RANDOM DEEP THOUGHTS!! XAVIER TEAM 97!!
By Andy Mac Williams, 1/29/2019

Xavier got off to an excellent start Saturday at Cintas against Top 10 Marquette. The first 9:40 whizzed by with almost no stoppages-few Muskie mistakes and great energy. The game flowed right past the 16 and 12 media time-outs with the TV truck presumably going bonkers to run commercials. X patiently ran the offense-probing for great shots. They forced MU into poor possessions-rushed shots and multiple mistakes. When play finally was halted for a Zach Hankins injury, Xavier led 22-18. The margin should have been double figures, but Marquette flipped in 4 of 5 threes to stay in contact.

Golden Eagle BIG Theo John, their post-up threat and rim protector, had two quick fouls and Coach Wojo was scrambling. MU kept draining threes though. The Game was tied at the half 39-39.

X roared early in half two building a 58-47 lead with 14 minutes left. Marquette kept chipping away-reeling the Muskies in. Maintaining and extending separation(putting teams away) is a chronic TEAM 97 issue.

It's a function of lack of depth IMHO. X usually starts well(opening segment-out of halftime-after time-outs) with a solid grip of the game plan and a full tank of energy, then some level of fatigue sets in. The Muskies are playing just 7 guys right now with Ryan Welage used sparingly. The core four plus Hankins and Castlin match-up well with anybody in a very good league. Welage is an elite shooter when he's not being face guarded. Scruggs, Tyrique, Naji and Q gave it everything they had as did Castlin and Hankins.

Still MU hung around and clawed back with their elite shooters. It came down to the final 4 minute war. The stage was set for a bad ending with a bogus palming call against Quentin Gooden and a no call when Naji Marshall seemingly took contact on a 14 foot pull-up jumper. One of the Hausers canned a 25 foot fall away "3" to give MU their first lead in eons(71-69) with about 3:40 left and Travis Steele boiled over and was TEED UP.

No time for a zebra to flaunt his ego and show thin skin! Marcus Howard swished both FTs-X fell behind by 4 at 73-69 and then was forced to valiantly chase the score down to the end(lost 87-82).

The Muskies were fatigued and missed 3 of 8 FTs down the stretch to torpedo the comeback. Howard got star treatment on a fall away leftie lay-up try-blocked by Marshall, but a ticky tacky foul was called.

Bottom line-Xavier shoulda, woulda, coulda beaten a Top 10 team, but their margin for error is so slim especially considering their handicap status in three point shooting(-6 threes made vs Marquette-minus 18 points which must be made up in twos and FTs).

Luckily,2019 BIG EAST is the BIG TWO and the other 8. Villanova is 7-0 and Marquette is 7-1. Nobody else is above .500. 3 teams sit 3-4 and the other 5 are 3-5.

Xavier's in the 3-5 group a half game out of 3rd place, but with a troubling 2-3 Cintas BE record and two road games this week(Thursday at Georgetown -8PM-CBS SN) and Super Sunday at Creighton(1 PM-FSN-*m assuming that means Fox Sports Ohio??).

The road has not been kind to the Muskies so far(1-4 overall, 1-2 BIG EAST with a comeback win at DePaul and a strong effort at Villanova). BIG WEEK for XU followed by a mid-week bye Feb 4 through 8 and a home game against DePaul Saturday February 9th.

SCRUTINIZING THE XAVIER STAT SHEET:

About 6 to 8 games into the conference schedule I stop looking at full season numbers and start believing what the BIG EAST statistics tell me. That's valid! No cupcake non-conference fantasies to corrupt the values.

X is doing great in the free throw columns. The Muskies are shooting 74% at the line with 123 made FTs to just 126 FT attempts by the bad guys. X is + 28 points. That shows a dedication to attacking the rim and playing inside-out and a positive trend toward lower fouling on defense.

The rebounding data is positive also at +2.6/game. A bigger edge on the offensive glass would help. X is giving up 74.4PPG and really hurting still in defending the three.

Enemy shoots 6 more threes/game and has outscored XU by 87 points total or about 10PPG from outside the arc. Turnovers are down in the league(11/game). Assist to Turnover Ratio is about 1.2 to 1.

The record should be better than 3-5, but the disparity from three point range dilutes the other good news. Travis Steele looks seriously at KenPom efficiency numbers. XU is 6th in BE offense at 1.06 points/possession and 9th defensively(1.12). Only Creighton is worse on defense(1.15). The best offensive number is 1.19(Villanova). The stingiest defense 1.03(Providence).

BIG EAST NUMBERS:

Marquette moves up to #9 in USA TODAY Coaches Top 25. MU is #10 in AP. Villanova is #14 in both polls. NCAA NET: Marquette 19, Villanova 21,ST Johns 49, Butler 50, Creighton 58, Seton Hall 64, Providence 73, Xavier 83, Georgetown 88, DePaul 102.

BIG EAST Player of the Week:

Sophomore guard Ty-shon Alexander of Creighton-26 and 19 points in CU wins at Georgetown and home against Butler. FROSH of the WEEK: Joey Hauser-Marquette-killed Xavier with 21 points-making 5 of 6 threes.

BIG EAST Mid-Week Schedule:

Wednesday Marquette at Butler (6:30 FS1) Providence at Seton Hall(7PM-FSN) Villanova at DePaul(8PM-CBS SN) and ST Johns at Creighton(8:30PM-FS1). Thursday Xavier at G-town98PM-CBS SN). I'll post a Georgetown Scout tonight or Wednesday AM.




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