Sunday, February 29, 2004

NCAA hopes dealt blow


Bracket expert: 'It's bad ... off-the-bubble bad.'

By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The obvious question after Xavier's surprising 74-68 loss to Duquesne Saturday is how much will it affect Xavier's NCAA Tournament at-large chances.

[img]
Xavier's Romain Sato goes to the hoop over Duquesne's Ron Stokes in the first half.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
The Musketeers (17-10, 8-6 A-10) entered the game at No. 55 in the ratings percentage index, according to CollegeRPI.com, but lost to the 184th-rated team for the second time this season.

"It's bad," said CollegeRPI.com's Jerry Palm, who projects a weekly field of 65 each Monday. "It's off-the-bubble bad. It's time to gear up for the conference tournament."

Xavier coach Thad Matta said he has not spent a lot of time thinking about how Xavier compares to other NCAA bubble teams, but until Saturday, XU had played an impressive February, winning seven in a row.

In fact, Xavier lost in February for the first time in two years, a record of 14-1, equaled only by Memphis.

"I know there's a lot of great teams out there, but I thought we were playing better in the month of February," Matta said. "To me, February is the hardest month in college basketball. The good teams win in February. They make their mark and make their charge in the conference. To our guys' credit, we had done that until today."

CAUDLE GOING HOME: Will Caudle did not play Saturday after suffering a relapse of the tonsillitis that limited his play in December and January. He is going home to Indianapolis today to see a family doctor and is expected to return to practice Monday.

SATO'S BIG HALF: Romain Sato scored half of Xavier's 38 first-half points, making six of seven shots from the field with three 3-pointers and four free throws.

He made only one shot in the second half, however, a tip-in, and finished with 21 points.

"Sato in the first half was the key to keeping them in the game," Duquesne coach Danny Nee said. "In the second half, we really concentrated on not giving him looks."

With Sato quiet in the second half, Lionel Chalmers scored 13 of his game-high 22 points.

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E-mail ddow@enquirer.com




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