Xavier opens tourney vs Weber St, hoping for deep run

Mar 18, 2016 - 3:30 AM ST. LOUIS (AP) Xavier's No. 2 seed is the best in school history. The Musketeers won't be satisfied without a deep NCAA Tournament run to match.

The school made it to the round of 16 last March and is in the field for the 10th time in 11 years. Hopes are high entering Friday night's opener against 15th-seeded Weber State that this will be the start of a drive that produces the school's first Final Four appearance.

Still, first things first.

Weber State (26-8) has come a long way after going 13-17 last season, winning the Big Sky Conference. The Wildcats reached the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons without any seniors on the roster.

''It's not in our DNA to think that we can't win a game,'' coach Randy Rahe said. ''And it doesn't matter who we play, when, where.''

They lean heavily on 6-foot-9 Joel Bolomboy and Big Sky tourney MVP Jeremy Senglin, an all-conference guard averaging a team-leading 18.2 points. Weber State has won 10 of 12.

''They have two main guys,'' Xavier guard Myles Davis said. ''We've just got to be ready to try and make it a tough day for those two.''

Bolomboy is the Big Sky MVP and its defensive player of the year, ranking third in the nation with 12.7 rebounds per game to go with a 17.2-point scoring average.

''He's going to get a lot of NBA looks,'' Xavier coach Chris Mack said. ''Big challenge for us.''

Xavier (27-5) finished second in the Big East and counters with a deep lineup that features seven players that led the team in scoring at least twice. The resume features six wins over ranked opponents, including then-No. 1 Villanova last month.

''I feel like last year we had a good team, but yeah, I feel like this year's team is a lot better,'' guard Remy Abel said. ''We're a lot deeper, we're more experienced.''

Sophomore Trevon Bluiett, a first-team All-Big East pick, leads a balanced offense with a 15.3-point average and is also the top 3-point threat. Freshman Edmond Sumner (11.3), Davis (11.1) and James Farr (10.8) also score in double figures.

The 6-foot-10 Farr leads the team in rebounding and is shooting 62 percent the last six games, and Davis has three triple doubles. J.P. Macura is averaging 9.6 points off the bench and Jalen Reynolds averages 6.1 points.

Things to watch for in Weber State-Xavier:

MARCH SUCCESS: Xavier has made it to the round of 16 five times the last eight seasons and Reynolds has a good track record, averaging 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in four tourney games. Still, they vow not to overlook Weber State.

DEAD EYE: Davis made 85.1 percent of his free throws, second best in the Big East. He was sixth in 3-point percentage (38.7).

TOURNEY MOMENTUM: Weber State has won five of the last 10 Big Sky titles, going 15-3 this season. The Wildcats could benefit from getting tested last week, beating North Dakota in overtime in the semifinals and edging Montana 62-59 in the title game. The 15th seed is just 6-16 all-time in the tournament, though, and played just one tourney team in the regular season, splitting a pair with South Dakota State.

''We feel like an underdog because, I mean, Xavier is a big-name school and we're not that big of a name,'' Senglin said. ''But that doesn't make us nervous or scared or anything.''

DIALED IN D: Xavier sagged a bit in recent games, but used the time after the Big East tourney to get things ironed out. Farr said players let offensive woes bother them for a while.

''We've had some slip-ups this year and I think we're finally back to where we use to be,'' Farr said. ''We saw the problem, we fixed it.''

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