How They Got Here
It hasn't been a completely easy road for the No. 2 team in the West. Arizona had relatively little trouble in the opening round against North Dakota on the way to a 100-82 victory, but needed to pull out all the stops to get by Saint Mary's 69-60 in the second round over the weekend.
Xavier, meanwhile, has been the biggest surprise of the tournament. As an 11-seed, the Musketeers are the only double-digit seed left in the tournament.
Xavier opened with a 76-65 victory over No. 6 Maryland, and followed it up with a big victory over No. 3 Florida State, a 91-66 demolition job that was one of the craziest upsets of the first weekend of play.
Who to Watch
The Wildcats are a two-headed monster of Lauri Markkanen and Alonzo Trier.
Markkanen is often talked about as a potential NBA Unicorn, a guy who could be the next Giannis Antetokounmpo or Kristaps Porzingis. Markkanen's skillset is re-Markkanen-able (sorry) — he's a 7-foot, 230-pound forward who scores 15.8 points per game, grabs 7.2 rebounds, and scores from anywhere on the court. He shoots 49.6 percent from the field and 43.3 percent from three-point range.
Alonzo Trier, meanwhile, returned from suspension midway through the season and immediately went on a tear. He averaged 17.1 points this year and also shoots above 40 percent from long distance.
Xavier has a pretty good weapon of its own — Trevon Bluiett is the type of player you'd expect to see carry a mid-major through the NCAA Tournament slog. He averages 18.5 points per game, and has scored 50 points already in the NCAA Tournament (21 against Maryland and 29 against FSU).
Key to the Game
Can Xavier limit Markkanen's versatility? The forward has only attempted two three-pointers in the tournament (one make, one miss) and was in a slump to close the year, but his talent is undeniable.
On the flip side, no one has been able to guard Bluiett in the tournament. Will Arizona be the first to slow him down?
Arizona and Xavier met once before in NCAA history, just two years ago in 2015. Arizona earned the regional semifinal victory 68-60. Xavier also happens to be where Arizona head coach Sean Miller got his first head coaching gig, a position he held from 2004-2009 before heading to Arizona.
Here's how to watch the Sweet 16 matchup between No. 2 Arizona and No. 11 Xavier: