By Andy Mac Williams, 11/29/2018

The Miami RedHawks are much improved under second year coach Jack Owens. Their game at Xavier was their non-conference Super Bowl and their chance to make noise in Cincinnati. XU respected the trap game possibilities and prepared accordingly. Despite a full week between Game#3 in Maui (83-74 win over Illinois) and the Miami game and the affects of mega-jet lag, the Muskies focused on MU, absorbed the game plan and merged effort with execution for their best 40 minute performance of the young season. The progress shown against a loaded field in Hawaii continued at Cintas. X won 82-55.

The RedHawks came in averaging 81PPG. Xavier made scoring tough. MU shot just 33%FG and a weak 24% from three point range. The Miami sophomore stars(Nike Sibande and Delonte Brown) averaged 36pts/game between them. They managed only 15 total vs XU on 6-22 FG and 3-12 from 3. Primary Muskie defenders Naji Marshall and Paul Scruggs took away the MU "knowns" battling through screens, closing out aggressively and being there on the catch.

Naji played his first complete game after recovering from sickness(17 points-6 rebounds-4 steals efficiently with 7-10 shooting). Marshall is Xavier's best and most versatile defender. In the BIG EAST he'll match up with Alpha Diallo(PC) Max Strus(DePaul) Mustapha Heron(St Johns) and on and on. Locking up Nike Sibande was a nice tune-up.

X turned defense into offense via the fast break forcing 14 turnover-blocking 5 shots-getting 9 steals yielding 28 points off turnovers. The Muskies valued the ball tying a modern program record with a minute 3 turnovers.

PG Quentin Gooden dished out 8 assists with no turnovers. He took Miami Senior PG Darian Ringo out of the game early drawing two fouls against MU's ball handling anchor.

Tyrique Jones owned the pain with a muscular double-double(13 points-13 rebounds). Scruggs dealt with some foul trouble-delivered the good defense vs Brown and chipped in 12 points and 3 hustling in traffic blocked shots.

Grad transfer Kyle Castlin did his understated steady job(9 points-4 rebounds-always where he's supposed to be defensively).Kyle is Xavier's top plus player through 7 games(4-3 record). Castlin has made 10 of 15 FGs in the 4 victories.

X broke even with Miami outside the arc (7 made threes each). That's a winning formula for Xavier as this team has the speed and finishers to overwhelm teams with fast break lay-ups and dunks. The free throw shooting needs work. X was outrebounded, but on balance the defense showed a quantum leap


When Travis took the job last Spring, he set the bar high.Taking the Muskies the final 2% to a Final Four and an NCAA Championship is the objective. Travis is not worried about scoring with this group. He has shooters and drivers and finishers and post game guys.

Defensive progress is the key. The team metric bench mark is KenPom's points/possession efficiency number. Seldom does a team make the Final Four without a Top 30 (353 D-1 teams) defensive rating. Currently, the Muskies are a middling 135th at 1.01 points/trip. Last night against Miami the RedHawks managed a measily 0.85 points per possession. That's Top 30 territory.


The annual induction ceremony and dinner is this Friday at Cintas. "D-Flight" Darnell Williams will be honored along with XU VP John Kucia who's 30 years of service included athletics oversight. John was pivotal in the funding and support of basketball and the building of Cintas Center. Without Kucia Cintas is still probably a tennis court/parking lot.


Saturday-12 noon at Cintas-Xavier vs Oakland(The high scoring Golden Grizzlies) from Rochester, Michigan and the Horizon League. TV FS1.


Brad Redford and I will have a new Bedfrnt podcast up tonight. I rip on Bill Walton and the new NCAA power rating formula(NET). I am trying to be active on twitter @mm_andymac. I'll start replying to those who respond to me when I figure out how to do it. I'm a bit of a TECH Neanderthal- Woolly mammoth, but I'm learning slowly.

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