Xavier TEAM 95 Running Out of Rope!!
Andy Mac Williams,
What's NCAA reality of the Muskies?? I'm no bracketologist. There are too many permutations and combinations for me. RPIs,KenPoms,SOS etc-etc. Its all interesting,but sort of irrelevant and basically a waste of time. Xavier's task is simple IMHO(not easy-but doable).First-the good news-heading into Saturday's regular season finale at DePaul.the Muskies' NCAA RPI is a respectable 31 with a 10 Strength of Schedule. That's the end of the good news!! At a minimum now XU has to beat DePaul twice(Saturday afternoon-2PM EST on Fox Sports Ohio-at All State Arena in Chicago-actually Naperville,Illinois-then again Wednesday March 8th at Madison Square Garden in NYC at 9:30PM on Fox Sports 1 in a Big East Tournament 7-10 Play-in Game). That would put an end to the current painful 6 game losing streak and avoid RPI crushing "bad" losses to DePaul which would almost certainly prick Xavier's NCAA bubble status. IMHO if Xavier would then find a way to upset a rested #2 seed Butler(10 RPI) in next Thursday's Quarterfinals at MSG,their NCAA bid would be secure.
The two wins over DePaul(9-21 overall,2-15 Big East,8-9 at home.1-12 in their last 13 games) are no sure thing. A "W" over Butler may be a bridge too far? Two victories over DU could get the NCAA job done,but X might need help from other sources like no automatic bid stealers in the Missouri Valley or West Coast or American Athletic or CAA or A-10 and Power Conference bubble teams like Georgia Tech and Wake Forest and Vanderbilt and Kansas State losing early and badly in their conference tournies.
NOT SO DEEP THOUGHTS ON XAVIER-MARQUETTE!!!
The same unfortunate themes cropped up in the Cintas Senior Night 95-84 loss Wednesday to Marquette. 9 first half Muskie turnovers led to 13 Golden Eagle gift points. It's no coincidence that MU led by 13(44-31) at the half. XU got into the FT bonus early in the first half,but misfired on two one and one front ends leaving four more points on the table. Xavier mounted a decent run in the second half. The Marquette lead withered to 8 when Quentin Gooden took off on a three-on-two fastbreak. Xavier's spacing was not good. "Q" was tagged with a charge. MU came down- drilled a "three" and the lead ballooned to 11 again.
Marquette is blessed with gifted shooters,but 12-21 from three?? That's off the charts efficient!! At some point the defense has to be faulted. When Xavier spread farther out to cover the arc,MU read it like an open book exam and seemingly attacked the rim with ease. Second half defense allowed 51 points.Most of the scoring came off half court action.Fatigue had to be a factor(Macura played 40 minutes-Bluiett 39-Gooden 35). You can't question Malcolm Bernard's effort!! The Senior transfer gave it everything he had against Butler and Marquette(13 points each game plus plenty of floor burns and full court hustle).
The Muskies took out the Blue Demons 72-61 at Cintas on February 8th. Since then,XU has lost 6 in a row. Xavier survived 19 turnovers. They killed DU on the boards(37-22 rebound edge). Rashid Gaston,Kaiser Gates and Tyrique Jones combined for 25 points and 19 rebounds. DePaul is undersized,but they've been feisty lately. They won at Georgetown 10 days ago 67-65 outrebounding the mamouth Hoyas. They rallied BIG TIME at All State against Seton Hall last Saturday(down 20) before losing 82-79. Senior PG Billy Garrett Jr. starred with 26 points and serial shooter Eli Cain dumped in 21.
Tuesday at red hot Providence(5 wins in a row) DU again bounced back from a huge second half deficit(down 18) to make it interesting. They lost to PC 73-64. It's DePaul's Senior Day with Garrett the prime honoree(4 year starter-1500 point plus scorer-DePaul's all time leader in FTs made-more than George Mikan and Mark Aguire).
It's also the Blue Demons' final game at All State Arena(once the Rosemont Horizon). They've played there since the days of Coach Joey Meyer. DU moves into a new building in the South Loop off Lake Shore Drive in November. DePaul has made a habit of slow starts this season(outscored on average 38-30 before the break in Big East games so far). My fear is that the game is close late and 6-6 Garrett takes over-controls tempo and salts away the upset win at the FT line where he shoots it 90%.
Garrett(52 points-last 3 games with 16 assists) is All League caliber. Coach Dave Leitao has been moving him around from PG to Wing to Small Forward trying to free him up. 6-6 Soph Eli Cain(14PPG) has the shooting green light.He's killed Butler(32 and 24 point games). Tre Mc Callum(JUCO transfer) battles inside(10.5PPG-6REBs).6-5 Frosh Brandon Cyrus scored 18 against Xavier and had 12 Tuesday at PC. Transfer Guard Chris Harrison Docks(Butler-Western Kentucky) is jacking up the threes and getting more PT(10PPG over the last 6). 6-10 Frosh Levi Cook is rating more time lately to beef up size. Junior Joe Hanel-a former walk-on at 6-7 fights the good fight against bigger bodies inside. We'll see how Xavier responds with NCAA hopes still flickering but on life support. DePaul is 8-9 at home overall with 1 Big East win early against Providence(64-63).
BUSY FINAL BIG EAST SATURDAY:
All 10 teams are scheduled. League Champ Villanova is at Georgetown(noon-FOX). Providence plays St Johns(noon-FS2).Seton Hall is at Butler(2:30-FOX). Creighton is at Marquette(2:30-FS2).