The Xavier Musketeers' attempt at a Final Four and another Sweet 16 berth were denied Sunday night in St. Louis, as Bronson Koenig dropped in a buzzer-beater to lift his Wisconsin Badgers over the Musketeers 66-63.
With the victory, the Badgers are headed to the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season. The Musketeers, meanwhile, have arguably their best season in program history dashed within an instant with an early exit in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
"It sucks, " Myles Davis said after the game. "Especially for guys like James (Farr) and Remy (Abell) and the rest of the seniors - not being able to pull this out and take it to the Sweet 16 and then to the championship.
"Guys like James and Remy have given this program their all, given their teammates their all," coach Chris Mack said post-game. "We didn't play poorly, and that's always tough to take."
"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," said Trevon Bluiett.
"We're gonna be alright," said Jalen Reynolds, who exploded for 13 points on 6-of-6 shooting in the second half. "We'll be back."
Here's what we learned from this game:
1. The remnants of Wisconsin's Final Four teams pulled them out of the fire. Literally
Bronson Koenig's buzzer-beater to send the Badgers to the Sweet 16 will live on forever in Madison, and the man may never have to buy a drink again. He and Nigel Hayes were two of the few players left over from the two squads that made back-to-back trips to the Final Four. When it came down to it, Koenig dug deep and hit the game-winner at the buzzer to break the hearts of Xavier fans.
"I knew I wanted the ball," said Koenig, who started 0-for-6 from the field but finished with a game-high 20 points, all six of his field goals from downtown. "I went up to (Ethan Happ) and told him, pass to me if I'm open."
"We wanted to force them to take an outside shot, said Reynolds. "He just hit a great shot. Maybe a lucky shot, but a great shot."
"We call him 'Clutch Bronson' and he showed up big for us today," said Nigel Hayes, who struggled on the night going 2-for-10 from the field.
"That kid's got a flair for the dramatic," said Zak Showalter. "He definitely showed it tonight."
"They're an experienced team, Davis said. "They knew what they were doing and they proved it."
2. Xavier's leaky interior defense reared itself again
The Musketeers were leaking defensively down the stretch, especially so inside. Xavier was allowing almost anybody to shoot over 50 percent from inside, and that continued Sunday night at the Scottrade Center. The Badgers took 59 shots and while they shot only 8-of-27 inside, they went 17-of-32 on 2-point opportunities. Suffice it to say, it came back to bite them in a very big way even with the game-winner being one of those eight 3-point makes.
3. The Big East is down to just one
Ain't it weird how this works? The Big East entered the NCAA Tournament with five teams. Two weren't favored to win their possible second round matchups - Butler and Providence - one was a sleeper - Seton Hall - and two were expected to carry the torch - Villanova and Xavier. In the end, it's now Villanova, who perhaps nobody trusted to get through, who remains through the rubble as the conference's sole survivor of the madness that is the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Xavier was looked at as Final Four-caliber, but as we learned Sunday, and time and time again over the years, you never know what could hit you in March.