He’s carrying the Musketeers through March.
Trevon Bluiett isn’t catching anybody by surprise.
But what he did to Maryland and Florida State on the NCAA tournament’s opening weekend was special even by his lofty standard. And largely as a result of his work, the Musketeers are heading to the Sweet 16 in the tournament’s East region.
First, look at what Bluiett did to Maryland in the first round.
Sixth-seeded Maryland led at halftime, 36-35. Bluiett had been kept more than in check, scoring three points on 1-of-8 shooting. But then a switch flipped. Bluiett was possessed after halftime. He shot 6-of-7 from the field in the second half, finishing the day with 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting. No. 11 Xavier won, 76-65.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 17, 2017
Then, look at how he ruined No. 3 Florida State.
It was like his Maryland game, only more efficient and all-around sharper.
Bluiett went for 29 on 8-of-14 shooting. He had six rebounds, and he spent what felt like about half the night standing at the free-throw line. There, he went 10-for-14.
The final score: Xavier 91, FSU 66. A rout.
Bluiett’s been cooking all March.
He’s averaging about 20 points per game this month, a tick above his 18.1 season average. And he’s been efficient or really efficient in six of his seven March games, after frequent bouts with pure volume shooting in December and January. He’s taking and making three-pointers, and he’s had a couple of big rebounding nights, too. Bluiett’s at pretty close to his best right now.
He’s thrived in big moments. His second half against Maryland felt kind of like a rescue effort. In the Big East tournament, he hit a preposterous step-back triple in the last minute against Creighton to tie the game.
Trevon Bluiett stepback for the tie, Marcus Foster for the lead, JP Macura NO.
Gus Johnson sums up a WILD finish. https://t.co/0DMyZmKUIA
— FS1 (@FS1) March 11, 2017
Xavier lost that one, but anyway.
It’s close to impossible to make a deep March run without elite guard play. Bluiett gives Xavier that much, and if he gets help, the Musketeers are a lot better than a No. 11 seed.
Against Maryland, the help came from big man Sean O’Mara, a 5.5 points per game scorer who messed around and went for 18. Against FSU, it came from four other low-double-figure scorers.
The help might need to keep coming by committee. Edmond Sumner was averaging 15 per game when he tore his ACL at the end of January, and his absence left Bluiett and guard J.P. Macura as the only ball-dominant scorers on the roster. And Xavier’s really down two starters, because senior point guard Myles Davis left the program in the middle of the season after a suspension and reinstatement.
Xavier doesn’t have a ton of guys to just feed the ball to and watch them go to work. Bluiett’s going to have to continue to be the man in that regard. But he’s a hell of a good player to have in that role, and if the supporting cast keeps contributing where needed, Chris Mack’s team could do even better than the Sweet 16.