D’Artagnan was dancing. The cymbals were clashing. The pom poms were pomming. The pep band was playing Taio Cruz.That was the scene outside the Cintas Center at 2:00 p.m. today as students, faculty and alumni sent off the Xavier Musketeers to their fourth Sweet Sixteen appearance in five years. As two buses with tinted windows idled curbside, Xavier cheerleaders flung t-shirts, mini basketballs and sunglasses into the swelling crowd. Among the throng were juniors Arthur Havey and Zach Boothe, grandson of the estimable Jim Boothe, the Xavier Hall of Famer and 1,000 Point Club member from the mid-1950s. “Unfortunately none of the talent transferred to my dad or me,” Zach says.

Zach Boothe (left) and friend Arthur Havey cheer on the team as they depart for Atlanta. Boothe's grandfather is Xavier Hall of Famer, Jim Boothe.

“It’s going to be a really hard game,” says Havey. “Baylor’s a good team.” The pair will watch the game with friends at their house, just off campus. “Wayland (Street) goes nuts when Xavier wins,” Havey says. “The cops came last time. They’re like, ‘Settle down.’ We’re like, ‘We’re in the Sweet 16, we can’t settle down!'”Finally the Cintas doors open, and out walk Kenny Frease (in yellow shades), Jeff Robinson, Brad Redford, Andre Walker and the rest of the team. They shake hands with Fr. Graham, hug Sister Rose Ann and throw out shirts to the sea of waving arms. Xavier’s very own Pope Man (Bill Strietmann, ’77) is on hand with his Pope Mobile, and signs: “Xavier Pope Man is Stoked,” one reads.

Brad Redford launches a T-shirt into a crowd of fans as the Musketeers depart the Cintas Center for their Sweet Sixteen match-up against Baylor in Atlanta on Friday.

When all the shirts are thrown and the luggage is stowed, the team steps aboard and heads off to the airport, where their chartered plane awaits on the tarmac. (Thanks All For One club!) Wiping sweat from their brows, the crowd disperses, thoughts drifting south to Atlanta, where almost 48 hours from now, the Musketeers will take the court to vie for their place among the country’s Elite Eight. Stay tuned to this blog for more behind the scenes coverage from Atlanta.

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