Xavier game is key. Seth Emerson (February 3, 2011)
Following their overtime home win over the Auburn Tigers, Mark Fox’s Georgia Bulldogs get a much-needed break from the rigors of SEC play in their upcoming weeknight outing. The Red and Black have seven remaining conference games, four of which are on the road and three of which are against teams to whom the Athenians have lost already this season. Needless to say, this is a good time for a non-league breather.
Let’s see, what opponent do the Fox Hounds have on tap? Maybe a rematch with the High Point Panthers? Perhaps a return date in Athens by the Manhattan Jaspers or the Mercer Bears? Could it even be a long-anticipated faceoff with the St. Peter’s Peacocks?
Oh, here we go. The Bulldogs are slated to take on the Xavier Musketeers of the Atlantic 10. Well, they certainly don’t sound overly challenging. It says here Xavier is a small, highly selective private school in Westchester County, New York. What trouble could the
Mutants Musketeers possibly be?
Wait a second . . . that’s Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. It turns out Xavier University is a Jesuit institution in Cincinnati, and the Musketeers are one of only two teams in the country to have been to the Sweet 16 in each of the last three years. (As a matter of fact, Xavier eliminated Georgia from the 2008 NCAA Tournament.) The Bulldogs officially have been placed "on notice" about this game, which pits two teams with work to do to make this year’s tourney field. The bottom line is that the Musketeers need this win as badly as the home team does.
Despite having to overcome injuries and academic issues this season, Xavier has compiled a 16-6 record against a schedule that includes three opponents common to the Bulldogs and the Musketeers alike. The Ohioans lost by four on New Year’s Eve (been there, done that) to the selfsame Florida Gators to whom the Georgians lost in double-overtime, Xavier fell by eleven on January 22 to those Temple Owls who defeated Georgia by seven, and the very Saint Louis Billikens who dropped a two-point decision to the Hoop Dogs lost to the Musketeers by eight on Saturday.
The weekend win over Saint Louis gave Xavier its eighth victory in its last nine games, but the Musketeers are just 3-4 in true road games, including an 0-3 mark in out-of-conference away affrays. The Ohioans averaged only 54.7 points per game in those three losses, representing a stark departure for the club that has scored 76 or more points in seven of its last eight outings, and this would appear to bode well for a Bulldog club that is 10-2 in Athens, with both home losses coming in conference play. Despite the team’s struggles outside of the Queen City, though, Xavier received enough votes in this week’s AP poll to qualify as the country’s de facto No. 35 team.
The Musketeers are led by guards Terrell Holloway and Mark Lyons. Tu Holloway is a contender for player of the year, and Cheeks Lyons is an emerging star and former teammate of Bob Cousy Award finalist and ball-hogging Hobbit Jimmer Fredette. Between them, Holloway and Lyons accounted for 39 of Xavier’s 76 points against the Billikens last weekend.
Including two games against the league played previously in the 2010-2011 season, the Bulldogs are 6-4 all-time against the Atlantic 10. In the only previous regular-season meeting between Georgia and Xavier, the Red and Black prevailed in Athens by a 73-70 margin on December 29, 1983.
Reportedly, the Musketeers will be accompanied to Athens by Mike Bobinski, who is Xavier’s athletic director, a member of the NCAA Tournament selection committee, a man of unimpeachable integrity and sterling professional ethics, a bold and inspiring innovator who serves as a role model to men and women throughout intercollegiate athletics, an individual to whom the word "genius" is applicable without the slightest exaggeration, a strong candidate to be named People’s "Sexiest Man Alive," a deserving contender for any elected or appointed post at any level of government, a man whose personal hygiene is beyond reproach, and the anticipated recipient of the first-ever Dawg Sports "Man of the Year" trophy at the annual awards gala scheduled to be held in early March 2011. (Yes, this honor is accompanied by a financial stipend. How large a stipend, you ask? Well, Mr. Bobinski, sir, how large a stipend would you consider satisfactory, sir?)
It is difficult to overstate the importance of tomorrow night’s game, which has enormous implications for both teams’ tourney resumes. Tuesday’s tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m. in Stegeman Coliseum. The game will be televised on the increasingly useful ESPNU, but, if you’re interested in enjoying the game in person, good seats are still available.