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2017 NCAA tournament preview: Xavier

Xavier Musketeers: 21-13, 9-9 in the Big East Conference

Head coach: Chris Mack (8th season)

Players to watch: Trevon Bluiett (17.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 43.4 FG%); J.P. Macura (14.1 PPG, 2.8 APG, 1.4 SPG)

Season recap: A consistent postseason presence led by head coach Chris Mack, Xavier collected a title during its Thanksgiving tournament in Orlando, Fla., as part of seven straight November wins before falling to Baylor to end the Musketeers' perfect start.

From there, Xavier's season began to go off the rails. The Musketeers dropped four of five games in mid-January, including a pair of deflating narrow losses to Creighton and crosstown rival Cincinnati. Following a season-ending knee injury to sophomore guard Edward Sumner, Xavier saw itself slide down the Big East standings.

But with the help of an experienced backcourt trio—Bluiett, Macura and Malcolm Bernard—Mack's team snuck into the tournament despite losing six straight games down the stretch. With a pair of consecutive wins against DePaul, the Musketeers got a third shot at Butler and knocked off the second-seeded Bulldogs in the conference tournament to earn themselves yet another chance to play in the Big Dance.

How they make a run: Xavier leans on its experienced backcourt sharpshooters to pull a first-round upset, and even without Sumner, the Musketeers advance to the second round with a shot to make the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in eight seasons.

How they falter: After major struggles down the stretch, Xavier cannot continue its momentum from the Big East tournament. The Musketeers' turnover woes—they commit 12.8 giveaways per game—plague them, as they are sent home quickly.

Mitchell Gladstone | Sports Managing Editor

Twitter: @mpgladstone13

A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak." 


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