The sixth-seeded Xavier Musketeers and the 11th-seeded Marquette Golden Eagles will clash in the second round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
Awaiting the winner of this East Regional showdown is a third-round battle with either third-seeded Syracuse or 14th-seeded Indiana State on Sunday.
The Golden Eagles are making their 29th NCAA Tournament appearance and own a 34-29 record in the event. They did win the national title back in 1977, their lone NCAA championship. Head coach Buzz Peterson has led this group to a 20-14 overall record, and Marquette is one of 11 teams to earn a bid to this tournament from the Big East Conference, an unprecedented figure.
As for Xavier, it is 19-21 in 21 previous appearances in the "Big Dance". Chris Mack has now led the Musketeers to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, and at 24-7 overall the team certainly has high expectations. Xavier won the Atlantic 10 Conference regular season title, but fell to Dayton in the quarterfinal round of the league tournament.
Marquette owns a commanding 45-15 series lead over Xavier, which includes a 71-61 victory over the Musketeers last season.
For Marquette to win this game, the duo of Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson- Odom will have to be productive at the offensive end of the court. Butler leads the team with 16.0 ppg, and he knocks down over five free throws per game, proof that he knows how to draw contact. A physical performer, Butler is also second on the roster with 6.1 rpg. As for Johnson-Odom, he is scoring 15.9 ppg and is capable of taking a game over offensively when he gets rolling. Jae Crowder brings plenty of muscle to the court, and he is tops on the boards with 6.8 rpg while placing third in scoring (11.7 ppg). Dwight Buycks (9.2 ppg) adds some extra offensive balance for the Golden Eagles, who are generating 76.1 ppg while allowing 69.1 ppg to opponents. It will be interesting to see how Marquette responds after to losing to Louisville by 25 points in the Big East Tournament last time out.
While Marquette's Jimmy Butler does a good job of getting to the foul line as mentioned, his prowess in that department doesn't compare to that of Xavier guard Tu Holloway. An 86.9 percent shooter from the charity stripe, Holloway averages nearly eight made foul shots per contest, a staggering figure for a guard. He is netting 20.2 ppg and has handed out 169 assists to go along with 46 steals, tremendous production from the 6-0 junior. Mark Lyons checks in with 13.8 ppg for Xavier, and Kenny Frease provides 11.7 ppg and 7.1 rpg while shooting 54.6 percent shooting from the field. Jamel McLean rounds out a foursome of double-digit scorers with 10.8 ppg, and he leads the way on the glass with 8.4 rpg. The Musketeers are outrebounding foes by 4.4 rpg and are scoring 72.6 ppg while limiting opponents to 64.5 ppg on 40.2 percent field goal efficiency.
Both of these teams are coming off disappointing losses, but one will find a way to get back on track. Expect that team to be Marquette, as Johnson-Odom is due for a big-time performance.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Marquette 74, Xavier 68