Where: Madison Square Garden, New York
NEW YORK – (Special Preview for Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – By playing for the second in time less than a week, No. 7 seed Xavier and 10th-seeded DePaul help open the Big East Tournament Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. The Musketeers halted a six-game losing streak with a 79-65 road victory Saturday against the Blue Demons, but could use a couple more victories to improve their chances of making the NCAA Tournament.
Junior guard Trevon Bluiett, fresh off being named to the All-Big East first team for the second time, leads the Musketeers into action. Bluiett, whose third double-double of the season helped Xavier close the regular season with a win, leads the Big East in average minutes played (34.4), and is fourth in scoring (18 points per game) and 10th in rebounding (5.8). This will be the fourth Big East Tournament for Xavier, which reached the semifinals in each of the past three, including a loss to Villanova in the 2015 final. Billy Garrett, Jr., the winner of the Big East Sportsmanship Award, tries to lead the Blue Demons to the Big East Tournament quarterfinals for the first time in what will be their 10th attempt.
TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
ABOUT DEPAUL (9-22): Unless Garrett, Eli Cain and another player such as Tre’Darius McCallum, Brandon Cyrus or Chris Harrison-Docks come up with big games, the Blue Demons will have a small margin for error in this contest. Dave Leitao’s team posted only two conference wins and both came when it held its opponent to fewer than 70 points. Cain leads the team in scoring at 15.6 points per game, but was 5-for-24 on 3-point attempts over the last eight games for DePaul, which lost five straight and eight of the last nine meetings with Xavier.
ABOUT XAVIER (19-12): Coach Chris Mack knows what he will get out of Bluiett, who averaged 12.2 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting close to 50 percent from 3-point range in five career Big East Tournament games, but the rest of the roster is not as consistent. J.P. Macura had a strong junior season with 14.5 points per game, but is prone to shooting woes, and RaShid Gaston, Malcolm Bernard and Kaiser Gates run hot and cold. Quentin Goodin averaged six assists over the past 10 games as a replacement for the injured Edmond Sumner, but the freshman doesn’t score much with four games in double figures.
1. The Blue Demons are 2-9 in the Big East Tournament with wins coming in the first round over Cincinnati (2009) and Georgetown (2014).
2. By finishing 9-9 in the Big East, Xavier extended the nation’s longest active streak of consecutive seasons at .500 or better in conference to 35 years.
3. Bluiett, who was a member of the All-Big East freshmen team in 2015, is the first Xavier player to twice be named to the All-Big East first or second teams.