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Entries in Xavier (4)


Twitter Recap: Who Said What About Kansas State-Xavier?

NCAA Tournament

One Great Season

Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente. Jordan Crawford and Terrell Holloway. That epic Xavier-Kansas State tilt you watched Thursday night was full of big plays by great players. And here are some gems from the Twitterverse about one of the best NCAA Tournament games ever played:

+ @sportsguy33: "Thank you Xavier and K-State. What a ride. Gotta love any game that made Gus Johnson a Twitter trending topic."

+ @livehead16: "man, that xavier-kstate game was incredible. not only suspenseful, but those kids just made big shot after big shot. fantastic stuff."

+ @TheSayWhatKid: "K state over Xavier in 2ot is one of my top 5 b-ball games ever, more rediculous clutch threes than I could ask for, it was almost annoying."

+ @richeisen: "Simply: this Xavier/K-State game is why we watch."

+ @cgrock24: "What makes Xavier v. K-State special is the execution & shot making in critical situations by both teams.[Gus Johnson helps 2!"

+ @ciellemsmith: "I may be #kstate born and bred,but #xavier played with such heart that every young athelete should take note.that's how proud teams play."

+ @MattZemek_CFN: "Congratulations to two teams for one of the great NCAA Tournament games we've ever had the pleasure of witnessing. Chin up, X. Kudos, KSU!"

+ @MattZemek_CFN: "Pullen. Clemente. Holloway. Enough onions for a decade's worth of fajitas. Wow."

+ @AndyHutchins: "Worst part of this game: Xavier's five warriors looking shattered after that three hit iron."

+ @EdgeofSports: "Xavier/K-State: Best. Game. Ever. Gus Johnson has mic-skills like Rakim."

+ @AndyHutchins: "I am legitimately concerned for Gus Johnson's health if this game ends on a buzzer-beater."

+ @CKlosterman: "Switching over from the NCAA tourney to the NBA on TNT is like rushing out of a burning building in order to watch 'Backdraft.'"

+ @thefarmerjones: "Glad KSU's gonna win this, if only to keep Frank Martin from going back to his old job as mob contract killer."

+ @TherealBHurl: "This may be one of the most clutchly played games I've ever seen. If that's a word."

+ @GregAnthony50: "Sharpie time KState!!! Give it up for Xavier as well, just a great performance. Best game of the tourney by far!"

+ @GaryParrishCBS: "We have officially reached yell-at-your-tv time. What a game."

+ @WojYahooNBA: "Outside of duke-kentucky, it's up there with any ncaa tournament game in last 20 years."

+ @JustinDYoung: "This game is sooooo worth the fight my wife and I will be having about 'why i never spend time with her" in an hour.'"


Xavier Fans Love Unheralded Senior

Jason Love

Special To One Great Season

I am a Xavier fan. I went to the school. I have followed the program for more than 15 years. In the late 1990s, I sat along the baseline as Xavier beat hated crosstown rival and No. 1 Cincinnati in The Gardens, photographing the game for the XU school paper. I wrote an XU blog after moving out to the Pacific Northwest. I love my squad. 

Therefore, I cannot care less that the sports world has called Xavier a mid-major for years yet is suddenly ready to recant. Well, color me unimpressed. I've been too busy enjoying a program that also was called "Power Forward U." When your program sends Aaron Williams, Tyrone Hill, Brian Grant and David West to solid NBA careers, it sounds like a pretty legit nickname. I've also been too busy watching a team that's made three straight Sweet Sixteens. And I have definitely been busy enjoying the quiet and astounding career of Jason Love, the epitome of Xavier basketball.


+ EAST REGION: Cornell Cute, But Big Red Will Be Feeling Blue
+ TV CRITIC: March Adness: Cheers To Dos Equis
+ TOURNAMENT TAKEAWAYS: What The First Weekend Taught Us
+ KANSAS COLLAPSE: Jayhawks Fans Left Speechless, Except This One
+ RECIPE: 7 Ingredients For A National Championship
+ MARCH MADNESS: Tourney No Longer Leads To April Sadness
+ COUNTDOWN: The Top 10 Title Games Since 1979
+ LIST: The Top 10 Analysts In College Basketball
+ LIST: The Top 10 Play-By-Play Men In College Basketball

When the "little writer that couldn't" in Minnesota predicted that the Gophers should handle the Muskies with ease in Friday's first-round of the NCAA Tournament, he showed his ignorance of the program that helped mold Jason Love. He came to Xavier as a lightly recruited player from Philadelphia. His personal stats started off slowly but have steadily climbed to 11.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Not too impressive, you say? Why should I care about this no-name, no-stats fella from Eggs-zavyer? I'll tell you why: because the respect XU and "mid-majors" have suddenly earned this week via the collective wisdom of the national media (tongue planted firmly in cheek) is the result of wins.

