By Andy Mac Williams, 12/2/2019

The new Top 25s are out and Chris Mack's Louisville Cardinals are the 4th #1 ranked team in 4 weeks following Michigan State-UK and Duke. It's that kind of wide open year in College Basketball. U of L gets an immediate acid test Tuesday at Yum Center hosting streaking 7-0 #4 Michigan in ACC-Big Ten Challenge(7:30PM-ESPN). Also Tuesday-UC Bearcats have a final tune-up before Saturday's Crosstown Shootout at Xavier(5PM-FS1). Cincy hosts Vermont(American East). Catamounts(6-3) are a veteran low turnover 3 point sniping group w/ a road win at St Johns and a 6 point road loss at NCAA Champ Virginia. You can watch UC-Vermont on CBS Sports Network at 7PM Tuesday. Other AP Top 25 slots-Seton Hall is #16-Villanova #23-7-0 Butler breaks in at #24. Xavier drops to #27 from #25 after a win over Lipscomb (87-62).


The Muskies(7-1, 5-0 at Cintas) host Green Bay Wednesday(7PM-FS2) in their final prelim to Saturday's Shootout. The Phoenix(Horizon League) are 3-4 w/ D-1 wins over Cal Northridge and Montana State and blow-out losses at Purdue and Wisconsin. WGB sits 204 in the KenPom Ratings.

The Muskies haven't played the Phoenix since February of 1995 when both schools were MCC members. Dick Bennett was Wisc GB coach and son Tony was his PG(now Virginia coach). Bennett was perfecting his packline defense back then. Xavier plays that "D" under Travis Steele. 2020 Green Bay is a veteran uptempo low turnover team w/ 3 point sniping ability. Their efficient offense produces over 83PPG but they give up almost 83.

Green Bay starts 3 Seniors. Guard Jayquan McCloud averages 14.7PPG. 6-5 Kameron Hankenson(10PPG). 6-9 Cody Schwartz(10ppg-5 rebs). 6-3 Frosh guard Amari Davis leads them at 16.3PPG by attacking off the bounce. Coach Link Darner is in his 5th season. He plays 8 guys. X will have a BIG edge in size at every position plus the home court(9 game active Cintas win streak).

The Muskie goal is to start quickly and infuse the bench w/ more experience and confidence leading into the UC game. Travis wants to smooth out his rotation to a dependable 9 players including Frosh PG Kyky Tandy who debuted vs Lipscomb after a foot injury.


The offense is improving w/ quicker ball movement and more ball reversal. Turnovers are still too plentiful(14/game). The goal is 11 or less. Xavier wasted about 40% of its possessions vs top tier teams Mizzou-UConn and Florida(combining turnovers w/ what coaches consider "bad" shots). Steele wants more efficiency! FT shooting needs work(.667%) well below NCAA D-1 average. X has made 110 FTS while the opponents have attempted 137. the goal is to have XU makes and bad guy tries about equal so that contrast has room for improvement. The Muskies have actually made 7 more "3s" than the opposition through 8 games but the XU % is just 28.5%. 32-35% would be more like it w/ better shot selection.

Xavier's defense at the 3 point arc has been stellar and a huge improvement from last season(#46 NCAA at 28%). That stingy number will be hard to maintain vs sniping teams like Butler-Marquette-Villanova-Creighton and Seton Hall in the BIG EAST. Breaking even from "3" works for me because X should be a huge plus at the FT line and from inside the arc(mid-range-fast break-stick backs on offensive glass-dunks-lay-ups).


Xavier is stingy allowing 61PPG and .889 points/possession(#16 NCAA). Steele's goal is Top 25 in defensive efficiency and the Muskies are no target so far. The 7 or more Kill/game bench mark has been reached 7 times for 7 wins. XU fell short against talented Florida and lost 70-65 in a subpar defensive performance. Steals are up as are turnovers forced. Full court pressure has worked selectively. Rebounding is plus 5/game. Not bad-could be better w/ more 2nd and 3rd chance buckets.


TEAM 98 IMHO is a tight unselfish hard working gritty group w/ a strong work ethic. They've shown resilience w/ OT wins over Mizzou and UConn and a strong comeback vs Mizzou St. The only blemish is Florida. Turnovers doomed that game. I give Xavier a solid "B" grade so far w/ an upward bullet. Upside is HUGE.

Depth is improving w/ Tandy now available. Moore-Freemantle and Bishop have been solid contributors already. A 9 man rotation is realistic although Soph Dontarious James is coming on w/ solid minutes vs Florida and Lipscomb. Don can rebound and score the ball. He's gained Steele's attention during practice through the Xavier Way scoring system. Travis said"Don made me play him by his effort".

Daniel Ramsey has size and skills at 6-9 245. He could grab some PT also. TEAM 98 is never going to launch 45% of its shots from "3" like Villanova or Creighton.

This team must play inside-out and ping the ball low to high for open "3s" off ball reversal. Steele's stable staff does a great job of reinforcing this work ethic gritty physical identity daily. TEAM 98 has the players to win rock fights. A few made "3s" will make life easier, but a win is a win. Stylish is not a mandatory adjective. Tough and resilient may play better in March anyway and that's the ultimate goal. To win in March!!

Check us out on twitter all week leading up to Saturday's Crosstown Shootout vs UC(@mm_andymac). We'll scout the Bore-cats-relive the history of the rivalry and get you ready for a passionate fun basketball game.

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