For the Butler Bulldogs, Big East Tournament appearances have to start feeling like the movie “Groundhog Day”. The Bulldogs took a 62-57 loss to the Xavier Musketeers in Thursday night’s second round game to fall to 0-4 in four Big East Tournament appearances. To make the analogy even more complete, “Groundhog Day” star Bill Murray was seated behind the Xavier bench (Murray is the father of Xavier assistant Luke Murray).
However, Butler head coach Chris Holtmann wants everyone to take the 0-4 record with a bit of context. “We played pretty much a good team every year. We're not ignoring the fact that we're 0-for-4. We want to win. Our guys want to win. We're disappointed. We're disappointed for our fans. We would have loved for our fans, everyone who came, to stay here a little longer.” Holtmann said after the game.
Xavier, who came into the Big East Tournament firmly on the bubble, suddenly looks more and more like the Xavier of old. Chris Mack doesn’t want to think about the NCAA Tournament, though. “I only care about the Big East Tournament right now. And I talked a lot at the press conference that we had before we left [Cincinnati] about how I felt about my team and our resumé. But I'm here to talk about the Big East Tournament and a game that was well-played tonight, two teams that battled tooth and nail.” Mack said.
In a game that featured 13 lead changes and constant back-and-forth action in the second half, it’s tough to argue Mack’s desire. If Wednesday night’s game between Georgetown and St. John’s featured one of the “old” Big East’s best rivalries, this game certainly featured the best rivalry the “new” Big East has to offer.
With three minutes to go and trailing by one, Trevon Bluiett finished a layup through contact to give Xavier a 52-51 lead, then added on the free throw to make it 53-51. The Musketeers would hold the lead for the remainder of the game, as Bluiett would add four more big points down the stretch. “Coach [Mack] wanted me to get the ball around the elbow and just kind of make a play off that, drive and kick, throw high-low to the big, or just drive to the basket. When I turned around and saw the basket I felt like I had an advantage trying to get to the rim. So I tried to use my body a little bit. And the main thing was just to stay poised and just got a shot off.” Bluiett led all scorers with 23 points.
As the Bulldogs head back to Indianapolis to prepare for their NCAA Tournament game next week, Xavier will look to keep its momentum rolling as they face the winner of the Providence/Creighton quarterfinal on Friday evening.