Muskies Survive Lehigh!! Buffalo Bulls Arrive Monday Night!!
Andy Mac Williams,
It's highly subjective, but I can make the argument that Lehigh is Xavier's best Opening Night opponent ever at Cintas Center (17 seasons now). Maybe Western Michigan in 2010?? XU scratched out a 68-65 victory that evening with future Muskie anchor Matt Stainbrook making his college debut for the Broncos. Lehigh looks to be an NCAA Tourney team to me. Tim Kempton Jr is one of the best post players Xavier will see all season. Waterbug PG Kahron Ross reminds me of Creighton's Mo Watson(who started in the Patriot League ironically at Boston University). Ross danced and dissected the XU defense to the tune of 12 assists. Kempton scored an impressive efficient 25(9-16FG-7-9FT). Bottom line: Xavier survived 84-81,advanced with a"W" and hopefully learned a bunch.
They're now 17-0 in CC openers.Last season in Game 1 X trailed a mediocre Miami Redhawk team by a single point with 7 minutes to play and struggled to win 81-72. It's a process!!!! It's early November!!! Don't contemplate the Muskies' demise!! Patience is a virtue for fans and followers!! For players and coaches it's hard work,reality checks and focus on defense and rebounding!!
Positives in Lehigh Win:
The BIG THREE;Trevon Bluiett,Edmond Sumner and J.P. Macura combined for 62 points. Bluiett showed leadership and grit down the stretch-making vital buckets-drilling FTs and totaling 11 rebounds and really attacking the basket. X won the game at the FT line making 15 of 18 in the second half(huge improvement over first half of the exhibition game numbers 6-18-200 FTs per player at 8AM every day must have helped).
This team is exciting up-tempo and explosive.The fastbreak potential and spurtability factor is off the charts. Sumner can throw down emphatic momentum changing dunks. Bluiett just shoots the heck out of the ball and he's much more nimble with his mid-range game after losing weight.
J.P. lets shots go from all angles. His parabolic moonball baseline scoop lay-up late in the first half vs Lehigh was incredibly creative. You can't teach that stuff. Sean O'Mara played Kempton tough in post defense most of the time. He scored a career high(so far) 10 points in his first official start and added 4 rebounds-2 assists and 2 steals. Sean caught the ball repeatedly deep in the lane. He has the post moves to score heavily down low.
Frosh Tyrique Jones bounced Kempton around vigorously in the second half. His BIG MAN game may be a bit crude right now,but he's fearless and strong as a bull. Both J.P. and Malcolm Bernard shook off ankle twists and stayed on the floor(more grit displayed).
The defense gave up 81 points( a bad number against anybody). Lehigh created great shots too easily. They carved up the 1-3-1 zone. Maybe another Xavier defensive change-up is needed?? 17 turnovers is way too many. The Muskies seemingly had the game under control leading 79-70 with 3:53 left but the veterans coughed the ball up and Lehigh almost forced overtime.
Frosh PG Quentin Gooden seemed tentative. He has a lot on his plate as back-up PG with Myles Davis suspended. Coach Mack wants Quentin to attack more and think less. Early foul trouble was a problem especially considering the limited 8 man rotation(Kaiser Gates injured-Davis not available). Xavier was forced to zone.Lehigh cut the zone to pieces and the Muskies' impressive early lead melted away.
XU has two practices and a shoot around to get ready for an experienced successful Buffalo team Monday 7PM at Cintas(TV-CBS Sports Network with Pete Gillen doing color).The Bulls have made two straight NCAA Tournaments as MAC Champs. No Mid-American Conference team has gone to the NCAAs three years in a row. UB won their opener on the road Friday night rallying late to beat backyard rival Niagra 76-66. The Bulls overcame foul trouble and 17 turnovers to win.
Buffalo has more size overall than Lehigh.but no single post presence to equal Tim Kempton. Their star is Senior Forward Blake Hamilton(#0)6-6,205 a versatile all court player who rebounds at a high level. Hamilton is considered an NBA prospect. He broke a bone in his left hand 6 weeks ago-missed their exhibition game but did play against Niagra(11points-8 rebounds-5 assists).
Senior Wing Willie Conner(#2) really stepped up in the Niagra win scoring 20 including a bunch of key buckets in UB's second half surge. 6-8 Soph Nate Perkins(#33) is starting at Forward(11 points-8 rebounds Niagra). Two Frosh played big minutes. 6-3 PG Davonta Jordan started replacing C.J. Massinburg(out with mono). Jordan played at top prep school Montverde Academy. He's from Florida-sports terrific size and attacks the basket. 6-8 Quate Mc Kinzie came off the bench to score 13.
Buffalo's a resilient bunch. Head Coach Bobby Hurley took the Arizona job after their 2015 NCAA loss to West Virginia and top assistant Nate Oats took over. Buffalo was lightly regarded in the wake of Hurley's departure.UB won the MAC again. This summer PG Lamonte Beardon decided to transfer to Western Kentucky-Hamilton broke his hand and Massinburg went down with illness after pumping in 27 in their exhibition game. Buffalo has bounced back.
The Bulls offer a different type of challenge than Lehigh. They have better size down the entire line-up. They will play predominantly man defense.
The original Bengal Quarterback John Stofa played both football and basketball for Buffalo.
The Muskies play three games in four days at Orlando starting Thursday afternoon(Tire Pro Invitational at Disney). How will the short rotation stand up?? Missouri(SEC) is first-Thursday 1PM-ESPNU.Xavier has beaten them in each of the last two seasons.
Friday afternoon-XU plays either Davidson(Atlantic 10) or Clemson(ACC)(Also on ESPNU). Saturday everybody enjoys Disney. Sunday the Muskies meet either Oklahoma,Arizona State,Northern Iowa or Tulane.
Brad Redford makes his season debut co-hosting "Talkin' Hoops" with me at Duff's in Cintas Center prior to XU-UB Monday. We start our presentation at about 6:20PM.