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Xavier can’t afford letdown vs. slumping Butler

Xavier can’t afford letdown vs. slumping Butler

needs one more victory, at least in the estimation of coach Travis Steele, to make sure it is included in the NCAA Tournament.

would need four wins to get an invite via a tournament title and automatic bid.

Those are the situations the eighth-seeded Musketeers (18-12) and ninth-seeded Bulldogs (13-18) are in as they clash in the first round of the Big East tournament Wednesday in New York.

Xavier had lost five straight and seven of eight games before finding its footing in Saturday’s regular-season finale with a 97-75 rout of woeful Georgetown.

When asked Monday about his team’s NCAA chances, and how nervous he might be on Selection Sunday, Steele said if the Musketeers beat the Bulldogs, “I’ll feel really good. … If we take care of business, then I think the results will speak for themselves on Sunday.”

Xavier beat Butler by 15 on the road and by two at home. In the latter game, however, the Bulldogs never made it a one-possession game down the stretch and hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it appear closer.

Asked about the old saying that it’s hard to beat a team three times, Steele said it was “a bunch of baloney.”

“It’s about that 40 minutes — who’s the tougher team, who’s the more together team, who can execute their game plan better,” he said.

Butler has lost five straight games, which has led to fifth-year coach LaVall Jordan having to fend off speculation about his job security.

“It will never be about me,” Jordan said, per the Indianapolis Star.

Bulldogs guard Aaron Thompson, who totaled 32 points in the two regular-season meetings with Xavier, said, “It’s a one-game season, in a sense, at this point, survive and advance. … I think that will rejuvenate our energy.”

Xavier swept Butler in the regular season last year, too, only to squander a 19-point first-half lead and lose in overtime in the first round of the Big East tourney.

“Hopefully, it motivates our guys and obviously we have a lot to play for,” Steele said. “We shouldn’t have to use that as motivation but if we have to use that as extra motivation we absolutely will.

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