Mark Few sees a lot of Gonzaga in Xavier, and vice versa.
“They’ve had a great run, just like we have,” Gonzaga’s coach said of the Musketeers, who visit GU tonight at the McCarthey Athletic Center. “We’re kind of mirror images of each other.”
The visitors from Cincinnati have a national profile similar to Gonzaga’s. Xavier (7-2) has won or shared four straight Atlantic 10 titles, won at least 25 games the last four years and advanced to the NCAA tournament nine of the last 10 seasons. Xavier and Michigan State are the only teams to advance to at least the Sweet 16 the last three years. The Musketeers made the Elite Eight in 2004 and 2008.
Similar to Gonzaga (6-5), Xavier is riding a two-game winning streak entering tonight’s showdown. In their only games since Dec. 1, the Musketeers defeated 2010 NCAA runner-up Butler 51-49, despite making just 2 of 18 3-pointers, and Wake Forest 83-75 as junior guard Tu Holloway had a triple-double (14 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds) and 7-foot junior center Kenny Frease had a career-high 22 points and 14 boards.
Xavier was plus-22 rebounding in those two wins.
“They’re always in the (NCAA) tournament,” Gonzaga center Rob Sacre said. “They’re a team we need to respect.”
Holloway is averaging 21.3 points, 5.4 assists and 4.9 rebounds.
“He likes to dribble-drive people, but he’s also a capable shooter,” Bulldogs guard Demetri Goodson said. “He’s going to be a pretty tough close-out for us. We’ll just try to make it tough for him.”
Senior forward Jamel McLean nearly averages a double-double (10.5 points, 9.6 rebounds). Senior forward Danté Jackson has 65 career starts and scored a season-high 17 points against Wake Forest. Sophomore guard Mark Lyons (13.7 points) is the fourth Musketeer averaging double figures.
“They can score at all five spots,” Few said. “They’re going to challenge us when we’re on offense. They don’t give you many easy ones.”
Senior guard Steven Gray missed the second half of Saturday’s game with back spasms. He’ll likely be a game-time decision.