How We Got Our Grind Back

Attack and Finish.

Words from Coach Mack this season after trying to avenge the 2nd Round loss to Wisconsin last year in the NCAA Tournament.  Without the first, you don’t give yourself a chance to win.  Without the second, you don’t win at all.

Trevon Bluiett knew what that feeling was like, losing at the buzzer last tournament.  He didn’t want anything close to that to happen again in 2017.  Xavier was one of the top teams in the preseason polls, both nationally and in the Big East.

Then the injury bug hit.

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Edmond Sumner fell to a knee injury mid-season.
Edmond Sumner went down with a season-ending knee injury midway through the season.  This hurt the Musketeers a lot.  Or so they thought.  Losing their leading scorer and starting PG can be a lot, but the Musketeers were falling further and further from another chance to redeem their tournament loss from last year.

The whole team needed to come together and each take on bigger roles, as they were en route to a Big East Tournament needing a few wins.  Xavier had just lost 5 in a row and a win against DePaul before going into the tournament.  If there is one guy who knows what it means to come alive come tourney time, that’s Trevon.

He did just that.

Bluiett came on the scene scoring at will game after game.  Two wins in the Big East Tourney against DePaul and 2 seeded Butler is what they needed to get a nod into the tourney.  But they weren’t finished.

I remember watching Selection Sunday, just like Bluiett, and wondering if the Musketeers had gotten “snubbed.”  The absolute last bid into the tournament, Xavier was in with the 11 seed and facing off against Melo Trimble and the Maryland Terrapins.  I’ll be the first to admit that I had them going past the Terrapins and then losing a rough one to the Florida State Seminoles.  I did not think that they had a chance against the height that Florida State brought.

Boy was I wrong.

Xavier beat Maryland and destroyed the Seminoles en route to the Sweet Sixteen.  Xavier played some of their best basketball of the season, due to Bluiett playing his best basketball and the rest of the team following suit.  That led to the rematch of two years ago with Sean Miller and his Arizona Wildcats.  Two years ago, Sean Miller had the bragging rights to his former school, as Arizona beat Xavier in a close one.  Xavier Pulled through this year.

Xavier

An Elite Eight run without one of your best players!  Nobody was predicting that, as Bluiett and the squad had nothing short of a tough road to get there.  Gonzaga was the next matchup, where a win and a first Final Four berth was in order.  That is where the story ended, as the Zags pulled off the win.

Attack and Finish.

That is exactly what the Xavier team did through the tournaments at year’s end.  Coach Mack’s words rang true at the most important time of the season.  A young team filled with talent rose up to the occasion and proved doubter upon doubter wrong (including myself).  Something should be said for a team that lost its best player and still was able to be one of eight teams left in the Big Dance.  Trevon Bluiett also proved why the Indiana sharpshooter deserves some recognition for his work.

All in all, the year was not a bust.  Yes, Xavier loses Sumner to the draft and possibly Bluiett, but they did have some huge growth from young freshmen like Tyrique Jones and Quentin Goodin that are key going into next season.  That and a great mix of recruits coming in and Xavier may not miss a beat next year.

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Thank you Xavier, for another great season.

Attack and Finish.

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