For the seventh time in the past 14 years—and for the fourth time under head coach Chris Mack—Xavier is heading to the Sweet 16.
The Musketeers became the second Cinderella to advance on Saturday, as the 11th-seeded Musketeers dominated third-seeded Florida State, 91-66, just hours after No. 8 seed Wisconsin knocked defending champion Villanova out of the NCAA tournament.
The Musketeers took a 6-5 lead at the 16:08 mark of the first half and didn't trail again, holding Florida State at bay in the first half before pulling away in the second. Xavier shot lights out from beyond the arc (11-of-17), played excellent team basketball (20 assists) and won the rebounding battle (36-32) despite Florida State's length and athleticism.
They didn't give Florida State any easy baskets, either:
Truly, the Musketeers blitzed the Seminoles with a balanced attack, with five players finishing with double-digit points. Trevon Bluiett (29 PTS, 6 REB), the team's leading scorer this season, once again paced the Musketeers.
ESPN's Dick Vitale perhaps put it best:
Jeff Borzello of ESPN agreed:
Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports added to the lovefest:
Dwayne Bacon (20 PTS) and Xavier Rathan-Mayes (16 PTS, 7 REB) led Florida State, while Jonathan Isaac—likely a top-10 pick in this year's NBA draft—was held to eight points, though he did add 11 rebounds.
Florida State was loaded with talent this year, while Xavier had an up-and-down season, making the result all the more surprising. The Musketeers lost six straight games between February and March, and many people wrote them off after point guard Edmond Sumner tore his ACL in January.
In fact, their place in the tourney likely wasn't decided until a crucial late-season win, as Seth Davis of CBS Sports noted:
Sam Vecenie of the Sporting News certainly wasn't expecting them to steamroll Florida State:
Xavier now awaits the winner of No. 2 seed Arizona vs. No. 7 seed Saint Mary's, with a berth in the Elite Eight on the line. The Musketeers were nearly perfect against Florida State. If they can replicate that performance, they may become the story of this tournament.
"I don't even know where to start," Mack said after the game, according to Shannon Russell of WCPO.com. "I'm so excited for the guys next [to] me and the guys in the locker room. They earned it."
Mack cited his team's toughness as a major factor in the win.
"There's a belief within this team that we can play with anybody when we're tough-minded, and I thought we were today," he said, per Russell.
J.P. Macura agreed.
"That's one of the reasons why I love this team—because all the way down the line, everybody's tough," he said in the postgame press conference, according to Russell.
Bluiett and Sumner, meanwhile, took to Twitter to talk about the win:
On Florida State's side, head coach Leonard Hamilton cited his team's inability to get going from beyond the arc as a major reason in the loss, per Russell:
The Seminoles finished 4-of-21 from three. Had Florida State been a bit more effective from beyond the arc, perhaps Saturday's game would have been tighter. Ultimately, however, Xavier outplayed them in every facet.
Either Arizona or Saint Mary's will have their hands full with the Musketeers on Thursday.