MUSKIES DODGE DePAUL BULLETT!! BETTER BE BETTER VS BUTLER!!
Andy Mac Williams,
We've been raising the "trap game" red flag re Xavier opponents for weeks now. I guess that's normal CYA journalism for those covering any team rated in the National Top 5 with a 14-1 record compiled against a tough schedule-working on a 9 game winning streak-playing with a solid 9 man rotation-featuring 4 productive Seniors and coming off an NCAA Elite 8 run. The Muskies are good and deep and versatile and they've seen it all re adversity and unusual situations. East Tennessee State qualified as a "trap" because the game followed exam week when XU is always like a box of chocolates(with a 6-9 record in that schedule slot since 20004). Xavier responded and dug out of a record 22 point hole. Marshall was trap-like because they play unpredictable chuck and duck basketball and XU did not have Kaiser Gates nor J.P. Macura and Naji Marshall was forced to sit-out the second half. XU hung on to win playing 6 guys.
Northern Iowa on the road was just plain nasty. Xavier adjusted-cut down on turnovers and won going away. Some bloggers are complaining about the 2-0 BIG EAST start. The Muskies won 91-87 at Marquette and 77-72 at Cintas versus DePaul. Not enough style points!! Too close for comfort!! Whatever!!
Wins in the Big East are hard to get especially this early when perceived bottom feeders like DePaul are still brimming with optimism and not dragged down by the weight of tight losses and sub .500 records. Road wins are always a reason to celebrate in this BIG BOY league. If Marquette is Bottom 5 and DePaul is 9th or 10th in the conference, this season will be a hell of a wild ride. Don't expect the regular season Big East Champ to be better than 14-4 and don't count on the regular season winner to skate to the Big East tourney title at MSG. Do take comfort in the strong chance that 6 or 7 Big East teams will make the NCAA Tournament Field of 68.
SPECIFICS FROM THE DePaul GAME:
The Blue Demons are better. Max Strus(33 points at Cintas) is a monster scorer (reminds me of Adam Morrison-Gonzaga 2006). Their BIG from Northern Illinois(Marin Maric) gave XU fits down low. Luckily,he got into foul trouble and was outnumbered by the Muskies' three headed Center Monster(Jones,O'Mara and Kanter). Frosh PG Justin Roberts killed Xavier off the dribble. When he learns other PG duties,DU will move Eli Cain back to the wing.
Trevon Bluiett's absence from the first 5 minutes disrupted the sub pattern and led to Xavier playing "bad news bears offense" according to Coach Mack over the first 24 minutes (Xavier trailed 51-35-down 16 points). J.P. Macura played a stellar all court 34 minutes(19 points-6 rebounds-5 assists-0 turnovers-4 steals). He keyed the 1-3-1 zone at the top. That defense made the comeback possible as it had against ETSU sucking the aggression out of DePaul-making them hesitate and think and turn the ball over(23 total turnovers). The whole 9 man rotation chipped in down the stretch.
Kerem Kanter's euro style was on display. He triggered several fast breaks by ripping down rebounds and heading north himself-not delaying to find a guard. Kanter also ran the floor ahead of the pack for two transition lay-ups. This guy is a unique talent and sneaky fast.
Quentin Gooden figured prominently in the comeback with two monster slam dunks-several assists and continued sharp free throw shooting. Kaiser Gates drained another crunch time "three' as he has against Baylor and UC and UNI etc etc. XU dug itself out of a huge hole again using the same formula-1-3-1 zone-superior depth-and deadly FT shooting.
Xavier disdained the three point shot because it was not working(3-16 in the first half-just 4 of 22 for the game). Settling for threes after halftime would have resulted in an ugly defeat. XU made the adjustment. Muskie guards flipped the script expertly. First half Xavier 5 assists and 12 turnovers(trailed by 8 points). Second half Xavier 12 assists and 2 turnovers(won by 13 points).
SCOUTING THE BUTLER BULLDOGS:
BU is riding high(12-3 overall 4 straight wins 2-0 Big East tied with XU and Seton Hall for first place 16th in the NCAA RPI). The Dawgs trailed by 20 at Georgetown in DC in their BE opener and rallied to win 91-89 in double overtime. Soph G Kamar Baldwin scored 31. SR Kelan Martin had 27 including the winning basket. Saturday on CBS National TV BU outgunned unbeaten #1 rated Villanova 101-93. GW transfer Paul Jorgensen netted a career high 23. Butler went nuts from long range(15-22 from three).
"The Butler way" seemingly is alive and well under new coach LaVall Jordan(former Butler player and assistant coach). Chris Holtman took the Ohio State job after leading BU to the NCAA Sweet 16. Butler starts a Frosh Aaron Thompson at PG(5PPG-4A) with Baldwin(14.5PPG-5REB-3A) at the 2G. Baldwin plays a lot of lead guard also. Jorgensen(12.3PPG) makes it a three guard lie up with Martin(18.9PPG-7REB) at the PF and Tough Senior Tyler Wideman at center(10PPG-5REB).
6-10 Junior Nate Fowler(Moeller HS) is the first BIG off the bench. 6-6 Soph Sean Mc Dermott plays a bunch on the wing and is a deadly three point sniper. Henry Baddley also gets BIG minutes. Butler is Butler(low turnovers-low fouls-extra passes-a fluury of ball screens and tightening weaves with packlline defense and some full court pressure.
Jordan is a John Beiliein (Michigan) disciple so he likes the three ball especially in transition. Baldwin and Martin are 40 minute men. The depth is still developing. Butler beat Xavier twice in the regular season by pushing the score into the 80's and winning the second halfs.
XU won in the BIG EAST TOURNEY Quarters at MSG 63-57 by rallying in the second half-controlling tempo-going with some zone-owning the boards and getting to the FT line. That win clinched the NCAA bid for Xavier and certainly prevented a trip to Dayton for an NCAA Play-In game.
HOW DOES XAVIER WIN THIS??
Certainly a return to a quick Cintas start ala Baylor and UC is important. X has a more experienced rotation and more quality size inside. Pounding the ball low and getting to the FT line is important. Butler shot waaay over trend line from three in the Villanova win on friendly rims at Hinkle. They could repeat. XU has to locate the three point threats in transition. Baldwin must be slowed. Wideman foul trouble would help. A Bluiett 25 point game is overdue.
X should be amped and ready as the Bulldogs are a legit threat. Xavier 85 Butler 78. Bring on the Killer Road Trip to PC and Villanova!!