Crawford carries Xavier

MILWAUKEE – Jordan Crawford doesn’t get the kind of publicity afforded to Evan Turner or John Wall.

That’s just fine with him.

He’ll let the stat sheets and brackets tell the story.

Crawford came up huge again for Xavier on Sunday, leading the Musketeers to the Sweet 16 with a 71-68 NCAA West Regional victory over Pittsburgh.

Crawford followed up a 28-point, six-rebound, five-assist effort against Minnesota in the first round with 27 points and six boards against the Panthers. He knocked down 9-of-15 shots, 4-of-7 from 3-point range.

Jordan Crawford scored 55 points in two games to lead Xavier into the Sweet 16.
Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire

Crawford was asked if thought he was overlooked compared to Ohio State’s Turner or Kentucky’s Wall, considered the top candidates for National Player of the Year. He took a team approach with his response.

“I think Xavier is always overlooked,” he said. “We just play with a chip on our shoulders. The things we do don’t get noticed.”

Crawford’s efforts were hard to miss against the Panthers. Though the Pitt defense focused on shutting him down, he still flourished. Time after time, he drilled contested shots. His breakaway dunk with a little more than two minutes left helped seal the deal.

“Crawford is a good player,” Pitt guard Brad Wanamaker said. “Our job was to go out there and make him take tough shots. He made them.”

When 3-point attempts by Ashton Gibbs and Wanamaker fell short in the closing seconds and the buzzer sounded, Crawford hugged his teammates, guys he’s played with for only one season.

Forced to redshirt after transferring from Indiana, Crawford couldn’t celebrate with Xavier when it advanced to last year’s Sweet 16.

He made sure to drink it in this time.

“It was tough sitting out,” he said. “But now I went through it all and I fought through it and now I get to play with my team. I’m not taking it for granted. And I just love the fact that I get a chance to do it, and hopefully we can get further.”

The sixth-seeded Musketeers (26-8) will meet No. 2 Kansas State (28-7) in the regional semis in Salt Lake City. Xavier and Michigan State are the only teams in the country to advance as least as far as the Sweet 16 the past three seasons.

The Musketeers wouldn’t be there this time without the 6-foot-4 sophomore from Detroit, the Atlantic 10’s Player of the Year, and their leading scorer.

With two more wins, Crawford just might get the chance to challenge Turner in the Final Four. With three victories, he could square off against Wall in the national championship game.

That would be hard to ignore.

Gerry Ahern is the Managing Editor/Colleges for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Gerry a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Sunday, Mar 21, 2010