And this year, Love became the winningest player in Xavier basketball history. XU has won 108 games during Love's four years, and Muskies fans hope there are still more left in the tank. That's an average of 27 wins a season from a team full of guys just like Love. And did I mention the four straight Atlantic 10 championships?

No one can tell me how many points XU averaged last weekend in winning two more NCAA Tournament games, but I can tell you that Xavier is 7-2 in the last three trips to the Big Dance. And in the SportsCenter era of highlight-reel dunks and self-promoting one-and-dones, XU never forgets the bottom line. Just win, baby.

But was the national media ever paying attention? Did writers do their homework over the past four seasons? Or even this year? Could even Cincinnati's local media rattle off these fully impressive statistics (I'm looking at you, Enquirer beat writer Shannon Russell)? Will XU supplant UC on more pages of the Cincinnati Enquirer now that the tables have so definitively turned? The answer to all those questions is a resounding "no." And the response from true Xavier fans is a simple shrug, because we don't need the adulation. We don't need the dunk clips. We don't need the pre-game style when we can settle for the post-game substance: the win.

Up next is Kansas State under the psycho-killer watch of coach Frank Martin, whom we all know Martin is a Bob Huggins protege, but we don't know if he has learned from Huggs to dine out for the rest of his life on one great postseason run. As for the daggers Martin shoots at his players for the smallest of mistakes, didn't that approach run its course when Bobby Knight faded into the Texas Tech sunset? KSU did smoke Xavier early this season when the Muskies were going through some serious growing pains. The convincing 15-point loss dropped XU to 5-3, but helped star player Jordan Crawford begin to adopt Love's team-first attitude that would help them win games like that one. Or this one.

While I don't fall into the trap of trying to predict the next round's games, I'll go in a different direction and will give you guarantees. Crawford will take some shots you wish he wouldn't, and he'll make them. Kenny "The Glacier" Frease will foul opposing players in an interesting manner. And win or lose, Love will play hard and with passion and will represent his program just as impressively as any other player from any other team, mid-major or not.

John T. Thompson is a die-hard Xavier fan who lives in Portland, Ore.


Tournament Takeaways: What The First Weekend Taught Us

Ali Farokhmanesh

One Great Season

One of the best opening weekends in recent NCAA Tournament history drew to a close shortly before 8 p.m. ET Sunday, and if you're anything like me, you've already begun counting down every tenth of a second for Thursday's Sweet 16 round to get here.

What did the first two rounds show us? Besides the fact that I can't fill out a bracket with even the slightest bit of success, plenty:

+ No one is invincible. Kansas, not just a No. 1 seed, but the tournament's top overall seed and heavy favorite to win its second national championship in three years, learned that the hard way. The Jayhawks had a star or a budding star at every spot on the floor, but they might not have taken seriously enough the one thing Northern Iowa seemed to have more of: heart.

+ The Big Ten is back. Isn't that what we said in the first week of January, after the college football bowl season? It is, and the same is true on the hardwood. With No. 1 Kansas and No. 3 Georgetown out of the way, Ohio State is the logical pick to rule the Midwest, though it might need to knock off league foe Michigan State -- gimpy guards and all -- in the Elite Eight. And not enough can be said about Purdue's gutsy overtime defeat of Texas A&M, making the Big Ten the only conference to send three teams into the next round. Gritty Chris Kramer doesn't want his career to end just yet. The Purdue senior is straight ballin'.

+ Cornell is legitimate. So is Xavier. Those are two fine basketball teams. That Cornell-Kentucky matchup will be one of the most interesting Sweet 16 games in recent memory. And the Muskies are no longer a precious little mid-major. The Muskies can beat anybody. I loved that rookie coach and hometown fave Chris Mack jabbed a Minneapolis writer after XU took it to the Golden Gophers Friday.

