San Jose Regional: Breaking down Arizona-Xavier
Keanu Pinder #25 of the Arizona Wildcats reacts against the St. Mary’s Gaels during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 18, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Tipoff: Thursday, 7:09. p.m. (approx.) / TV: TBS / Vegas says: Arizona by 7.5
Records: Arizona 32-4, Xavier 23-13
The storyline: Arizona coach Sean Miller faces off against Xavier, which he coached to four NCAA tournaments in five seasons through 2009. These teams met in the Sweet 16 round two years ago, with Arizona winning 68-60 in Los Angeles. The No. 2-seeded Wildcats are hoping to reach the Final Four for the first time since 2001, the first time under Miller. Xavier has never played in the Final Four.
The stars: Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett is one of the top upperclassmen remaining in the tournament. The 6-foot-6 junior guard averages 18.5 points and totaled 50 points last week in victories over Maryland and Florida State. … Arizona’s Allonzo Trier, suspended the first 19 games of the season for use of a performance-enhancing drug, has hit his stride. The sophomore wing averaged 22.1 points over the final seven regular-season games. He scored 32 points last week in the wins over North Dakota and Saint Mary’s.
The role players: Xavier freshman Quentin Goodin has started the past 15 games at point guard after a season-ending knee injury to sophomore Edmond Sumner. Goodin has averaged 6.9 points, 5.0 assists and 2.5 turnovers since being handed the reins. … Arizona’s Lauri Markannen is more co-star than role player, a 7-foot freshman from Finland who earned all-Pac-12 honors. A projected NBA lottery pick, Markannen has scored at least 20 points in three of the past five games.
The coaches: Xavier’s Chris Mack has won at least 20 games seven of his eighth seasons, but to get there this season he had to shepherd his team to five wins in its past six games after a six-game losing streak. Mack has yet to get the Musketeers beyond the regional semifinals. … Arizona’s Sean Miller, in his eighth season, has led the Wildcats to the Sweet 16 five times, losing in the regional final in both 2014 and ’15. He is 220-65 at Arizona.
For Arizona to win: The Wildcats must utilize their size advantage more effectively than Florida State did in its 25-point loss Saturday to the Musketeers. Arizona has the balance, defense and depth to make life tough for Xavier.
For Xavier to win: The 11th-seeded Musketeers used a 2-3 zone to cope with Florida State’s size and limit the Seminoles to 4 for 21 from the 3-point arc. They might need to mix defenses against a better shooting perimeter team.