How to watch and stream
Time: Approx. 9:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Xavier’s basketball season and tournament hopes were saved in Thursday night’s 62-57 win over Butler. Unsurprisingly, Trevon Bluiett was the hero, sinking six shots, nine free throws, and a stepback from the elbow that will certainly show up on the jumbotron at the Cintas Center for years to come. His 23 points, along with Malcolm Bernard’s stellar defense and Sean O’Mara’s baby hook shot, propelled Xavier into the Big East Semifinals and out of the terrifying bubble.
While Creighton’s 70-58 victory over Providence wasn’t as dramatic, it was equally impressive. Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas’ relentless drives to the basket carried the Bluejay offense all night. Their defense was even more impressive as Thomas and Justin Patton anchored the paint, stunting Providence’s gifted leading scorer Kyron Cartwright. Patton’s presence in the restricted area altered shots and eight rebounds fueled a terrifying fast break that fueled Creighton all night.
Creighton’s defense, the tone-setter against Providence, will find an increasingly difficult matchup Friday night against Xavier. Bluiett has carried the Musketeers so far, but Cole Huff and Marcus Foster are quick enough and strong enough to handle the inside-outside threat.
Bluiett’s 3-point shooting has been a serious concern for the Musketeers for the past two nights at the Garden, and with Patton able to sag off of Xavier’s non-shooting bigs, Bluiett shouldn’t expect as much success on drives and post up opportunities. The 7-footer in Patton is a much more difficult obstacle to meet in the paint than Butler’s 6-foot-7 forward Andrew Chrabascz. Bluiett’s 3-point shot will certainly be key for Xavier’s offense.
The performance of the starting point guards on both sides will be equally important when the Musketeers and the Bluejays tip off. Freshman Quentin Goodin of Xavier and Davion Mintz of Creighton are going to be significant X-factors. On Thursday night, Creighton forced 22 turnovers on Providence, and Goodin isn't known for his ability to hold onto the ball. However, he is Xavier’s only capable ball-handler who initiates a lot of the action for the Musketeers’ better scorers.
For example he set up Xavier’s offense on the final possession Thursday night and gave Bluiett the opportunity to take his game-winning shot. Even though his assist to turnover ratio has been somewhat distressing (almost 1-1 in the last month), he remains the one that X looks towards to make its biggest passes.
Mintz plays a less significant role for Creighton. He’s averaged about 20 minutes per game since assuming the role, but he is one of their best free throw shooters and is very capable of getting to the line. He got his best opportunities driving to the basket and drawing a foul against Providence.
He also is one of Creighton’s leaders in assists and is especially talented in transition. One of the best plays of the tournament occurred on Thursday when he fed Justin Patton in transition for a dunk. Still, he hasn’t made a three point shot in nearly a month and averages more than two turnovers per game in that timespan.
Who will play in the semifinals? Time will tell, but expect a fantastic encounter at The World’s Most Famous Arena.