BUTLER WIN-POSTSCRIPT!! SCOUTING CREIGHTON!!
Andy Mac Williams,
I've been fighting and losing the computer wars this week so here are some quick thoughts in the wake of the Muskies' 98-93 overtime victory at Butler Tuesday. Coach Mack asked his players if they still wanted to win the game in the huddle between regulation and the OT. The response was a unanimous "YES"!! Butler had just tied the game with a miracle 9-2 run over the last minute. Mack put the OT in perspective. "We just need to win this last 5 minute war." The players bought in. Away went all the psychological baggage of blowing that late lead.
Xavier rope-a-doped BU early in the overtime dumping the ball down to Kerem Kanter who'd been killing the Bulldogs inside all night(22 points on 10-15 shooting). BIG K followed the play call and hit wide-open Naji Marshall at the top of the key for a wide open three pointer. Swish-Xavier up three early and in the driver's seat. Marshall returned to the starting line-up-played a career high 38 minutes and scored 15 with 6 rebounds. BU's Kelan Martin was brilliant(34 points-25 after halftime).
XU's Trevon Bluiett was brilliant with an oak leaf cluster(26 points-20 after halftime) because he did his best work at crunch time. Tre's two rainbow threes were epic!! The first one gave Xavier a 7 point lead late in regulation. The second(from 25 feet out) gave the Muskies a 4 point bulge in OT.
Tough road games are usually won at the free throw line and on the glass. XU was plus 11 points in made FTs and plus 6 in rebounding. Tyrique Jones did not play because of a sore shoulder(practice collision with Sean O'Mara Monday). Jones had been excellent in the OT "W" over Georgetown(15 points-6 boards-9 made FTs-fouled G-town beast Jesse Govan out of the game). Xavier adjusted. Kanter and O'Mara just played more minutes more efficiently(15-20 FG-5-7 FTs).
Mack played offense-defense a lot with his substitutions down the stretch and in OT. His defensive line-up included Gooden-Scruggs-Gates-Marshall and O'Mara.
The Muskies are now first in the BIG EAST(10-2) a half game ahead of Villanova(9-2). The Wildcats lost in Philadelphia to St Johns 79-75.VU hosts Butler Saturday at Wells Fargo in Philly. XU is 22-3 overall with a 7 game winning streak. They're #2 in the NCAA RPI behind ACC leader Virginia after mid-week losses for Villanova and Purdue.
The Muskies could gain significant ground in the National Polls(currently 5th in both AP and Coaches) if XU wins Saturday afternoon at Creighton(2:30PM-EST-FOX 19) considering the earlier Nova and Purdue defeats. Purdue is at Michigan State(#4) Saturday. #1 Virginia is a heavy favorite over Virginia Tech at the Wahoo's home arena-John Paul Jones-in Charlottesville.
CBS TV airs an NCAA TOURNEY TOP 16 Snap Shot Show this Sunday at 12:30PM-EST.The Selection Committee reveals its Sweet 16 as of Feb 11th-4 weeks from Selection Sunday. Xavier should be no worse than a #2 seed in this meaningless but interesting exercise. If XU would beat Creighton,the Muskies might show up on the 1 line??
Tyrique Jones' MRI was clean on the bruised left shoulder. He could play at Creighton. J.P. Macura is OK physically. Overall wear and tear(he hits the floor about 10 times/game) and fatigue have created his mini-slump since he posted that incredible 27 point total effort game at Seton Hall two weeks ago. In the last 4 games(all XU wins) Macura has averaged about 8PPG(1-10 from three-7 assists-13 turnovers-16-19 from the foul line). J.P.scored just 6 in 23 minutes at Butler, but he made 4 crucial FTs and didn't force shots as many star Seniors would just trying to get their points. Expect a Macura resurgence soon!!!
RIP JEFF FOGELSON:
The former Xavier Athletic Director died Tuesday. He moved back to Cincinnati several years ago after retiring as Seton Hall AD. Jeff was 71. He was and is a pivotal figure in the growth of Xavier Basketball. Fogie led the Muskies' 1984 move to Cincinnati Gardens. He negotiated XU's first decent local TV deal in 1983(FOX 19) and moved the radio broadcasts to 700WLW in 1984.
Jeff hired Pete Gillen and Skip Prosser-greased the skids for Dayton to join the MCC and later led the charge into the Atlantic 10. He was a perfect fit for Xavier-a good friend and highly competent leader and administrator.
The Blue Jays are 18-6 overall-8-4 in the BIG EAST(alone in third place behind XU and VU). Most impressively CU is 13-0 at Century Link Center in Omaha including 5-0 in BE games. Xavier's had some success in Omaha recently(2-2 in New Big East trips) including tight wins in 2015 and last season 2017.
The Muskies clobbered the Jays 92-70 at Cintas on Jan 13th launching their current 7 game winning streak. Coach Mack juggled his line-up that night-starting Marshall and Kanter and bringing Gates off the bench. Tyrique Jones did not play against CU because of a hand injury. X smoked Creighton in all areas-grabbing 13 offensive boards-forcing 20 turnovers-draining 11 threes-putting 6 players into double figure scoring.
Winning at Omaha will be much more challenging. CU plays at warp speed in front of 17,000 plus at Century Link. They "LET IT FLY" from three and trigger the fast break confidently.
Senior Marcus Foster is their STAR(2,000 career points-more efficient this season-made the game winning three at DePaul Wednesday in a come from behind 76-75 Creighton victory). Foster beat Xavier with a long three in the Big East Quarterfinals at MSG last March. Junior wing Khyri Thomas(15PPG) struggled at Cintas. He's a great defender(guarding Bluiett??) and is an offensive terror in Omaha.
CU has lost starting 5 man Martin Krampelj with a knee injury. Coach Greg McDermott is now starting 6-7 Ronnie Harrell who's a ball of energy but he no longer provdes that juice off the bench. 6-11 Australian Jacob Epperson is playing now. They took off the red shirt after the Krampelj injury. Transfer BIG Manny Suarez plays some and Senior Toby Hegner is being asked to operate more inside.
It's point guard by committee for Creighton. Soph Davian Mintz starts. Senior walk-on Tyler Clement was the top sub at DePaul with blue chip Frosh Ty-shon Alexander(Oak Hill Academy) getting little time and Syracuse transfer Kaleb Joseph buried on the bench. 6-5 Frosh Mitch Ballock did well at Cintas (16 points as a sub). CU beat out Kansas for him and he's a very smart all-court player. Ballock could be a factor.
Xavier is a 3 point underdog says Vegas. KenPom picks Creighton 86-84 and gives XU a 42% chance of winning. The Muskies pull the so-called upset if they can weather the crowd fueled CU runs-keep their heads and pound the ball inside where they should prosper. Maybe some 1-3-1 zone will be useful in a tough road arena? J.P. needs to score in double digits. Bluiett will be Bluiett. Free throws-rebounds-depth and experience should win this for Xavier 84-81.