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ETSU-Xavier Preview

Mar 20, 2010 - 8:42 PM East Tennessee State (23-8) at Xavier (27-3), 2:30 p.m. EDT

Xavier looks for its first NCAA tournament win since 2001 when it hosts East Tennessee State on Sunday afternoon.

The fifth-ranked Musketeers (27-3) are 0-4 in the tournament since 2001, losing in the first round each of the last three years.

"Our history - we got put out the past three years," said Amber Harris, the Atlantic 10's player of the year. "But we're not thinking about that. We're just thinking about right now."

Xavier became only the second A-10 team to go undefeated in the regular season and win the conference tournament, too. The Musketeers' No. 5 ranking is the highest ever for a Xavier men's or women's team. Their No. 3 seed in the tournament also is the best yet.

The university wanted to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament, knowing it had a special team coming along that could make the most of home-court advantage.

"They have a real sense of 'our time is now,' and I think you're going to see them play incredibly hard," said Kevin McGuff, who has coached Xavier to five NCAA appearances in his eight years. "It's been fun to see them grow this year, and this is their moment and I think they're ready for it."

They have a pronounced front-line advantage against East Tennessee State, which is 0-2 in the tournament. The 14th-seeded Lady Bucs (23-8) don't have a player taller than 6-foot-3, which presents a problem trying to guard Ta'Shia Phillips - Xavier's 6-6 career rebound leader - and Harris, a 6-5 forward who plays like a guard.

"Ta'Shia is probably going to see a lot of people tomorrow because we're going to surround her," coach Karen Kemp said.

Last year, Harris tried to return for the tournament after knee surgery wiped out her regular season. The knee wasn't up to it, so she had to sit and watch.

She's at full strength - and inspired - to help Xavier get over that first-round wall.

"It was hard to watch last year, and this year it will be different because I'm healthy now and I feel really good, really excited about it," she said.