By: MIKE McCURRY Just when it seemed like a Saturday date between Gonzaga’s Mark Few and Arizona’s Sean Miller was inevitable—a hypothetical matchup of two of the game’s best coaches that have yet to reach a Final Four— Chris Mack and Xavier had to crash the party.Xavier, an 11-seed that did not punch its at-large ticket until a Big East Tournament quarterfinal win over Butler, is headed to the Elite 8 following a 73-71 win over 2-seed Arizona on Thursday in San Jose. The Musketeers will play Gonzaga on Saturday in the West Region final (6:09 p.m. ET, TBS) for a spot in the Final Four. Trevon Bluiett dropped 25 points to lead Xavier, while Malcolm Bernard scored all of his season-high 15 points in the second half. Do-it-all junior J.P. Macura added 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 dimes for good measure.
Knowing Bill’s theatrics, he probably has something extra up his sleeve should the Musketeers beat Gonzaga on Saturday. Heartbreak continues for Sean Miller. “One of the best coaches to never make a Final Four” is not the title Arizona’s Sean Miller is looking for, but it’s one he’ll have to settle with for yet another season. Miller has led the Wildcats to five Sweet 16’s, including three Elite 8’s, during his eight seasons since bolting from Xavier—but never the national semifinals. For comparison’s sake, Mack has taken Xavier to four Sweet 16’s over the same span, including Saturday—Mack’s first-ever Elite 8 appearance as head coach. Let’s be real for a second: Miller enjoyed a terrific season. Arizona went 32-5 despite being led in scoring by a trio of freshman (Markkanen, Rawle Alkins, Kobi Simmons) until Trier returned after serving a 19-game PED-related suspension. That’s not to mention the rough preseason Miller had to endure, stemming from Ray Smith’s decision to retire due to a third torn ACL and Terrance Ferguson committing to U of A before heading overseas. Still, Miller will not get the credit he deserves until he gets the proverbial monkey off his back by leading Arizona to the Final Four. Could next year be the year for Miller? Kadeem Allen is the only notable senior graduating this spring, but Markkanen—projected as the 8th overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft per Draft Express—is as good as gone while Trier (projected by Draft Express to go 36th in 2018), Simmons (49th in 2017) and Alkins (46th in 2018) could all conceivably test the waters as well. The Wildcats do have a loaded incoming recruiting class, highlighted by five-star 7-foot center DeAndre Ayton in addition to a trio of four-stars in shooting guard Brandon Randolph, power forward Ira Lee, and point guard Alex Barcello. Miller may not be done beefing up that class, either. Photo: The Cincinnati Enquirer Follow Mike on Twitter Follow Adam Zagoria on Twitter And like ZAGS on Facebook
.@XavierMBB is still dancing…And so is Bill Murray pic.twitter.com/BENZTz84KC — Joe Danneman (@FOX19Joe) March 24, 2017