Los Angeles, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Yet another test featuring familiar faces takes place on Thursday night, as the Xavier Musketeers and the Arizona Wildcats get together in the round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament at the Staples Center.
As the second seed in the West Region, the Wildcats were expected to be here in the second week of the NCAA Tournament, but head coach Sean Miller could not have predicted that the man standing on the other sideline would be one of his proteges.
Miller, the head coach at Xavier before moving on to take the job with the Wildcats, employed Chris Mack as one of his assistants with the Musketeers and now the latter is in charge of Xavier as he seeks to upend his mentor in this crucial matchup.
Arizona, which won the NCAA Championship with an 84-79 overtime victory against Kentucky back in 1997 when it was a four seed, began this year's quest with a 93-72 triumph against Texas Southern in the second round in Portland last week, and continued with a 73-58 win versus Ohio State last weekend.
The sixth-seeded Musketeers are making their seventh appearance in the Sweet 16 and are aiming to reach the Elite Eight for just the third time in program history. A member of the Big East, Xavier lost to Villanova in the conference tournament title game, 69-52, but was still invited to the Big Dance and has turned in wins against Ole Miss (76-57) and Georgia State (75-67) in the process.
In terms of an all-time history between these programs, this will be the first-ever meeting.
The winner of this game takes on the survivor of the North Carolina/Wisconsin meeting on Saturday for the right to represent the West Region in the Final Four.
Ahead by just four points at the break, after shooting 55.6 percent from the floor through the first 20 minutes of action, the Musketeers dialed up the pressure at the offensive end and turned in an incredible 13-of-16 (.813) shooting effort in order to capture the win in Jacksonville. Not only did Xavier hit on a sizzling 67.6 percent from the floor, it also knocked down 7- of-13 shots beyond the arc and made all but three of 25 chances at the free- throw line.
Jalen Reynolds accounted for 21 points in 26 minutes off the bench, shooting a near-perfect 6-of-7 from the field, while Myles Davis converted 5-of-8 out on the perimeter for his 17 points, followed by Dee Davis with 15 points and five assists.
Matt Stainbrook, who was held to only nine points and six rebounds in 35 minutes of action versus Georgia State, maintains his spot atop the scoring list for the Musketeers as he posts 12.1 ppg, but not far behind are Trevon Bluiett and Myles Davis with 11.3 and 10.7 ppg, respectively. Dee Davis (8.9 ppg) also shows strength on offense, but more with his passing (217 assists) than anything else.
It was yet another dominating performance for the Wildcats as they took down 10th-seeded Ohio State the last time out, the favorites turning a one-point halftime advantage into a 15-point triumph at the Moda Center. Gabe York was 5-of-9 shooting behind the 3-point line as he finished with 19 points, matching T.J. McConnell in the scoring column, the latter also handing out six assists, grabbing six rebounds and making five steals. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson shot only 3-of-12 from the field, but still finished with a double-double consisting of 11 points and 10 rebounds, not to mention five assists.
Perhaps most surprising about the win for the Wildcats was that leading scorer Stanley Johnson (14.0 ppg), was limited to just 1-of-12 shooting from the floor, en route to four points, although he did produce 10 rebounds. On a unit that is outscoring the competition by 17.8 ppg, Brandon Ashley contributes another 12.2 ppg, Hollis-Jefferson 11.3 ppg and McConnell 10.1 ppg, the latter also handing out 228 assists and making a staggering 80 steals, while turning the ball over a mere 71 times.