Part of the allure in Banners on the Parkway joining SB Nation was that Joel and I could continue to work together. As anyone with a brother can tell you, there is a connection there that cannot be faked. Frequently, this leads to collaboration and chemistry on the stories we hope that you want to read. Sometimes, though, it just turns into an argument. This season promises to be one of the more difficult in Xavier history. Trying to parse that out over Facebook message occasionally becomes a bit problematic.
Periodically throughout the season we will run these Sunday Conversations. Essentially nothing more than a (slightly edited) Facebook message transcript, this is what happens when two life long Xavier fans have a moment to do nothing but talk about their team. It's a bit different, but hopefully what it lacks in format and flow it will make up for in authenticity.
On Semaj Christon
Brad: I'm not excited for this season at all.
Joel: I am. Can't help myself. I'm talking myself into the Christon Era.
Brad: I'm thinking watching Fairleigh Dickinson run past Brad Redford time and time again while Jeff Robinson stands on the help side, staring into the seats, should cure you.
Joel: Aren't you the negative one? Semaj's 19/4/7 in the first game should perk you right up.
Brad: I don't doubt he's good; I doubt it matters.
Joel : 19
Brad: Worst conference finish ever.
Joel: Write it in ink.
Brad: How will Semaj being awesome make our team competitive?
Joel: It's like you want me to explain the Romney tax plan. Semaj posts big numbers, we win every game 39-32 and we're like Danny Manning et al. on the way to the title. Seriously, my biggest regret about this season is that it will be Semaj's only college year before he jumps pro.
Brad: So say Semaj grabs 19. Who else scores?
Joel: Point guard is the most important position on the floor. We proved that over the past two years that we could win with little other than a PG and some other supporting pieces. Last year, obviously, we were more than that at times, but two years ago we went about 3.5 players deep and Tu carried most of the burden. This year, we're going to be calling on Semaj to do much of the same.
Brad: I don't doubt Semaj's skills, but he's a freshman playing the most important position on the floor.
Joel: Christon is not an average freshman. He was a top-rated player and he has put in a year at prep school. We know that he watches extra film and gets up extra shots and he's actually older than our beloved Dee Davis. I'm not saying he is going to be without growing pains, but he is more than ready contribute on day one.
Brad: Tremendous. That still doesn't tell me who is going to score points. Brad Redford? He may get 12, but he's not an offensive focal point, because you can take him away with easy adjustments. Jeff Robinson? Really?
Joel: Who scores? All the guys he sets up for wide open layups. That's overstating my case. We know there will be one four or five game stretch in which Jeff Robinson is a viable answer to that question. We know Travis Taylor can score; he just has to remember how. He wasn't playing girls' junior high teams at Manhattan. Philmore will be an option from game four forward. Redford is another year removed from knee surgery and I'm confident he'll average between six and nine per game this year. We're not entirely bereft of basketball players aside from Christon, whose name is just James spelled backwards.
Brad: 31 games this year. Without studying the schedule all that closely, I'll set the over/under at 15.5 wins. This schedule was designed for a team that doesn't exist anymore, so I have to take the under. I don't see any, not a single one, walk wins. Kent State, Wofford, Robert Morris, those are all teams that can play a bit of ball. Fairleigh Dickinson may be as close as we get.
Joel: Since you're a Negative Nancy who will take the under, I'll take the over. For the record, I'm giving us eight non-conference wins, eight conference wins, and at least one in the conference tournament.
Brad: That's pleasantly delusional.
Joel: First of all, we've already got a bunker mentality. Players and people around the team have been tweeting with a "shock the world" hashtag. While this can be cod for "we know we're not any good" I don't think it is in this case. There aren't a lot of PG on our schedule that can run through traffic and dunk like Semaj can. We've got length in inside, even if it is largely inconsistent at this point. But we play in the Atlantic 10, not the ACC. We have a home game with Fordham on our schedule. We may have lost Tu and Cheeks and Dez and Walker and Griffin McKenzie from last year's team, but it is a little too early to declare us dead and buried.
Second, I (still) believe in Coach Mack. He has done his best work with teams that had the most question marks. He's back to a blank slate here, and I think that suits him. He has young coachable talent, albeit not very much of it. I think he can make this work.
Finally, I think we defend the home court well. Memphis and Butler at home are going to be big asks for this team, but I think Cintas will push some of the more even matchups in our favor. I think it will make a meaningful difference early against Dickinson, Morris, and Kent State, and again in conference play. Bottom line, I see 15 wins or fewer as a little disappointing, 16-19 as expected, and 20+ as a legitimate Christmas miracle.
Brad: Cintas advantage is nice but there is a lot of negativity around this team. Do you really think the fans will be out in as great of numbers/voice to see Chris Cantino as they have been for Dez Wells?
Joel: I think that depends on early results. The crowd will show up for games at the start of the year. A couple of good wins and I think we're in business. I X turns into a rag-tag group that nobody believed in suddenly making a run at respectability, the Cintas Center will become one giant bunker mentality hash tag. The fan base takes a lot of pride in the team's success despite being a small school; people will show up to see that continue, especially in an improbable manner. On the other hand, nobody is going to come out to watch the team stagger towards 8-23, so I think early results are key.
Brad: I put a lot on that Robert Morris game. If we lose that, a bad off-season turns into a season that most Xavier fans have never even contemplated.
Joel: Especially coming off what will likely be a fairly ugly loss against Butler at home on TV.