|Xavier's 4 Musketeers seek ninth straight victory|
Fourth-ranked Xavier will try to extend its winning streak to nine games and maintain its slim hold on first place in the Big East Conference on Wednesday night when the Musketeers welcome Seton Hall to the Cintas Center.
Their ranking is the highest in program history and over the weekend, the Musketeers were projected to earn a No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.
But four games remain in Big East play and nobody inside the program is taking any of those contests for granted.
"That's how you win a league championship," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "If you were to ask our players, they would tell you I talked about it game one when we played at Marquette. 'How hard would you play for a Big East championship if that night that's what you were playing for,' because that's what you are playing for.
"We know what's ahead of us, both in the short term and in the long term."
The Pirates gave Xavier a scare earlier this season when they were ranked 19th. Three Seton Hall players scored in double-figures and Angel Delgado grabbed 18 rebounds, but J.P Macura scored 18 of his 27 points in the second half and the Musketeers used a 21-7 run to erase a 10-point deficit in a 73-64 victory.
"They're one of the more experienced teams in the league. They're one of the most physical. A tough nasty group is what I think of when I think Seton Hall," Mack said. "They obviously haven't played as well the last couple games but they were sort of in the same boat a year ago and strung a bunch together ... I know we're going to get Seton Hall's best shot."
Seton Hall was picked to finish ahead of Xavier in a preseason survey of league coaches but after losing three straight and five of their last seven overall, the Pirates enter the game 4 1/2 games behind the front-running Musketeers.
The latest was an 83-80 loss at Georgetown last weekend, decided when Marcus Derrickson drained a 3-pointer with four seconds left.
After that game, Delgado said the Pirates needed to huddle together, clear the air and adjust their focus for the home stretch in the hopes of chasing down a tournament berth.
"We have to have a big talk as a team now," Delgado told reporters. "We've got to sit down, just the players. I think the coaches have nothing to do with this. It's just us. We're not getting it done. I think we joke around a little bit too much, and we've got to stop that."
Delgado was dealing with a hurt knee in that contest but stayed in the game and scored 12 points with 12 rebounds in 33 minutes.
"I just wanted to keep in the game," Delgado said of the wave-off. "I wanted to make big plays for my guys. I know my leg is not good right now, not 100 percent, but I've got to keep playing hard because that's what I'm here for."
Delgado is expected to be in the lineup Wednesday night.