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No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 14 Kennesaw State preview for March Madness First Round matchup

No. 3 Xavier and No. 14 Kennesaw State face off in the First Round of the 2023 NCAA tournament. We’ve got an initial preview of the game and how to watch.

Xavier Musketeers forward Elijah Tucker (34) collects a rebound in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against the Marquette Golden Eagles during the championship round of the Big East Conference tournament, Saturday, March 11, 2023, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Xavier Marquette Big East Basketball Tournament March 11 0200 Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The NCAA Tournament begins on Tuesday, March 14th with the First Four, and then moves on to the First Round on Thursday, March 16 and Friday, March 17. The No. 3 seed Xavier Musketeers will face the No. 14 seed Kennesaw State Owls on Friday, March 17.

Here’s an early look at what we can expect from the matchup.

Game date: Friday, March 17
Game time: 12:30 p.m. ET
TV channel: TruTV
Location: Greensboro, NC

Odds: Xavier -12.5

No. 3 Xavier

Xavier finished the regular season with three consecutive victories, all of which were without starting center Zach Freemantle, who will be out for the rest of the year with a foot injury. Prior to getting injured, Freemantle was Xavier’s second-leading scorer (15.2 PPG) and leading rebounder (8.1 RPG).

Forward Jerome Hunter has stepped up in Freemantle’s absence, averaging 10.2 points and 6.2 rebounds in the nine games since Freemantle got hurt. He’s not the only Musketeer who has stepped up recently, as guard Colby Jones has averaged 17.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists since Freemantle’s injury. Guard Souley Boum leads the team in overall scoring at 16.8 points per game.

Record: 25-9, 15-5 Big East

Coach: Sean Miller

Qualifier: At-large

KenPom overall: 16

KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency: 8

KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency: 73

Pace: 39

PPP overall: 1.107

Leading scorer: Souley Boum

NET: 22

Quad 1 record: 8-6

Against The Spread: 18-15-1

Over Total: 21-12-1

No. 14 Kennesaw State

If you don’t associate Kennesaw State with March Madness, that’s because this is the first time in program history that the Owls have reached the Big Dance. They did so in dramatic fashion, too, knocking off Liberty in the Atlantic Sun Conference title game 68-67. As many mid-major conference winners are this time of year, the Owls are red hot, winning of 16 of their last 18 games.

The Owls rely almost exclusively on guard play: six of their top seven and eight of their top 10 scorers are guards. If this team makes an improbable tournament run, it will likely be due to Chris Youngblood, the team’s star guard who averages nearly 15 points and five rebounds per contest. He could become this year’s version of St. Peter’s guard Doug Edert, leading a Cinderella team on a crazy run.

Record: 23-8, 15-3 ASUN

Coach: Amir Abdur-Rahim

Qualifier: Automatic

KenPom overall: 127

KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency: 153

KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency: 117

Pace: 119

PPP overall: 1.028

Leading scorer: Chris Youngblood

NET: 114

Quad 1 record: 0-4

Against The Spread: 20-10-1

Over Total: 17-12-2