MUSKIES RIDE OUT RED STORM!! SCOUTING GEORGETOWN!!!
Andy Mac Williams,
Many bloggers were unhappy with Xavier's performance and perceived lack of style points in Tuesday's 73-68 Muskie road win over St Johns in Queens. That's understandable!! The game caused me more angst than I needed. XU trailed 55-51 to STJ with 7:45 remaining. But Xavier used its experience and depth and talent edge and coaching acumen to reel the Red Storm in and dominate the final two four minute wars(plus 9 points). For XU it was a BIG EAST road game against an 0-10 cellar dweller with X coming off a 6 day bye. Band box Carnesseca Arena maybe gave a desperate St Johns team some extra juice versus playing the game at Madison Square Garden. Las Vegas had Xavier favored by just 4 points. Those guys are realists!!
The Muskies may not be done with St Johns. Chris Mullin's team seems headed for 10th place and a Wednesday play-in game in the BE Tourney on their secondary home floor at MSG. X may net a #1 or #2 seed in NYC. STJ could be their Quarterfinal opponent Thursday??
PGs Quentin Gooden and Paul Scruggs played pretty well overall for Xavier. Everybody else seemed below par. "Q" booked 34 minutes with 13 points-5 assists and 2 turnovers. Scruggs posted 16 minutes-6 points-1 assist-2 blocks and a steal. Coach Mack played them together a lot so he must have liked what he saw. They made 3 of 4 three point FGs and Naji Marshall added another from long range. Nobody is guarding those three outside the paint. That may start to change and further spread the floor creating happy driving lanes for those three downhill rim runners.
Xavier overcame some ugly numbers like 16 turnovers- Trevon and J.P. shooting a collective 7 for 26 and too many threes(8-26). Johnnies' star Shamorie Ponds broke out of a slump and pored in 31 points. The defense abandoned Marvin Clark and he drilled 4 three pointers. At the end though XU came up large. Bluiett made FTs. X hit 8 of 8 from the line down the stretch. The defense ratcheted up and denied Ponds the ball-forced a huge turnover and created a late shot clock violation. Mack ran plays for Kerem Kanter rolling to the basket against foul plagued St Johns BIGS.
A road win in the BIG EAST is to be celebrated. Xavier is now 3-2 away in the league with 4 more to play (at Butler, at Creighton, at Georgetown and at DePaul). Maybe they can equal or exceed TEAM 94's BE road mark(6-3)?? 20-3 Xavier has reached the 20 win mark in January for the first time in program history. X is 6th in both AP and Coaches' Top 25s. The NCAA RPI is a robust #3 behind ACC leader Virginia and BIG EAST leader Villanova.
The NCCA Selection Committee reveals its snap shot of the Top 16 tournament seeds next Sunday(12:30PM-CBS). They did it last season for the first time and three of the four Final Four teams were included(eventual National Champ North Carolina-final game loser Gonzaga and semi-final loser Oregon). Only South Carolina(7 seed) was left out. Xavier may rate a #2 seed in this year's exercise 4 weeks prior to Selection Sunday(March 11th) if they beat Georgetown this Saturday at Cintas then split road games next week at Butler and at Creighton. It's all good!! Bracketologists have Xavier a consensus #2 seed at the moment with 7 BIG EAST teams in the NCAA field of 68.
TRIBUTE TO TREVON:
Bluiett scored 14 at St Johns to push his Xavier career total to 2014 (third on the all time list)). He passed Tyrone Hill (2003) and Romain Sato (2005) on the same night. Trevon's resume' is impeccable!! 95-37 record so far. Three going on four NCAA bids. 6-3 record in NCAA games with a Sweet 16 (2015) and an Elite 8 (2017). Number 5 is 3-1 in Crosstown Shootouts against UC which rates him mega extra brownie points in my book. He made the winning FTs as a Frosh in Clifton in 2015 then dropped 40 points on the Bearcats in a loss as a Junior. This season he was Game MVP scoring 28 at Cintas in a 89-76 thumping of Cincinnati.
SCOUTING THE GEORGETOWN HOYAS:
Patrick Ewing's hiring caused a lot of fanfare and a wave of optimism around the G-town program. JT III took the Hoyas to the Final 4 in 2007 since then it's been frustration. Ewing played a cupcake non-conference schedule(easiest among all 351 D-1 teams) and bailed on the PK 80 Tournament in Portland trying to rack up wins early and bolster player confidence. That strategy worked numerically(10-1) with the only blemish an OT loss to Syracuse.
GT is 8th in the BIG EAST currently (3-7) sort of best of the worst with 2 wins over St Johns and a 1-1 record against DePaul. The Hoyas have struggled on the road and they've lost 4 of their last 5. G-town has been off for a week since losing 85-77 at Creighton last Saturday.
They are playing faster this season. Ewing has added two solid Frosh-shooting guard Jahvon Blair(6-2 from Canada) and 6-8 small forward Jamorko Pickett. Both have the green light from three. Blair has been the 6th man. He scored 21 at Creighton with 12 three point tries. Pickett is averaging 14PPG over the last 3.
Two veteran BIGS stayed around. 6-10 Jessie Govan(16PPG-10Rebounds) is playing much more inside. 6-7 Marcus Derrickson drifts out to launch threes (19PPG-last 3). 6-6 Junior Kaleb Johnson starts at PF and gives a solid 28 minutes/game. Soph Jagan Mosely is playing more at PG (St. Anthony's-New Jersey-Bob Hurley Sr.) with Jonathon Mulmore sharing time at the lead guard.
Georgetown plays man to man defense. They shoot and make a ton of FTs(79%) and they crash the offensive board.
Xavier will be a double digit favorite at Cintas (14-0 home overall-5-0 BIG EAST). The Muskies' inside game should thrive. XU 86 G-town 69!!!