If you texted me at any point last night after 11:00, my response was probably this:
That was the worst loss I’ve endured as a sports fan in a long time. I’m currently typing this article with what may or may not be a broken hand from punching a door – I might just be soft, but I can’t flex my hand. Screw it, I’ll use Web MD later.
Xavier played good, but not good enough. I think they’re a better team than Wisconsin. I think, for the most part, they were a better coached team. At the end of the day, the Badgers wasted less possessions and played better when it mattered most. If you look up and down the Musketeer lineup, there were awful nights all around- Trevon Bluiett had 7 points and 6 boards on 3-11 shooting. Myles Davis had 5 with a turnover and no assists on 1-5 shooting. James Farr got 13 minutes in his final game as a Muskie, scoring only two points by way of free throws. JP Macura hit one three point shot on his way to only having 7 points. It was just a tough night. They didn’t get the bounces they normally do, which played a role in being outrebounded by two, 38 to 36.
There were bright spots. Jalen Reynolds had a very nice night, with 13 points and 9 boards. He played good defense with some highlight reel dunks. Remy Abell had himself a nice night in his last Xavier game, scoring 13 while grabbing 4 rebounds and 2 steals. #10 got every big bucket the Muskies needed, and he played stifling defense, even on the play that sent Wisconsin to the Sweet 16. It was just a better shot.
Wisconsin is a good story because of how many guys from last year’s team which lost the championship to Duke. Bo Ryan retired early on, and Greg Gard replaced him. Gard lost his father to brain cancer shortly before, but he nonetheless coached up a thin Wisconsin team to be a dangerous opponent. I would root for them if it weren’t for Bronson (sweet name, bro) Koenig making it all about himself in his post-game interview. Like sick dude, you sent your team to the Sweet 16. And he played a great game, with 20 points on 6-15 shooting. It’s a team game though, don’t take all the credit when you weren’t the only one to perform- Ethan Happ played well too, pouring in 18.
There’s been a lot of talk about Xavier’s last possession, which resulted in a questionable charge against Edmond Sumner. My take is this- it was a charge. He lowered his shoulder, led with his forearm, and definitely fouled him. Sure, the Wisconsin player flopped. But that’s the game. It was excessive, but it’s what you need to do for your team down the stretch. I don’t respect it, but they ended up on the winning side. It’s not that play that lost Xavier the game- wasted first half possessions, not hitting free throws, and not getting enough stops in the later part of the second half is why Xavier is packing their bags too early.
This was a great season to watch, and it’s a damn shame that Xavier is out of it now. With only Villanova remaining, this is kind of a bad look for the BIG EAST Conference, which gets a lot of heat for supposedly being not too competitive. I disagree, I just think that March Madness is based so much on matchups that any given team can lose. Just ask Xavier. Or Michigan State. Or West Virginia. Or Cal. Or any team that has bowed out too early.
It’ll be a good year next year. Despite losing the leadership of Farr and Abell (and potentially Reynolds), they return lots of players, while welcoming in transfer RaShid Gaston and recruits Quentin Goodin (future stud, look him up), Tyrique Jones, and Eddie Ekiyor. It’s a tough one to swallow, but such is life. The rest of March Madness is going to be a long experience…
UPDATE: My hand is not broken. The only things I have that are broken are my heart and my spirits.
Cover Photo courtesy of stltoday.com.
Other photos courtesy of the Cincinnati Enquirer and thebiglead.com.
GIF courtesy of Tumblr (please don’t make fun of me).