By Andy Mac Williams, 1/10/2020

Labeling a game "MUST WIN" sort of makes no sense. What happens if XU loses to Creighton Saturday afternoon at Cintas? Is the season over? Do we cancel the rest of the schedule? It's important though. Both XU and CU are 1-2 in BIG EAST in a 4 way tie for 5th w/ Marquette and Georgetown. Both Xavier and Creighton have sustained an early home defeat. X could really be behind the early BE eight ball by losing another at Cintas. Consider the Muskies have to play Marcus Howard (27PPG) and Marquette Wednesday in Milwaukee where MU is 10-1 w/ their lone loss by one(81-80) to Providence in OT. After that, X would have to stew at 1-3 until Wednesday January 22nd when they host Georgetown at Cintas (first of two bye weeks built into the schedule).

Too long to wallow in the negative at 8th or worse in the BIG EAST table (for you soccer fans) standings for the rest of us red blooded North Americans. Hey, I'm an FC Cincinnati season ticket holder, but it's the field to me (not the pitch) and they were uniforms (not kits). Sorry to digress!! Nick Haglund (FC Cincy defender and Xu 2014 grad gets inducted into the Xavier Hall of Fame this weekend along w/ baseball player Scott Gordon (1989) and Katie Pheilan (tennis-2013). More on basketball HOF inductees Justin Doellman (2007) and Mike Hawkins(1995) later in this post. X is favored 72-68 by Ken Pom. Muskies have beaten Blue Jays in 4 of 6 BIG EAST encounters in Cincinnati.

There's an early show down BE game Friday w/ Butler (2-0 BE, 14-1 overall, #6 AP, #4 NCAA NET) at Providence(3-0 BE w/ two league road wins at DePaul and at Marquette). PC is a 1.5 point underdog at their DUNK. Butler is scary stingy defensively(54PPG-#3 NCAA). PC is getting healthy w/ depth and experience. 6-6 Soph sniper A.J. Reeves shot it well before a foot injury last season. He buried two long bombs at critical times in the mega-upset 81-80 Provi OT win at Marquette. That's what the Friars need, a dependable "3" point shooter to orbit outside their tight physical flex offense and make the enemy "D" guard the perimeter. Butler at PC wll be worth watching Friday(9PM-Fox Sports 1).


X has the home court and plenty of motivation after the Seton Hall loss. Travis Steele hated giving up 83 points-committing 13 turnovers-being outrebounded by 10-starting slowly and not executing game plan details. Xavier played hard, but still lost a ton of 50-50 balls and let SHU get to the bucket far too easily.

The Pirates shot 60% FG in second half. X usually allows the bad guys less than 40% from the floor. Hopefully, Jason Carter will be near full go after spraining an ankle before the Seton Hall game. He scored well(14 points) but was slowed after halftime and Travis played basically just the Core 4 plus Kky Tandy. It's not all roses for Creighton w/ BIG Martin Krumpelj playing Pro in Europe and 7 foot Aussie Jacob Epperson out w/ a broken leg. Talented driving PG Davian Mintz is out also w/ an injury. That leaves CU on the small side w/ limited depth.

The BIG 3 guards are terrific. Marcus Zegarowski, Mitch Ballock and Tyshon Alexander combine for 46PPG. They all Let It Fly from "3". Creighton has lost 71-54(at Butler) and 61-57 home Villanova in their last two games though. The scoring is off from 80PPG and their "3" numbers are nasty (7-36 over two games). And XU has defended the "3" very well (less than 30%-Top 30 NCAA).

CU starts 6-7 Christian Bishop at the 5. He's very active and springy, but not bulky. Damien Jefferson is a starting wing-PF at 6-5. TOP BIG off the bench is 6-11 Idaho St transfer Kelvin Jones (The BIG SKY is not the BIG EAST although Jones works hard. 6-5 SE Missouri St transfer Denzel Mahoney has just become eligible (10PPG). He is talented but a high volume shooter. The back-up PG is Shareef Mitchell-fast elusive but just a freshman not a Senior like Mintz.

X needs a BIG edge inside scoring and rebounding and much better bench play (only 3 bench points vs Seton Hall). The Pressure is on both teams w/ 2-2 the reward for the winner and a 1-3 anchor attached to the loser.


DePaul (0-2) vs St Johns (0-3) at Madison Square Garden(noon-Fox Sports Ohio). Georgetown(1-2) at Villanova (2-1)(Wells Fargo Center) (Noon-Fox Sports 1) and Marquette (1-2) at Seton Hall (3-0) (4PM-CBSSN at the Rock in Newark).

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