John Fanta’s 2023 March Madness instant reaction: Miller has Xavier back on the map

The first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament was marred by massive upsets, and the madness continued into Saturday’s Round of 32, when another No. 1 seed fell. Will more mayhem ensue on Sunday?

Here’s my preview of everything to watch on another stacked board:

We’ll have a lot more today, but first, be sure to check out some key items: our NCAA Tournament schedule, the NCAA Tournament schedule, 50 reasons to be excited about March Madness, and the best plays of the first round

Here’s a full recap of Day 3.

Stay tuned for exclusive interviews, ongoing analysis and more from Day 4.

No. 3 Xavier 84, No. 11 Pitt 73

When Xavier was a top seed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, the Musketeers were widely considered one of the top programs in college basketball.

They were a staple in the Big Dance, making 16 of 18 appearances on college basketball’s biggest stage. But then Chris Mack left for Louisville and his right-hand man, Travis Steele, got a chance.

The four years that followed for the show resulted in February meltdowns, and not a single Big Dance appearance.

One year ago today, Xavier decided to pull the trigger and hire Sean Miller. It was perceived to be a mild risk, as Arizona was charged with five Level I violations from incidents that allegedly took place during Miller’s tenure there.

In the end, Miller didn’t face any penalties and now, a year later, he’s putting the Musketeers back on the national college basketball map.

In just 365 days, the program has gone from badly needing a winner to getting back a man who loved his time in Cincinnati, serving as an assistant at Xavier from 2001-04 before taking over as head coach from 2004-09.

Xavier showcased its high-scoring offense in the first half on Sunday, outscoring Pitt 48-34 in the opening frame and pulling out a stunning 84-73 victory over the Panthers.

The win sends the Musketeers to their first Sweet 16 since 2017, where they will head to Kansas City to face two-seeded Texas on Friday.

Xavier attacked the Panthers from the jump, assisting on 17 of their 19 made field goals and getting a combined 29 points from Adam Kunkel and Jack Nunge in the first half.

The Musketeers had six players in double figures and showed that their offense is capable of beating anyone because they can overwhelm teams on that end of the court. Colby Jones continues to show why he deserves an NBA Draft look, as the versatile junior wing had 10 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists.

Kunkel couldn’t miss in the first half, drilling his first five 3-point attempts and finishing with 15 points, while Nunge had 18 points to lead the charge. Indiana transfer Jerome Hunter continues to play his best basketball of his career, scoring 14 points in the win. Hunter now has 38 points in two NCAA Tournament games.

In the second half, Souley Boum also found some rhythm, finishing with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

With the win, Miller improved to 8-0 in the Round of 16.

The Big East improved to 5-1 in the NCAA Tournament, with Marquette, Creighton and UConn still in action today.

On the other hand, Pitt’s magical season concluded, but give Jeff Capel credit for resurrecting the Panthers program and winning multiple NCAA Tournament games.

As for Xavier, the Longhorns face off in a matchup of teams with opposing styles. Watching the Musketeers offense against the Texas defense should be very entertaining.

But for today, it’s a celebration for Xavier and Miller, who reinvented their ways during their year away from the sidelines and adapted their offense.

What a difference a year makes to the Musketeers.

No. 3 Kansas State vs. No. 6 Kentucky | 2:40 pm ET

No. 2 Marquette vs. No. 7 Michigan State | 5:15 p.m. ET

No. 4 UConn vs. No. 5 Saint Mary’s | 6:10 p.m. ET

No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 6 Creighton | 7:10 p.m. ET

No. 9 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 16 FDU | 7:45 pm ET

no. 4 Indiana v. no. 5 Miami (Florida) | 8:40 p.m. ET

No. 3 Gonzaga vs. No. 6 TCU | 9:40 p.m. ET

John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers sports in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

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