The way to San Jose has been anything but smooth for this year's Arizona Wildcat team.
The 32-4 Wildcats overcame a ten point first half deficit, plus a fractured and dislocated finger on the shooting hand of Rawle Alkins to defeat Saint Mary's in the second round.
No adversity was bigger than losing star sophomore Alonzo Trier to what turned out to be a 19 game suspension to start the season. Trier tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, something he says he unknowingly took.
"It's something that we've dealt with all year long," said Trier. "Whether it's injuries, or me being out, we've been very accustomed to playing without our full roster. I think that shows how together our team is."
Alkins plans to play on Thursday against Xavier in the Sweet 16. He's not the first Wildcat to suffer a dislocated finger this year, as guard Kadeem Allen experienced the same injury last month. Earlier this year, guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright missed a moth with a high ankle sprain. Center Dusan Ristic also missed a game with an injured ankle.
"Our depth of experience and everything that we've been through really prepared us well," said head coach Sean Miller. "Nothing is easy in this tournament. The unexpected happens, and you have to be able to fight through it to get there."
Xavier is without its starting point guard, Edmond Sumner, who tore his ACL in late January.
This is the second time in three years the Wildcats will face Xavier in the Sweet 16. Arizona won back in 2015 but then lost in the Elite 8 to Wisconsin. Sean Miller coached the Musketeers for five seasons before leaving for Arizona in 2009. He and Xavier coach Chris Mack are friends.
"This is about the group of student-athletes at Arizona and the ones at Xavier," said Miller. "None of those players have ever met me."
Thursday's game will tip off after 7 p.m., 30 minutes after the Gonzaga game against West Virginia ends. It will be televised on TBS.