Andy Mac: X Rolls Past Morehead State
By Andy Mac Williams, 12/16/2021

Xavier TEAM 100 completed its Non-Conference schedule at 10-1 w/ a dominating wire-to-wire 86-63 Cintas Center pounding of Morehead State(OVC) late Wednesday. Morehead isn't that bad, but XU made them look impotent in 1st half(X led 47-19 at the break). Morehead went scoreless over one 7 minute stretch. Eagles' only hope to pull an upset was to control tempo hold the score in 50s or low 60s and rain in some "3s". They shot 1-8 from outside early and failed to get to Ft line and their quality post player Johni Broome struggled to to catch and score. Young BIGS Dieonte Miles and Cesare Edwards DNP because of flu. Travis Steele started Zach Freemantle at the "5" in place of Miles, bringing BIG EAST Player of the Week Jack Nunge off the bench as usual.

Steele explains:

"This is not a dictatorship. I talked Jack. He was all in w/ Zach starting. He has no ego. He trusts my decisions. It's working so don't fix it."

Muskies' high quality depth continues to show itself. All 8 prime rotational players scored 6 points or more w/ 4 in double figures. Jerome Hunter posted his best scoring game(15 points efficiently on 6-11 FG plus 6 rebounds and 4 assists). Hunter and Colby Jones played 30 minutes each but everybody else booked below 30. Share the time and share the ball(XU logged 25 assists on 29 FGs).

Xavier is running more and enjoying the benefits(lay-ups and dunks) averaging 85PPG over the last 4 wins including HIGH MAJOR "Ws" over Oklahoma State and UC.

Travis on his depth:

"Playing time is based on two factors-productivity and trust- I'm very comfortable w/ our depth in both areas-different guys shine on different nights-we go to the hot hand. Guys are great understanding that. Our baseline expectation is playing hard every trip. We are getting that."

Travis on his defense:

"Ball screen coverage has been very good. That's the way the game is played now. Multiple ball screens on almost every possession. Add that to rebounding(Xavier is +10/ game on the glass) and get back transition "D" and limiting them to one shot(empty trips) and that's a winning formula."

Muskie's ball is zipping around offensively(high assist to FGM ratio-fouls drawn-FTs attempted-FTs made and dunks and lay-ups). It's an efficient mix! Vs Morehead XU shot 49% FG-11 for 24 from "3"-and canned 17 of 18 FTs). I'd suggest Xavier's 10-1 pre-BIG EAST record is among the Top 3 in Modern Program History(dating back to 1979 and Bob Staak's arrival). 2016 X went 12-0. 2018 X was 12-1.

Circumstances and Schedule toughness make me believe TEAM 100's non-conference performance is #1. X played the first 5 games without Zach Freemantle and still managed to beat Ohio State and VA Tech. Jack Nunge was slipped back into PT gradually. Nate Johnson started slowly after the leg surgery(until the 30 point break out vs VT). The flu bug factored into the Brooklyn loss to Iowa State and made that Virginia Tech win a study in true grit.

The numbers are strong!! NCAA NET(the only number that really matters these days) is up to 13 this AM. X is 3-1 NET Quad 1- 1-0 Quad 2 and 3-0 in both Quad 3 and 4 heading in the BIG EAST( where at least 10 NET Quad 1 wins will be available). Muskies have two Road Kills already( at Oklahoma State and neutral court VA Tech). X won their Gavitt Game(vs Ohio State) and their BE-B12 Battle Game (Oklahoma State). I rest my case.

Summary Judgement for Andy Mac!! TEAM 100 has a balance of offense and defense-they are 9 deep at least-they are experienced-the coaching and support staff is veteran and together-defense travels( as in road wins) so does FT shooting and rebounding. Xavier checks those boxes.

Road wins are awfully hard to come by in BIG EAST. X has the stuff to maybe break even or better in those 10 away games and hopefully add 8 or 9 more Cintas "Ws" to that.

BIG EAST is going to get 6 NCAA Bids based on a strong overall non-conference composite record(79-22 just shy of 80%). 12 BE wins heading into BET at MSG is an NCAA lock IMHO.

BIG EAST Opener is Friday-#9 Villanova at Creighton-8 PM EST-FS1. Muskies play Villanova in Philadelphia next Tuesday. BIG EAST Saturday-Marquette(8-3) at Xavier(4 PM-FS1)

Also-Providence at UConn(5 PM-FOX). Other HUGE BE non-conference games Saturday. TCU at Georgetown(2 PM-FS1). Game #10 BE-B12 Battle w/ BE leading 5-4. Butler vs Purdue-Crossroads Classic in Indie(12 noon-FOX) and Iona(Pitino) at Seton Hall(3 PM-FS2).

Much more on Marquette-Xavier Friday and Saturday as Shaka Smart brings Golden Eagle Havoc 3.0 to Cintas.

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