The match offered no catchy personalities. Fans can search both rosters. There is not much hype to be found. Kansas State has Jacob Pullen. He inspires denizens of the Fred Bramlage Coliseum to wear mock beards. Xavier’s Jordan Crawford created a stir last summer when he posterized a king.
K-State got the better of Xavier earlier this season. That was then. This is now, and this game is on neutral court. The Wildcats out-rebounded Xavier 39-30 in the win. McLean played 17 minutes and Taylor logged four.
Holloway finished the game with a game-high 24 points – eleven of those came in two overtime periods when the Muskies outscored the Spiders 14-12. Twice, with the shot clock winding down in overtime, Holloway sliced through the vaunted Richmond defense and finished in traffic with his left hand.
In five seasons under Mooney, Richmond has allowed 70 or more points just 37 times. The Spiders rank in top 20 nationally in field goal percentage defense (38.7), scoring defense (60.2), and 3-pt. percentage defense (28.6). Richmond is also 14th in the nation with a turnover margin of 4.4. The Spiders play a stingy match-up zone that confuses opponents and limits usual opportunities.
Xavier has earned 20 NCAA Tournament berths, including last year’s Sweet Sixteen run and Elite Eight showings in 2008 and 2004. St. Joe’s has made 19 appearances five under Martelli) in The Dance. The Hawks advanced to the Elite Eight in 2004.
Jockeying for an at-large bid is always a concern this time of year. The Gators face an uphill battle in the upcoming SEC conference tournament having to face Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee. Xavier’s plight is no easier. The A-10 has been ranked as high as fifth by the RPI.
Xavier ranks twentieth in tha nation scoring 80 points per game. Dayton holds opponents to 62 points. The Flyers have out-rebounded opponents by 9.9 over the last eight games. Dayton is 13-3 when winning the war on the boards. Xavier’s reound margin is 3.7.
Rhode Island and Xavier rank 15th and 16th in the CBS RPI poll. Rhode Island’s strength of schedule is rated 51st in the country. Xavier’s slate is ranked third.
Somehow, Dayton and Xavier, like so many small schools, fall short in grabbing the national attention of casual fans. But to this region and to these schools, their students, and alums this is THE game.
It’s a battle for first place in the Atlantic 10 at 1776 N. Broad Street as Chris Mack’s Xavier Musketeers (12-5/4-0) take on Fran Dunphy’s No. 16 Temple Owls (15-3/3-0).