XAVIER MUSKETEERS VS. WISCONSIN BADGERS
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. CT
TV Channel: FS1
Watch Online: Fox Sports Go
Spread: Wisconsin (-3)
Records ATS: Xavier (2-0) | WIsconsin (1-0)
Last Time We Met...: We know. You know. Everyone knows.
When Wisconsin came up at Xavier’s postgame press conference after beating Rider on Monday, junior forward Kaiser Gates must have had flashbacks. Imagine being asked to relive your biggest professional nightmare, one that sent ripples through March Madness Twitter at your expense.
You could tell he didn’t want to think about it. He admitted it wasn’t that easy.
“I’m still thinking about it, thinking about the shot that went in at the buzzer,” he said. “Just the chance to get them back, it means the world to us.””
Graduate transfer Kerem Kanter nodded along. He understood, even though he wasn’t even in the building, wasn’t even at Xavier, wasn’t even in the NCAA Tournament when Bronson Koenig pulled up on the run from the right corner. Kanter said he was watching at home, rooting against Wisconsin, his former cross-state big brother at Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Imagine how Trevon Bluiett, who double teamed the decoy, Nigel Hayes, as time expired feels about this. Or JP Macura, Xavier’s fourth leading scorer in that game. Jalen Reynolds is probably scowling somewhere, too.
Xavier was a two seed, and it was Reynolds’ last season, so this was supposed to be the Musketeers’ year. You know, that intangible feeling that fate and the lack of injuries and seeding make you think that this has to be it, that this is the chance at something special, and all those cliches that coaches like Chris Mack always talk about.
Team 94 was that. Koenig disagreed. That’s life in March.
But how we perceive fate and what actually happens are two different things in March Madness, a winner-take-all tournament and a sample size nightmare. Xavier made its third Elite 8 the year after losing Reynolds and with Sumner out. Villanova won the title the year after it lost its leading scorer, Darrun Hilliard. Same with UNC after losing Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson.
College hoops is funny like that. The year is never actually the year.
So now, Xavier is in its second season since, having the chance to redeem itself from Koenig’s hands. Even though the year after the year ended up really being the one we’ll remember.
So, why does this matter?
College basketball players like to remember. It’s mostly a unique phenomenon to amateurs, where a heartbreak from the beginning of your career continues to resonate because you thought you knew what your fate was supposed to be.
When does LeBron call out Dwight Howard for beating the Cavs in the 2009 playoffs? Does Westbrook have flashbacks to Klay in game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals. Is so, he hasn’t mentioned them.
But, Gates still cares. Macura is probably going to come out with four shooting sleeves. Even Kanter said he understands why this feud has lasted. Xavier isn’t downplaying this.
This game is going to be great for the same reasons we love college basketball.