MUSKIES RAM INTO “ROAD” BLOCK!! HOME COURT BECKONS!!
Andy Mac Williams,
We labeled Xavier's East Coast forays to Providence and Villanova the Road Trips from/to Hell and unfortunately we were right. X absorbed two troubling losses(81-72 at PC-then 89-65 at #1 Villanova). At least the Muskies conquered Winter Storm Grayson(as in Allen? Duke). We are now in Season Five of the New BIG EAST and trips to PC, Villanova and Seton Hall have hit XU like a bomb cyclone(whatever that is?) every year. We always called those snow storms either snow storms or nor'easters when I lived in Albany and Syracuse.
Xavier is 1-13 so far in Providence, Philadelphia and Newark with a date next Saturday January 20th at the Rock against Seton Hall. Villanova has lost three home games in five years. Somehow despite the road futility the Muskies have managed 4 NCAA bids including an Elite 8(2017), a Sweet 16(2015) and a 6-4 NCAA Tournament record.
COMMON THEMES AT PC and VU:
The Muskies chased the score in both games. Slow starts away invite death. Xavier struggled to get defensive stops. Home teams can survive basket trading. Road teams usually succumb. Your best players have to be your best players on the road. Trevon and J.P. clearly were not. X was outscored badly at the foul line(a stat category they usually own). Turnovers were up(15/game) and the press caused problems.
Kerem Kanter was the lone bright spot in both defeats(40 points-17 rebounds in 20 minutes/game). Naji Marshall showed fight and grit at Villanova(13 points-two monster dunks in traffic).
Poor shooting makes any team look lethargic. X wasn't trying to look listless. They just shot it way below trend line. Ideally, home court, a sell-out crowd and friendly Cintas rims will prove a panacea for the Muskies. They are 11-0 off Victory Parkway with BIG EAST victories over DePaul and Butler.
The Blue Jays are rated #22 in the Coaches' Top 25 and #25 in AP. They are 14-3 overall with no bad losses(Baylor on a neutral court, Gonzaga in Spokane and Seton Hall in Newark). CU is first in the BIG EAST(4-1). They blew a double digit lead in the conference opener at Seton Hall and lost 90-84. Since then, they are 4-0 with Omaha wins over St Johns, PC and Butler and a road thumping of Georgetown(90-66). The Jays have not played Villanova nor Xavier nor Marquette.
Coach Greg McDermott(8th year-4 NCAA bids) believes firmly in the "LET IT FLY" approach. CU averages 90PPG with a heavy dose of transition threes(44% of shots outside the arc-making 39%). The defense is better with steals and blocks up and points/possession down.
Their Wings are among the best in the country. Marcus Foster(K-State transfer) is approaching 2000 career points(Trevon Bluiett territory). He beat Xavier with a late three in the BIG EAST Tourney Semis last March at MSG. Foster isn't forcing shots this season. 6-3 Khyri Thomas won BE Defensive Player of the Year in 2017. Guess who will guard Trevon?? Thomas averages 15PPG.
7 footer Justin Pattom departed early for the NBA. Enter 6-9 Martin Krampelj from Slovenia! He's averaging a double-double in BIG EAST games. Soph Davion Mintz is starting at PG with Frosh Ty-Shon Alexander(Oak Hill Academy) playing about half the time there. 6-10 Toby Hegner is a typical Creighton stretch four like Ethan Wragge(maybe not that deadly from long range?).
The three man bench is working well. Swiss Army knife Ronnie Harrell(pony tail) is playing BIG minutes. 6-5 Frosh Mitch Ballock is an improving all court player.
CU is much more explosive at Century Link in Omaha(11-0 94PPG) but McDermott teams have given XU fits(6-4 overall)(2-2 at Cintas).
HOW DOES XU WIN THIS??
The Muskies need to start decently at home. They used the 1-3-1 with good results in their win at Omaha last season. Tyrique Jones and Quentin Gooden both shined as starters. at Creighton Bluiett and Macura and Gates must re-emerge as scorers. The inside game could flourish against a smaller lighter Creighton power group. Open shots will be there. X needs to drain a few.It's a simple game!! Make shots and get stops and you win!! Xavier will do that 86-79!!