WHAT WE LEARNED FROM MUSKIES' OPENING NIGHT WIN OVER JACKSONVILLE!!
Andy Mac Williams,
Some so called "Buy" games are complete blow-outs-non-building blocks-non-learning experiences-false indicators and basically a waste of time. XU's 76-57 thumping of Jacksonville Tuesday at Cintas was none of those. The Dolphins are no juggernaut, but they are well coached and well organized. In the first half Xavier stifled JU w/ withering pro-active attacking defense. Jacksonville tried to stay patient. They worked the ball, but X put them in survival mode and JU seldom created an open shot. "3s" were blanketed. They had to settle for low % contested "2s". X has to be elite defensively to get where they want to go(BIG EAST Title-deep NCAA run). They were elite for 20 minutes.Check out the numbers!! X won the half 43-22. JU made 9 FGs and shot 1-10 from "3". The Muskies booked 5 kills(3 defensive stops in a row). They came up w/ 7 steals and forced 13 JU turnovers and scored 15 points off those enemy errors. The guards were relentless in ball pressure.
The BIGS hedged hard and caused angst and were fast enough to recover down low. Travis Steele was smiling about 1st half "D". He liked 1st half offense also re shot selection-ball movement and playing pace. Sustaining that focus and attention to detail and energy to 40 minutes is the next step and a "must" to beat teams like Missouri in Game#3.
The expected starting line-up consists of the CORE 4(Q, Tyrique, Naji and Scruggs) plus Ohio U grad transfer Jason Carter. Jason fit perfectly in 3 games in Spain. Travis played that group together for about 5 or 6 minutes vs JU and they clicked. Carter has just returned to full practice. He will get more PT Friday vs Siena(7PM TIP at Cintas). I see a 9 man rotation once all are healthy consisting of 3 guards-grad transfer Bryce Moore and frosh Dahmir Bishop and Kyky Tandy and 1 BIG frosh Zach Freemantle. That gives the coaches 3 BIGS to rotate at the 4-5 w/ Tyrique-Jason and Zach.
X may also play some 3 guard lie-ups w/ Naji Marshall dropping down to the 4 and one BIG on the floor. That look might make sense against Creighton or Marquette or Villanova in the BIG EAST. Frosh BIG Dieonte Miles did not play vs Jacksonville. Travis is contemplating red shirting him. If injuries hit the BIGS, he could always take the red shirt off as Miles will be practicing every day. It's a tough decision for Steele. Miles has uber potential. He could come in handy w/ his length and speed.
But what could Dieonte be in a 5th year w/ added weight and strength and reps? He just turned 18. Travis sighted examples of Xavier BIGS who played very few 1st year minutes then blossomed(Jason Love-James Farr-Sean O'Mara) and had no 5th year option. On the other side of the argument are Derrick Brown and Edmund Sumner although Ed was a medical RS not a developmental RS. Both those players left early for the NBA after sitting out as freshmen.
Dahmir Bishop and Zach Freemantle fit right in despite playing in their first D-1 game for real. Freemantle ran like a deer-scored 11 and grabbed 5 rebounds. Bishop scored 4 w/ 7 boards and 3 assists-no turnovers. Both can play now as can Bryce Moore. He pummeled JU guards physically picking up full court plus he has a quick release deadly jump shot.
Three point shooting has been an adventure so far(2-25 Akron-4-26 UIndy-4-23 Jacksonville). Travis thinks better inside-out action will yield more makeable threes. Tandy's return will add another outside option. Bishop is a confident 3 point sniper, but he's deferring as a frosh maybe. X is not going to bomb the three like Villanova or Marquette(50% of shots from outside the arc-40 to 50% of their points from "3"). The Muskies play inside-out. Breaking even from long range might be realistic. Xavier can level the long range playing field by defending the "3" better(goal 30% 3 point FG defense) and making teams like VU, MU and CU inefficient from outside while X piles up extra points at the Free throw line and from "2".
Siena is a mid-100 KenPom team picked 3rd in the Metro-Atlantic so the competition will be better at least on paper Friday at Cintas. The Saints beat American University 96-80 Tuesday knocking down 11 of 21 "3s". Soph Jalen Pickett is a star (46 point game last season). Frosh of Year MAAC. 6-4 point forward (16PPG-5 rebs-7 assists). Preseason MAAC POY. Notre Dame transfer Elijah Burns(6-8 238) had 19 and 9 vs American.