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Chris Chase

Sweet 16 preview: Pullen, Crawford highlight Xavier-Kansas St

The Dagger

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The Dagger previews each of the Sweet 16 matchups. Here's our look at Kansas State-Xavier:

No. 2 Kansas State (28-7) vs. No. 6 Xavier (26-8)

Thursday, 9:37 p.m. EDT (approximate), EnergySolutions Arena (Salt Lake City, UT)

How they got here:

Kansas State: d. No. 15 North Texas, 82-62; d. No. 7 BYU, 84-72.

Xavier: d. No. 11 Minnesota, 65-54; d. 3 Pittsburgh, 71-68

Last Sweet 16 appearances:

Kansas State: 1988 (defeated Purdue, lost to Kansas in Elite Eight)

Xavier: 2009 (lost to Pittsburgh)

Match-up to watch: Kansas State G Jacob Pullen vs. Xavier G Jordan Crawford

Remember last summer when a college player dunked on LeBron James? That was Xavier's Jordan Crawford, who followed up that famous YouTube performance by averaging 20.2 ppg for the Musketeers this season. Pullen is a cult figure in his own right thanks to his Lincoln-esque chinbeard, which even rigid KSU coach Frank Martin has poked fun at. The scorers each lead their up-tempo teams in scoring and could be guarding one another come Thursday night.

Outlook:

Every other game in the Sweet 16 has some big TV-ready selling point: Cinderellas, perennial powers, potential No. 1 draft picks, etc. KSU-Xavier, on the other hand, has nearly no buzz. The Wildcats tend to be a basketball afterthought (this is just the team's fourth tournament since 1991) and Xavier doesn't get the exposure or recognition that a team making its third straight Sweet 16 appearance deserves. It doesn't help that the two teams already played this season in Manhattan and Kansas State won with ease, 71-56.

But that was three months ago. Xavier has developed more consistency inside with Jason Love and Jamal McLean and shouldn't allow Jamar Samuels and Curtis Kelly to dominate the paint like they did in December.

Prediction: Don't call it an upset. Pick: Xavier 80, Kansas St. 78

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