Fourteenth-ranked Xavier won the Advocare Invitational in 2015-16 and the Tire Pros Invitational last season. The Muskeeters will try to win a holiday tournament for a third straight year when it faces old Atlantic 10 Conference rival George Washington on Thursday in the semifinals of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
“I want to win a trophy,” senior forward Sean O’Mara said after the visiting Musketeers crushed Hampton, 96-60, on Monday night. “What am I? Three-for-four in Thanksgiving tournaments if we can get this done, so that’s definitely a goal of mine.” Xavier is 6-0 over the last two tournaments but just needs to go 2-0 this time around. The winner plays the winner of Thursday night’s other semifinal between Arizona State and Kansas State on Friday afternoon for the championship.
TV: 5 p.m. ET, FS1
ABOUT XAVIER (4-0): The Muskeeters return three starters from a team that went 24-14 and advanced all the way to the Elite Eight a year ago. Senior guard Trevon Bluiett is a national player of the year candidate who is averaging 24.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists and earned Big East Player of the Week honors after scoring 25 points and pulling down nine rebounds in Xavier’s 80-70 victory at Wisconsin last week. Senior guard J. P. Macura, the only Musketeer to start every game last season, is second in scoring (13.5) and assists (4.3) and leads the team in steals (2.3) while forwards Tyrique Jones (12.5 points) and Kaiser Gates (11.3) also are averaging in double figures.
ABOUT GEORGE WASHINGTON (2-2): The Colonials return five players who started 10 or more games last season on a squad that finished 20-15 and advanced to the second round of the College Basketball Invitational. Senior guard Yuta Watanabe, a 6-8 native of Kagawa, Japan, leads the team in scoring (13.5), rebounding (9.3), blocks (4.5) and free throw percentage (10-of-11, 90.9 percent). Sophomore guard Jair Bolden (13.3 points) and senior forward Patrick Steeves (12.8) also are averaging in double figures with Bolden also averaging a team best 4.0 assists.
1. Xavier leads the Big East and ranks fifth nationally in field goal percentage at 56.8 percent.
2. Bluiett, a two-time first team All-Big East pick, has scored at least 21 points in each of the first four games.
3. Bluiett (1,682) and Macura (1,108) have combined for 2,790 points so far in their careers.
PREDICTION: Xavier 94, George Washington 66