SCOUTING MISSOURI!! TEAM 97 AFTER ROAD WIN ASAP!!
Andy Mac Williams,
Technically inept Andy Mac managed to nuke another carefully crafted article so here are a few bullet points. EKU RETROSPECTIVE: XU needed 10 minutes to experience the manic Colonel press then adjusted superbly going plus 21 points over the 10 minutes before halftime to lead 47-33 at the break then winning 95-77. All this good stuff with post-up guard Paul Scruggs on the bench in foul trouble. Xavier shot 71.4% from the field(close to a school record) attacking the rim(28-33 from inside the arc) for 84% and limiting threes to shots in transition. The Muskies missed their first 5 from long range then drained 6 of 11 with the right guys shooting(Ryan Welage 3-4 and Scruggs 2-2) off the fast break with wide open looks. Six Muskies scored in double figures. PG Quentin Goodin thrived in the open floor(16 points-10 assists-7 steals). Naji Marshall did his best work off the dribble(15 points-10 boards-6 assists).
X does its best work collectively playing inside-out with copious paint touches thus TEAM 97 is now #1 in NCAA D-1(353 teams) in two point FG%(60-3%). Among those in the Top 10 in that category are Duke, Gonzaga and Indiana. BIG Zach Hankins is 15th NCAA in FG% at 75.4%. He and Tyrique Jones ran the floor vs EKU and combined for 28 points on 11-12 FGs.
Defensively, the news is improving. X gave up 77 points to Eastern. Doesn't sound that great, but they averaged 81PPG against a good schedule and Travis Steele looks at points/possession rather than raw points allowed. That number(0.90) was strong because EKU plays so fast.
XU's points/possession number is getting steadily better(0.96 over the last 6 games(5-1) starting with the Maui win over Illinois). 0.96 over the whole season so far would put Xavier about 50th nationally in defensive efficiency. The goal is Top 30(right now that's 0.94). X is not there yet, but they're gaining on it.
Maybe more important than all the numbers is that the players really enjoyed their successes and the style of play. Q and Naji had fun with the media. They marveled at Tyrique's finish on the lob dunk. The coaches preached inside-out and stalking the three point line and it all worked. X over the past five games has done much better in three point FG defense(31% 41-129 for the bad guys) much better than almost 50% allowed over the first 6 games(3-3). The NCAA average is 33.9%.
It was Opening Weekend for New Jersey High School Basketball and Muskie signee Zach Freemantle(6-9 215) did well. His Bergen Catholic team(rated #5 state-wide) won twice. Friday they blew out Paterson Eastside 92-44. Zach played reduced minutes in the romp and scored 15. Sunday Bergen traveled to Elizabeth, NJ and played basically a road game against St Mary(#14 in the state). Bergen won 77-75. Zach won MVP recognition with 21 points and 13 rebounds.
AROUND THE BIG EAST:
St Johns stayed unbeaten(10-0) besting Wagner 73-58 in Queens. 8 other teams sport perfect records-Kansas, Virginia,Michigan, Nevada, Texas Tech, Buffalo,Houston and Furman. SJU should easily go to 12-0 with home gimmes vs St Francis(NY) and Sacred Heart. At Seton Hall Saturday 12-29 in their BIG EAST opener could well be a sticky wicket for the Red Storm though.
Mizzou is 6-3 and coming off an 11 day exam break. They are on a three game home court winning streak in Columbia("Ws" over UCF, Texas Arlington and Oral Roberts). The Tigers needed OT to beat UCF 64-62. It helped getting Central Florida 7 footer Taco Fall in foul trouble. Second year coach Cuonzo Martin got Missouri to the NCAAs last season(20-13 10-8 SEC) despite one and done 6-10 Michael Porter's back injury(played just 3 games) and the wreckage left by Kim Anderson(three years coaching 28-64 record). Martin is the master of the quick rebuild(Tennessee-California). He played and coached under Gene Keady at Purdue. Getting to the NCAAs was huge. Mizzou lost as an 8 seed in Nashville to Florida State then FSU gave Muskie fans the Nashville Nightmare. The Tigers return some nice pieces especially inside.
6-10 250 Soph Jerimiah Tillmon is a horse. 6-7 238 Sr Kevin Puryear is a solid veteran. 6-11 Jontay Porter averaged 10PPG-7rebounds playing while brother Michael was injured. He blew his knee out this preseason. PG Sr Jordan Geist is having a strong season so far. The top two scorers are gone(Robertson and Barnett-both around 15PPG). Martin is working in a strong freshman group including Chicago guard Xavier Pinson and St Louis guard Torrence Watson(12 points against both UTA and ORU). Wing Mark Smith is a deadily three point sniper along with Watson. Missouri shoots well from three(40%). They play a slower tempo half court style with decent rebound numbers-sort of iffy ball handling and below average FT shooting.
The Tigers are a work in progress. With Jontay Porter they would be a dominant rebounding-shot blocking-points in the paint team. When the freshmen click in and learn the system, they could be much more up tempo and dynamic. X could be catching them at a good time, but Mizzou still wins between 75 and 80% at home.
The crowds are coming back after the painful Kim Anderson Era. Martin is a resourceful coach and Xavier is also a work in progress. That first road win against a Power 5 team would be a huge get for XU and aid in the momentum build into the BIG EAST Opener at De Paul a week from Saturday December 29th.
The Muskies match up well physically with Missouri. X needs to continue to stalk the arc against this half court three point dependent team and maybe get them to play faster than their normal slower tempo. They've lost to Iowa State and Kansas State. If they beat Xavier, it's their best victory. Missouri plays a return game at Cintas next Fall.