When thinking of basketball powerhouses, no one would think of Xavier. They certainly are not Duke or Kentucky. What people don't realize, however, is that since 1982, the Musketeers have been a consistent, quality program. In fact, in that span they have only failed to reach the 20-win mark six times.
There were a lot of great moments of Xavier in the 2000s. From the New Year's Eve 2002 thriller against Creighton, to ending LSU's 17-game home win streak in 2009. The one game that is bigger than all other games, however, took place March 27, 2008, at the US Airways Center in Phoenix. Xavier was looking for their second trip to the Elite Eight in the decade. Standing in their way were the West Virginia Mountaineers, coached by old foe, and former Cincinnati Bearcats coach, Bob Huggins.
Any of Xavier's first three games of the 2008 NCAA Tournament could have fit the bill had this article been "Xavier's most exciting game of the 2000s". The 3-seed Musketeers opened the tournament against a Georgia Bulldogs team that gave them an early scare before Xavier pulled away with a 12-point victory. Then, the second round saw them meet up with the Purdue Boilermakers. Though the game had an 85-78 final in favor of the Musketeers, it was never really as close as that score indicated. Four Xavier players scored in double figures, and the Musketeers had 10-point leads at two different points in the second half.
By the time this matchup rolled around, the media had been having a field day with stories about Huggins coaching against Xavier once again. Huggins downplayed it though, "I like Sean [Miller, Xavier's then-coach]. I have known Sean for pretty much his whole life". Meanwhile, Miller and the Musketeers also remained focused on the game. Xavier opened the game on a 28-10 run before the Mountaineers were able to come charging back and cut it to a seven-point deficit at the half.
As most NCAA Tournament games seem to, this game only got better as it wore on. At the 9:45 mark, West Virginia took their first lead of the game after DaSean Butler rattled off six straight points for the Mountaineers. From then on, the game featured seven lead changes, culminating with overtime after a 64-64 tie.
Overtime saw more of the same back and forth action until the 1:22 mark. With his team trailing by a score of 74-72, Xavier's B.J. Raymond's One Shining Moment got underway. Raymond hit a three to give the Musketeers their first lead of overtime. On Xavier's next possession, Raymond did it again, hitting another three to put Xavier up 78-74 with seconds to play. From there, the Musketeers never looked back, winning by a tally of 79-75.
Even though the Musketeers lost their Elite Eight matchup to a UCLA team featuring Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, and Darren Collison, the Sweet Sixteen win remains the best game of the decade for the Musketeers, partially because it put Sean Miller on the map, but also because it is never easy making it to the Elite Eight, win or lose, and 2008 was Xavier's second trip in four seasons. As said above, they may not be a powerhouse, but they sure are a consistently quality program.