By Andy Mac Williams, 11/16/2019

We warned Muskie fans to "Beware of the Bear!!" and we were correct to give ample respect to "Valley" favorite MSU. It was too easy too early for XU getting out to a 10-0 lead. X could have really buried them, but missed open"3s" and piled up some careless turnovers. Muskies let Bears right back into the game and let them play at their preferred slow tempo. The game became a half court rock fight ala Missouri Tigers Tuesday(63-58 OT XU win). MSU cut the XU lead to just 32-30 at the half and Travis Steele was not happy w/ 10 Muskie turnovers and just 1 Muskie offensive rebound. Game on! Mizzou State gained confidence and kept hanging around. X never gave up the lead though and rediscovered their grit and defensive mojo(forcing 22 total MSU turnovers-grabbing 10 2nd half offensive boards and committing only 5 2nd half turnovers).

Steele's halftime message got through!! TEAM 98 listens-adjusts and executes late!! So Xavier won it 59-56- no OT needed, but it was tight. MSU forced a 56-56 tie w/ 1:30 left. Naji Marshall canned a I shot technical FT(flopping on the Bears) for 57-56. X missed inside but Tyrique Jones snared a HUGE offensive rebound and shot the ball out top to Paul Scruggs.

#1 drove the lane and canned a tough lay-up(59-56 Muskies). MSU had 12 seconds. Bryce Moore forced PG Dixon to take a long well guarded "3". The ball bounced wildly to the dead left corner where Tulio DaSilva missed a wild heave at the buzzer. The 4-0 start is what Travis was after. Certainly-not perfect, but it's still November.

Jason Carter has moved past injuries and into the starting line-up. KyKy Tandy is close to returning and assuming the instant offense back-up PG role giving Travis his projected 9 man rotation. Zach Freemantle is a strong 3rd BIG cycling in w/ Tyrique and Carter. Dahmir Bishop has fit in as an all-court sub and his shooting touch has not shown itself yet. The Core 4 is the Core 4(physical-experienced-solid-potentially dynamic).

FT shooting is below 70% but Xavier is parading to the FT line(26 tries/game-Top 25 nationally). Turnovers were 11/gamed before Mizzou State(15). Steele called that number a problem especially since most of those were self inflicted. 3 point shooting at just over 20% is a worry although Xavier's 3 point FG defense has been excellent. The bad guys have just 2 more made "3s" than the Muskies through 4 games w/ way more 3 point attempts. If X can stay near break even

from "3" game in and game out and bring the manic defense consistently, X will win a lot of games. This team will seldom win a long range jump shooting fire fight vs Villanova-Creighton-Marquette or Seton Hall. Just come close to breaking even from"3" and maybe be 6th in BIG EAST from long range 10th because the Muskies should own a BIG edge in FT points and 2 point FGs almost every game certainly at Cintas.

The Road is more problematic-but defensive stickiness-grittiness-nastiness does travel well. "D" is effort and focus and "want to' and stubbornness. Muskie TEAM 98 has a ton of that stuff and they believe in Travis' winning formula anchored by that manic defense.


When packline defense is leaking, X givdes up baseline drives and that happened vs MSU. CARDINAL SIN!! A"problem" to Travis as are 15 turnovers and being outrebounded and schooled on the offensive glass and allowing .91 points/possession. Under .85 is more like it. TOP 25 in KenPom.

Veteran guards Scruggs and Gooden combined for 11 assists and just 3 turnovers. Scruggs was the best most clutch player(14 points efficiently w/ 4 boards and 5 assists and a non-stop motor. Tyrique overcame double and triple teams on the block and scored 15. His offensive rebound late won the game. Naji was bottled up by the Bears' funky zones but still kept his cool and chipped in (12-5 and 3 steals). Bryce Moore played crucial minutes(20 total) matching up w/ MSU's strong guards Dixon and Cook switching back and forth. They shot a collective 8 for 22-way below normal. Bryce is a low fouling maniacal defensive stopper who is not a passenger offensively(strong wing 3 point shooter).


Seton Hall has been slapped on the wrist by the NCAA for recruiting problems surrounding Taurean Thompson-a Syracuse transfer now apparently gone from the program. Coach Willard sat out 2 games already preemptively. The Pirates lose 1 scholarship for 2020-2021 and pay a fine. They're still on TV and NCAA Tournament eligible.

BIG EAST best games this weekend-Saturday at noon Villanova vs Ohio U at Wells Fargo downtown? Why is Xavier-Villanova Dec 30th on campus at the Pavilion and not at the 20,000 sedater? Can't wedge it in around the Sixers and Flyers? Maybe Celine Dion? or a Gun and Knife How? Can you spell "Home Court Advantage? Jay Wright is the master! Dangerous Wofford at Butler Saturday-8PM -FS2, Sunday Marquette at Wisconsin-noon-FS1-Seton Hall at St Louis-4PM-ESPNU.


Xavier opens Thursday at 7 on an ESPN channel TBD vs Towson(2-2) 143 KenPom-#2 rated team behind Northeastern in the Colonial Athletic. They beat GW(A-10 in their opener-lost in OT at home to Kent State then almost upset #15 Florida Thursday at Alligator Aley in Gainesville. Towson and Fla were tied w/ 1:45 left. Gators won 66-60.

The Towson Tigers play slowly(scares me!) and have a veteran coach Pat Skerry w/ a deep 8 man rotation. Best player 6-5 210 Senior Brian Fobbs-1st Team All CAA. Friday night X will play either Buffalo(MAC) or UConn(AAC-soon to be BIG EAST). Florida plays Phil Martelli-less St Joe's and Miami(Fla) plays Missouri State on the other side of the bracket. Saturday is off.Sunday's Championship game will certainly be on ESPN (the mother ship).

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