+ Despite the Big Ten props, I do agree with most analysts -- Len Elmore and Seth Davis, in particular -- who say the best-conference debate is a waste of time. Conferences aren't playing conferences. Individual teams are playing other teams in high-pressure, single-elimination games where personnel matchups are critical. That said, what up with the Big East?

+ Looking ahead, if Kentucky and West Virginia win their third-round games in the East, they'd meet in what would no doubt be the best regional final of the tournament. If those teams do make the Elite Eight, that could very well be a de facto national championship game.

+ On the TV front, CBS once again did an outstanding job showing 48 games over 80 hours, and switching to late-game situations. One complaint I did hear came from a colleague in the Bay Area who was disappointed to have to watch the last minute of Sunday's Duke-Cal yawner instead of being switched to the thrilling Xavier-Pittsburgh and Purdue-Texas A&M finishes that unfolded simultaneously at other locations. But overall, I thought CBS got it right again and I hope The Eye continues to broadcast America's greatest sporting event for as long as I'm alive.

+ The Miller Lite commercials are still awful, the Capital One viking ads have never once been funny, the new Dos Equis spots are just as strong as last year's successes, the girl in the Palm commercial is beautiful, Rhys Darby has already jumped the shark with those bad HP ads and Southwest Airlines appears poised to annoy us with their shirt-lifting baggage handlers for two more weeks. More on that from OGS contributor Steve Susi soon.


UC Fans Still Have No Idea How Xavier Fans Feel

Brian Kelly

One Great Season

PHILADELPHIA -- I just talked to one of my old Cincinnati buds, a 30-something cat with some savvy takes on sports.

We both agreed that losing a good coach to a better job sucks.

"There's nothing I can do about it," said John Thompson, who's been living out in Portland for a few years now but still pays close attention to the sports scene back home.

"It makes sense for (up-and-coming coaches) to leave," John reasoned. "If you're one of those guys, you want the best ingredients to win championships. It's harder to make good runs and great teams out of consistently mediocre to moderately good recruits."


+ GUEST COLUMN: Don't Blame Brian Kelly; Blame UC
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+ ANALYSIS: Cincinnati Is Going To Hate BK

Now close your eyes for a minute and try to imagine who Thompson could be talking about if I told you our conversation had little to do with the Cincinnati Bearcats' football squad, which just lost Brian Kelly to Notre Dame Thursday night.

"If you're one of these hyper-competitive guys, why would you settle for Xavier basketball recruits or UC football recruits if you're trying to win championships?" Thompson asked.

That's right. Thompson is a former Xavier student and lifelong Musketeers' fan. The hell that fans in Clifton think they were introduced to Thursday is something Xavier fans have lived through four times in recent years.

Four times!

Try losing Brian Kelly four times and see how that feels.

Now I'm not saying Sean Miller did for Xavier hoops what Kelly did for Cincinnati football. But he came pretty close, especially with that splendid Elite Eight run in 2008. And when he left after last season for the warmer climate, bigger stakes and fatter recruiting budget of the PAC 10 Arizona Wildcats, no one could blame him. The same could have been said about his three predecessors Thad Matta (who left for Ohio State), Skip Prosser (Wake Forest) and Pete Gillen (Virginia).


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"It's not about loyalty to your school," Thompson said. "It's about getting to the bigger conferences. And I've settled into that fact as a Xavier fan."

Thompson said the reason why he thinks Xavier, despite the departures, continues to be consistently successful over time is because the coaching jobs are pretty much kept in the family, meaning recruiting suffers little harm. Prosser was an assistant under Gillen. Miller was an assistant under Matta. And current coach Chris Mack is a former XU player -- and one-time star at local St. Xavier High School -- who was promoted from assistant.

"There's been that built-in identity as a result that, essentially, leaves the new head coach as the guy who recruited most of the kids playing for him," Thompson said.

Don't expect Cincinnati to follow that blueprint. Such a move would mean Kerry Coombs would be the next head coach, and that theory has been blown out of the Ohio River as speculation heats up over Kelly's replacement. Coombs, despite the lofty title of Associate Head Coach, has only been a head coach at the high school level, albeit a very successful one. He built a great tradition at local Colerain High School, but promoting him at UC would probably be a step backward for the Bearcats.

So the search begins for the next coach. Will UC look for someone to keep the Bearcats merely competitive before leaving after three years? Or will the school commit to the various upgrades for which its newly former coach pushed and make Clifton a destination for a new football tradition?

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