SCOUTING ST JOHNS @ XAVIER and OTHER STUFF!!
Andy Mac Williams,
The NCAA's first release of the NET on Monday December 16th slotted Xavier at a ridiculously low 71st. The Muskies soon slipped to #72. The news got much better following wins over Western Carolina and at TCU( up to #52). The Muskies lost their BIG EAST Opener at Villanova last Monday night. It wasn't another Philadelphia ass kicking like Years 1 through 6 of BE membership (lost 68-62 despite 1-11 shooting from "3"-yielding 12 offensive rebounds-missing copious scoring chances around the rim and letting Nova PG Collin Gillespie operate like Bob Cousy). Still who would have thunk it? Entering play Saturday Jan. 4th, XU had climbed to #44 in the inscrutable black box like NET. Maybe they consider practice effort and performance? And X has worked hard this week correcting flaws in box-out technique-pounding each other in the footballesque bubble-up drill and playing keep away from what will be 40 minutes of frantic manic St Johns full court press. I'm not complaining. One forward looking web site predicts Xavier will play 11 NET Quad 1 and 2 NET Quad 2 games over their final 17 BIG EAST regular season games. That's opportunity knocking about twice a week.
The BIG EAST is now fixed statistically at no worse than the NCAA's third best league too far behind to catch the Big Ten too far ahead to be caught by the ACC but very close to the Big 12 for # 2 conference. BIG EAST play by definition is a 50-50 proposition. How the wins and losses are distributed is important, but it is now written because of an excellent 103-25 composite non-conference record(80% wins)(Villanova still has games outside the league left vs UConn and Temple) that the BIG EAST will certainly net 6 and more probably 7 NCAA Bids. 9-9 in the league should do it w/ some bubble sweating. 10 wins is a lock. 11 wins or more and we're talking 8 seed or better. So much better than the MCC or A-10!!
X is far from home free re returning to the NCAA 68. Travis Steele says there are no off nights. The BE is very unforgiving and is the deepest top to bottom of any conference in the country. Ken Pom predicts Seton Hall to win at 12-6 w/ the worst record for Team #10 12-6. Almost every BE game is projected as being decided by one or two possessions. It's a critical week for the Muskies w/ 3 Cintas games over 7 days(St Johns-Sunday, Seton Hall-Wednesday Jan 8th and Creighton-Saturday Jan 11th).
X is 40-14 at Cintas through the first 6 seasons of BIG EAST membership. They'll need 7, 8 even 9 home wins in this wildly competitive balanced season to get where they want to go(BIG EAST Title). Road wins will be hard to come by. 9 games are in the books as I write this. Home teams are 6-3. The average margin of victory in those 6 home "Ws" is over 13PPG. 3 Road teams have won Seton Hall at DePaul 74-66 w/ a feverish late game SHU comeback. Butler wiped out a 5 point deficit over the last 3 minutes to win 60-58 at St Johns and Providence got a winning free throw from Nate Watson(38% FT shooter) w/ 1.1 seconds left in Chicago to beat DePaul 66-65(average margin of victory just under 4PPG). Bring it on!! This will be fun every game!!
The Four Star Frosh from Philadelphia is transferring out. The reasons-lack of PT and homesickness. He'd never been away from Philly. Dahmir showed all sorts of talent-a knack for rebounding-extreme quickness and the skill set to become a lock down defender. He struggled to make shots. Travis needed Dahmir to force his way into the rotation w/ superior effort in practice to "make Travis play him". That did not happen.
Coach Steele will probably not add another recruit to the 2020 Class w/ three signed(Dwon Odom-C.J. Wilcher and Coby Jones) plus Dieonte Miles added to that group by red shirting this season. Travis has always insisted its impossible to keep 9 or 10 players happy re playing time let alone the full 13 allowed by the NCAA. Expect a veteran addition this Spring if the right fit can be found. Steele and the 3 assistants are constantly recruiting-looking to enhance the talent pool. As Pete Gillen often said: "Recruiting is like breathing, you better do a lot of it every day."
SCOUTING ST JOHNS:
The Muskies open their 9 game BE home schedule Sunday afternoon(4:30PM EST-BIG FOX after NFL Wild Card Game-Minnesota at New Orleans). The Johnnies from NYC are 180 degrees different from the Chris Mullin Era Red Storm. Defense was a necessary evil under Mullin-an inconvenient truth forced on STJ until they could get the ball back. New Coach Mike Anderson thinks differently. His approach is anchored in 40 minutes of Hell( Nolan Richardson disciple from Arkansas-1994 NCAA Title-Corliss Willaimsson-Todd Day etc). It's run and full court press w/ a quick shooting light cavalry offense.
Mullin relied on an Iron 5 veteran group and a weak non-conference schedule. Gone are Shamorie Ponds and Justin Simon and Marvin Clark!! Anderson plays 10 guys. His system depends on depth and it's working. St Johns is a legit 11-3 w/ high leverage wins over West Virginia(TOP 25) at MSG and Arizona on a neutral floor in San Francisco.
The Losses are to Vermont-Arizona state and Butler in the BIG EAST Opener in Queens. 60-58 the score vs 14-1 soon to be Top 10 Butler. STJ trailed by 23-forced 24 BU turnovers-took a 58-53 lead then forgot to score the final 3 minutes for a crushing defeat. All BIG EAST guard Mustapha Heron(15PPG) DNP(out 3 games-ankle). Travis Steele expects to see Heron(Auburn transfer) Sunday at Cintas.
All BIG EAST forward L.J. Figueroa(14.4PPG) played just 14 minutes vs Butler(foul trouble). Anderson is using Mullin rejects like Marcellus Earlington and Josh Roberts and Greg Williams who seldom played but have earned Anderson's trust. Guard transfers Nick Rutherford(Mt St Mary's) and Rasheed Dunn(St Francis-Brooklyn) are NYC guys who play fast and appreciate the chance at high D-1 competition.
6-7 Frosh Justin Champagnie (10PPG-6.4 rebounds) has been a find. Anderson has them buying his trapping up tempo style. ST Johns is TOP 25 in steals(10.4?game) and turnovers forced(18.4/game). They give up 66PPG now vs 80 w/ Mullin and they score 78 mainly around the rim and at the FT line. STJ is not a great shooting team from "3" but they work hard and play manic defense. This will be St Johns first true road game.
For XU it's close to a "must win" after the Villanova loss. Xavier w experience and strong guard play will be hard to press w/o copious fouling. Steele has preached poise against St Johns pressure all week. The Muskies are much bigger and stronger inside and should be able to prosper in the half court offense. Heron has not played December 10th.
X will need strong work from the 3 man bench. Zach Freemantle has been solid almost every game(7.4PPG-3.8 rebounds in 16 minutes). Bryce Moore and Kyky Tandy need to chip in more vs hectic St Johns. Ken Pom picks Xavier 75-67. Sounds plausible to me!!
BIG EAST STANDINGS THROUGH SATURDAY JAN 4th:
Butler-Seton Hall and Providence are all 2-0. Villanova-Marquette and Creighton are 1-1. Xavier and St Johns are 0-1. Georgetown and DePaul are 0-2.