By Andy Mac Williams, 1/3/2018

Xavier controlled the game basically from the opening tip by checking almost all of the needed boxes in Tuesday night's 86-79 BIG EAST win over Butler at Cintas Center. XU reverted to Baylor/UC form by starting quickly leading 15-12 after the first four minute war. The Muskies closed the first half on a 7-0 run to post a 44-36 lead at the break. X won the rebound numbers handily(47-42 with 12 offensive boards). They took good care of the ball(just 10 turnovers). They killed BU at the free throw line(24 made FTs to 6). They mixed defenses playing a ton of 1-3-1 trapping zone. Butler helped out reverting to the mean in three point shooting. The Bulldogs had blitzed Villanova from long range in Saturday's 101-93 upset of #1 Nova at Hinkle( an other worldly 15 for 22). BU thudded back to earth on Cintas rims(7-27).

The Muskies take over sole possession of first place in the wild well balanced BIG EAST at 3-0. Second place Seton Hall(2-0) has a mid-week bye. The Pirates have to play Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis this Saturday while Xavier embarks on a two game Road Trip from Hell(at Providence Saturday-Noon EST-Big FOX-WXIX Channel 19-and next Wednesday-in Philadelphia against Villanova at Wells Fargo Center-8PM EST-Fox Sports 1).


J.P. Macura powered the offense before halftime(15 points-rediscovering his three point shooting touch). He's scoring 18PPG through three BIG EAST games plus he's stuffing the stat sheet(4 rebounds/game-3 assists-2 steals-very few turnovers-vocal leadership). J. P. played his best with his Grampa sitting courtside at Cintas. Trevon Bluiett warmed up later scoring 5 of 7 Xavier points just before halftime then drilling late free throws to salt the win away. Macura and Bluiett combined for an efficient 42 points. Butler's BIG TWO(Kelan Martin and Kamar Baldwin) totaled 53 points, but needed 50 shots to get there. Xavier's solid 9 man rotation trumped Butler's star power.

XU dominated inside. Sean O'Mara played a productive 20 minutes(10 points-6 rebounds-3 assists-6 blocks). The NCAA Sean from last March showed up in spades. Quentin Gooden won the PG battle(12 points-4 rebounds-3 assists-no turnovers). The 1-3-1 zone is proving to be a versatile winning tool. Xavier players believe in it. Fast break points are generated from it off opponents live ball turnovers.

The zone is a comeback weapon(ETSU and De Paul) and a game clinching tempo controller(Marquette and now Butler). Most teams dabble in zones and quickly change up from them(except Syracuse). Xavier can play long stretches of zone successfully neutralizing smaller quick guards and taking the starch out of running teams.


XU is 15-1(Best start in program history). The Muskies are 11-0 at home with 11 sellouts. Their current #4 USA Today Coaches' Poll rating is the highest in school history(#5 in AP). The NCAA RPI holds at #2 behind Duke. The active win streak is 10 games.

FT shooting vs Butler was below average(24-37) but 37 attempts against a low fouling team like BU is excellent.

The margin for error now shrinks though with difficult road games at PC and Villanova. XU lost badly in Providence and Philadelphia last season so we have two more potential stops on the Muskies' Revenge Tour. The road record is strong so far(wins at Wisconsin, Northern Iowa and Marquette).

We'll have a full Scouting Report on Providence Thursday. PC hosts Marquette Wednesday at the Dunk.

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