Observations: Xavier’s depth was on full display against Villanova

The Musketeers’ greatest strength as a team is their collective balance and that attribute was more than obvious in Wednesday night’s 90-83 win over the Wildcats at the Cintas Center.

Xavier had six separate players score in double-figures against Villanova and continues to be a unit whose whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts.

Chris Mack’s squad had 24 assists on 30 made field goals against the Wildcats and continues to show that it has different players who can be the assassin on a given night.

For that reason alone, this is going to be an exceptionally difficult team to prepare for during the NCAA Tournament.

The Musketeers are now 25-3 overall and are very much in discussion for a No. 1 seed in the field of 68.

Wisconsin’s bench has developed under Greg Gard

The Badgers’ win at Maryland a few weeks ago was a signal that guys like Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes were ready to become alpha dogs.

Their win at Iowa on Wednesday night was a signal that their bench was finally rounding into form.

Wisconsin got a combined 23 points in reserve from Charlie Thomas (five), Khalil Iverson (nine), and Jordan Hill (nine) in the victory over the Hawkeyes, which further displays how far the Badgers have come since Gard took over as Wisconsin’s interim coach.

Early in the season, this team had nothing but questions.

Now, those questions are being answered.

The Badgers don’t just look like they’re capable of making the NCAA Tournament — they look like they’re capable of advancing when they get there.

Wisconsin is now 18-10 overall and 10-5 in Big Ten play.

UCLA can still make one last stand

The Bruins enter Thursday’s game against Cal at Haas Pavilion at a modest 15-12 overall and 6-8 in Pac-12 play, but can still make a late push to get into the bubble picture if they got hot over the next two weeks.

UCLA will play the Bears Thursday in Berkeley and Stanford on Saturday in Palo Alto before returning to Los Angeles next week to host Oregon and Oregon State to close out the regular season.

That’s four games against quality competition and two against two squads, Cal and Oregon, who are comfortably in the NCAA Tournament as of Thursday.

UCLA has wins on its resume over Arizona and Kentucky and doesn’t own any real damaging losses, aside from a road defeat at Washington State.

A year ago, the Bruins were 16-12 overall and wound up finishing the season in the Sweet 16.

Could history repeat itself?

It all depends on what happens this weekend in Northern California.

Xavier is flying high at topping No. 1 Villanova on Wednesday. (USATSI)

This and That

  • Michigan State’s Bryn Forbes made 70 3-point shots last season. He’s already made 88 this year and is shooting 49.2 percent from long distance. The 6-foot-3 shooting guard is averaging 14.5 points this season — six more than he did a year ago (8.5).
  • Landen Lucas has a combined 54 rebounds in his last five games and has completely solidified his place in the middle for Kansas. The Jayhawks have won eight straight games and can clinch a share of the Big 12 regular-season title for the 12th straight year with a win this weekend over Texas Tech.
  • Isaac Humphries could wind up being for this Kentucky team what Josh Harrellson was to the 2011 team that went to the Final Four with Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb. The 7-footer is going to be a key piece for the Wildcats in the postseason — especially on the boards.
  • Utah’s Jakob Poeltl is a combined 40-54 during the Utes’ recent four-game winning streak. Anyone else think this guy is awfully similar to Andrew Bogut? Larry Krystkowiak’s team is 10-5 in Pac-12 play heading into Thursday’s game against Arizona State in Salt Lake City.
  • Four of Kansas State’s 11 Big 12 losses have come by four points or less. That’s the epitome of brutality. The Wildcats are literally inches away from being a bubble team. Instead, they’re 15-13 overall and 4-11 in league play.
  • Georgia Tech’s Marcus Georges-Hunt is playing like somebody who knows he’s only got a couple of weeks left in his college career. The 6-5 guard is averaging 22.2 points over his last five games and is shooting 58.0 percent from the field, 42.0 percent from 3-point range, and 79.0 percent from the free throw line during that span.
  • Saint Mary’s starting back court — Emmett Naar and Joe Rahon — is averaging 12.1 assists to just 4.0 turnovers. That’s stellar. Randy Bennett’s squad is 22-4 overall and will be the number one seed in the WCC Tournament.
  • Part of the reason for the lack of national attention that’s being paid to the Mountain West Conference this year is the fact that New Mexico and UNLV have a combined record of 32-25. For this league to be relevant, it needs these two programs and San Diego State to be really good on an annual basis.
  • Two injuries that could affect mid-major favorites during championship week: Stony Brook’s Bryan Sekunda (ACL) and Monmouth’s Deon Jones (hand). Both were starters for the Seawolves and Hawks respectively. Stony Brook and Monmouth are currently in first place in the America East and the MAAC.
  • What would have happened if Boston College never fired Al Skinner?

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