edged sword nature: they can provide great offensive mismatches, but also struggle to find their place on defense.

FSU Key to Victory

The Seminoles’ backcourt needs to apply pressure early on to disrupt the Xavier guards. FSU is clearly capable of doing so, and while the results might not be totally apparent at the beginning, the Noles can wear down the Musketeers and expose their lack of depth. From then on, they should force the issue and let their own guards/forwards keep attacking.

Xavier Key to Victory

Frustrate Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac. Yes, easier said than done, but the Seminoles’ win over FGCU highlighted one of the glaring issues with Florida State. If either of the Seminoles’ big scorers are cold, their offense sputters to a halt. Even just isolating one of them might be enough for the Xavier guards to win the game.


Lead Writer Clint Eiland: 71-65, Florida State. It’s difficult to guess how Xavier’s frontcourt will perform and whether or not it can provide the Musketeers with the defense needed to stop the FSU offense. But after watching Bacon and Isaac put their nose to the grindstone and put away FGCU, it’s harder to pick against them.

Contributor T.J. Pittinger: Noles, 78-70. FSU starts slow (shocker) in this one, but Rathan-Mayes leads the team to a “comfortable” victory and the Seminoles taste the Sweet 16.

Editor Mike Ferguson: 72-67, FSU. This one will be a lower-scoring affair than Thursday’s win over Florida Gulf Coast and with less flash, but the Seminoles’ size advantage will again be the difference. Xavier is a very good, fundamentally sound team, but the lack of a rim protector will hurt the Musketeers against athletic FSU.

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