Muskies Melt Down at Providence!! Marquette Ready to Celebrate!!
By Andy Mac Williams, 2/16/2017

Blame it on injuries-fatigue-sun spots-whatever!!! Bottom line-Xavier(18-8,8-5 Big East-tied for Third with Creighton) unraveled after halftime Wednesday night and lost 75-63 at Providence(16-11,6-8 Big East-tied for 7th with St Johns). XU started well-mixing defenses-rebounding tenaciously-scoring inside and on the fastbreak. The Muskies led by 10 points over 12 minutes into the game. PC was settling for contested jumpers. XU was gobbling up the misses. But the seeds of collapse were being sown.

Xavier got into the bonus very early,but failed to cash in(3-5 first half FTs). Muskie starter Kaiser Gates was supposed to have a bigger role offensively with Trevon Bluiett unable to play(ankle sprain). Gates was tagged with two early fouls and never got into the flow(18 minutes-5 points-4 rebounds).

Starting guards Quentin Gooden and J.P. Macura played 39 minutes apiece-looked exhausted after halftime and combined for 10 turn overs. The effort was certainly there,but not the endurance. PC played four guards spreading out the minutes. XU had used the 1-3-1 zone and full court pressure to rally against PC two years previously. This time the energy just was not there.

The Friars' best players were their best players(Kyron Cartwright and Rodney Bullock combined for 33 points after scoring just 10 between them in a December 28th loss to the Muskies(82-56) at Cintas. In Cincy Edmond Sumner and Trevon Bluiett totaled 35 points vs Providence. In the rematch the number was zero,because neither played.That's a mamouth 58 point scoring swing!! No excuses!! Next man up!!

Certainly Xavier is getting no sympathy in the dog-eat-dog Big East where 8 teams are still alive for four-quite possibly five NCAA bids.

POSITIVES FROM PC???

Rashid Gaston played another monster game down low(19 points-14 rebounds) after going off for 23 and 10 against Villanova. Macura played hard(17 points-4 assists-5 rebounds) but inefficiently(6-18FG-1-7 from three-6 turnovers). X won the rebounding battle 44-29,but lost the war.

The same problems persisted-too many turnovers(17) leading to 18 easy PC points in transition-bad FT shooting(8-17) and porous second half defense(46 points allowed). The Muskies are thrashing around in the open ocean with no land in sight at the moment.

Tough road games loom(at Marquette-Saturday night-8PM-CBS Sports Network) and at Seton Hall next Wednesday-7PM-Fox Sports 1.

SCOUTING THE MARQUETTTE GOLDEN EAGLES:

XU's predicament is prickly enough considering the Bluiett injury and the short bench. Add to the equation Marquette(15-10,6-7 Big East-tied for 5th with Seton Hall) scores 83PPG-plays 9 guys and 6 of those average in double figures.

MU plays well at the 18,000 seat Bradley Center(11-3,4-2 BE) including a dramatic come-from-behind win over Villanova in late January. The Golden Eagles were spanked last Saturday at Georgetown 80-62,but they enjoyed a mid-week bye so Coach Wojo has had plenty of practice time to refocus his troops.

And we add another intangible!! Saturday is deemed National Marquette Basketball Day celebrating the 100th year of MU hoops. There's a huge pep rally scheduled for Friday night on campus in Milwaukee followed by an Alumni game featuring former players-Bo Ellis,Earl Tatum,Jim McIlvaine,Tom Copa,Travis Diener.Over 200 players-coaches-and staff will attend and be honored at halftime of the Xavier-Marquette game. Expect a sell-out!! MU fans are expecting a victory.

Don't be surprised if retro uniforms are worn. Maybe like those wild ones Al McGuire's 1977 team wore when they beat North Carolina for the NCAA Title in Atlanta. That team was a powerhouse featuring Butch Lee,Bo Ellis,Maurice Lucas,Bernard Toone and Allie Mc Guire(the coaches' son).

Xavier played Marquette in Milwaukee that season losing 85-43. Joe Sunderman redshirted that year after knee surgery.With Joe on the floor,the game would have been closer!!!Veteran XU fans have told me McGuire stories from his visits to Schmidt Fieldhouse to play the Muskies. Al spoke to the Musketeer Club twice as I remember. He and Bob Staak were friends. His talks were outrageously funny.

McGuire went on to team with Dick Enberg and Billy Packer for NBC's College Basketball coverage. Then he moved to CBS. Joe and I talked with him several times at the Hoosier Dome when he was assigned to Xavier NCAA games. He was smart enough and humble enough to sit with us-the local broadcast crew and pick our brains regarding XU. We gave him all sorts of inside nuggets he could never have gleaned from press notes and stat sheets and even head coaches. We were glad to help him out and he used a lot of our insights. They were the Marquette Warriors in those days!!

GOLDEN EAGLES PERSONNEL:

This is Year Three of the Steve Wojo regime at Marquette. Xavier is 5-0 against him with two wins at the Bradley Center. MU is still in the NCAA mix,but their 81 RPI puts them in "must win" mode down the stretch. It would seem logical that Big East teams need to be at least 9-9 in the conference headed into MSG to have an NCAA shot.

Marquette has lost 4 of 5 since their high octane wins over Creighton and Villanova.They are 6-7 with 5 BE games left. It's not a certainty that they avoid a Wednesday March 8th Play-in game in NYC. You've got to make the Top 6 to avoid that.

MU owns the second most efficient offense in the Big East behind Villanova. Rebounding and defense are another matter.

Marquette has a bevy of deep shooters(#1 NCAA at 42% from three-#8 in Effective FG% at 57%). 17 year old 5-11 Frosh Guard Marcus Howard(12PPG) is a fan favorite(over 50% from three-91%FTs-four 20 point plus games in the BE). He's run into foul and temper problems at times.6-5 Soph Wing Haanif Cheatem(10PPG) is their best all around player and a two year starter. He's been slumping lately.

6-5 Senior Forward Jujuan Johnson is an active defender-driver and FT converter. 6-6 Frosh Sam Hauser has started most of the season. He is deadly from long range. The lone true BIG is 6-10 250 Senior Luke Fischer(Indiana transfer) who is having a great final season(12PPG-6 REBs-2 blocks). XU has been able to get him into foul trouble regularly.

The bench is strong. USC grad transfer Katin Reinhardt(6-6) is a streaky shooter who led them to the wins over Creighton(21 points) and Villanova(19 points). UNC Ashville transfer Andrew Rowsey(5-11 Junior) has a quick trigger and unlimited range. 6-2 Junior Duane Wilson is super fast and had started his first two years. He is back into the rotation now after keying the defense in the comeback win over Villanova.

MU has the potential to shoot up any Xavier zone. Sometimes you wonder if there are enough basketballs to suit all their shooters. The cards are stacked against the depleted Muskies for this game in Milwaukee. Chris Mack and the players need to pull a rabbit or two out of the hat. Pounding the ball inside at Luke Fischer would seem to be a wise strategy. MU will give up open outside looks too. Will Trevon Bluiett be available??

Xavier will see a lot of MU in a short time span(return game at Cintas Wednesday March 1st) and maybe again in the Big East Tournament. XU has NCAA work to do. The current RPI is in the 14 to 15 range depending on which formula you consult.

Five games remain until MSG in NYC. Xavier needs to find at least two wins to be totally NCAA safe IMHO. One win would ensure a .500 BE record and a bye for the BE Play-in Round. I'd like more, but it's shaping up to be just one of those years!!!!




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