The Final Four has eluded the Xavier Musketeers for the entirety of the program's history. Even with all their deep runs, the great players and coaches who have walked the court and the sidelines, Xavier still has never managed to get to the Final Four. It is perhaps the only accomplishment, National Championship not withstanding, that this Cincinnati-based program has yet to achieve.
Friday night, they will take a stab at it with arguably the best team they've ever had.
Trevon Bluiett, Edmond Sumner and the Musketeers begin their quest for immortality in the city known as "The Gateway to the West." Roughly 360 miles separate St. Louis and Cincinnati, and what ought to be a solid sized contingency for X will see their Muskies take on the Weber State Wildcats of the Big Sky Conference. Damian Lillard might not be donning purple and white any longer in Ogden, Utah, but the Wildcats pack a serious punch. They're winners of 10 of their last 11 and have suffered just three losses since the calendar turned to 2016.
The Wildcats are led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar award finalist Joel Bolomboy, a senior big man from Fort Worth, Texas who will provide an intriguing test for Xavier's tandem of titans in James Farr and Jalen Reynolds. Bolomboy might have put up just four points in the Big Sky Conference Tournament Final against the Montana Grizzlies, but performed marvelously in the semis, scoring 17, coming away with 19 rebounds, and two assists and a steal to boot. He's been a monster in 2016, averaging 14.6 points since a January 2 matchup vs. Idaho State.
Complementing Bolomboy are Jeremy Senglin, Kyndahl HIll, McKay Cannon and Zach Braxton, the latter two freshmen helping lead the charge in different facets this season. Braxton, 6-foot-9, was one of the best 2-point shooters in the country, ranking 85th in the category with a mark of 61.4 percent. The 250-pounder's ability to attack the rim could provide a problem when standing next to the terrific Bolomoby. Cannon meanwhile held the fort down at point guard and picked pockets often, possessing a steal percentage of 2.4 percent.
Despite that number though, Weber State doesn't force turnovers at a high rate, and have proven to be susceptible to them throughout the year. This could prove to be costly against a Xavier defense that has hounded teams in the turnover department and also is not too prone at giving the ball up, either.
We'll see what's likely to happen in St. Louis. If things pan out well for the Musketeers, a date with either Pittsburgh or Wisconsin will be in the cards.