No. 3 Xavier faces DePaul with Big East top seed on line (Mar 02, 2018)
Don't blame Xavier for feeling greedy.
After clinching a share of the Big East title earlier this week with a victory over Providence, the third-ranked Musketeers can clinch the league crown outright Saturday morning if they take care of business against the DePaul Blue Demons in Chicago.
They come into the game riding high, having won two straight since a 16-point loss to Villanova on Feb 17. Xavier (26-4, 14-3 Big East) bounced back from that defeat with an 18-point victory at Georgetown and then easily handled the Friars 84-74 on Wednesday.
As they have all season, the Musketeers will turn to their senior duo of Trevon Bluiett and J.P Macura to provide the bulk of the offense. Bluiett leads Xavier with 19.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game and is shooting at a 43.6 percent clip.
Macura brings 12.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game to the table and has been Xavier's most effective defender.
DePaul (11-18, 4-13) enters the game tied for last in the league after falling to Creighton 82-57 earlier in the week. The Blue Demons will once again be watching the NCAA Tournament from their couches but they still have plenty to play for as they can escape the 10th seed in the upcoming Big East Tournament.
Despite the distance between the two teams in the standings, coach Chris Mack and the Musketeers know better than to take a victory for granted. DePaul put a scare into Xavier earlier this season, leading by as many as 16 points in the second half before the Musketeers recovered with a frantic rally to beat the Blue Demons, 77-72.
"They have a really talented team," Mack said "They've played much better basketball over the last four or five games. We have our work cut out against them."
DePaul committed a season-high 23 turnovers in the loss.
"When you turn the ball over against a team that's veteran and skilled and can get up and down the court, that hurt us," Blue Demons coach Dave Leitao said. "I think it's because we got consumed by the moment and didn't stay aggressive."
Max Strus matched his career high with 33 points in that contest, including 16 on 6 of 8 from the field in the first half, and Mack made it clear that stopping him will be a priority this time around.
"We have to do a better job," Mack said. "We lost him in the half-court on a couple of stagger screens. He only needs a fraction of a second to get a good release. We have to be locked in."
Xavier has won 11 of its last 12 games but should DePaul pull off the upset, No. 4 Villanova could sneak into a tie for the title -- its fifth in a row as part of the reconfigured Big East -- with a victory over Georgetown.
That scenario would drop the Musketeers into the No 2 seed for the conference tournament since Villanova holds the tiebreaker after sweeping the season series.