Xavier guard Trevon Blueitt and his teammates are facing, quite possibly, the biggest game of their lives tonight. The No. 5 Musketeers play host to No. 1 Villanova, a team that shellacked them 95-64 in Philadelphia back on New Year’s Eve and with the scene shifted to Cincinnati, Xavier is out for revenge.
And Blueitt is the key to that revenge. He only had 11 points on 2 of 9 shooting in that game, and that can’t happen against a hot shooting squad like the Wildcats. Blueitt needs to be Xavier’s leader on offense, particularly in that his 15.3 points per game lead the team, and this is a game where he simply cannot afford to get streaky.
Here’s where that could become a problem. Blueitt is shooting only 42 percent from the field, though he has made 38 percent of his threes. He takes 11.9 shots per game, 5.8 of which come from long range. Yes, he’s a college 2-guard and the system he plays in calls for a lot of work from beyond the arc, but the last thing he should be doing against Villanova is worrying about making threes, though that will be important.
Look at it this way. Blueitt was 0 for 4 from long range against Villanova earlier this season, much in part to the Wildcats’ smothering on-ball defense. This time around, rather than rely on his jump shot, Blueitt should be driving the lane and getting fouled, causing absolute frustration for the Wildcats. Though primarily a shooter, Blueitt’s real value in this game will be as a pesky slasher who blows past opposing defenders and leads his team to victory.
Oh, and did I mention that a win would put Xavier within a half-game of first place in the Big East?
Simply put, this game is going to be all about Blueitt working outside his comfort zone and, with the help of his teammates, defending the Cintas Center and taking no prisoners. If he can work hard to that degree and help the Musketeers pull off an upset against the top team in the country, then Xavier will be a serious contender to make a deep tournament run as well as be in the running to win the Big East Tournament.
Otherwise, we might as well hand Villanova the Big East Trophy.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports