Basically this. - Harold Cunningham

Sunday Conversation

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31 Total Updates since November 4, 2012
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Sunday Conversation: 11/10

Freshman guards and pushing the pace, Stainbrook and Martin, and what on earth is going on at the free throw line (again)?


Sunday Conversation: 1/28

Xavier crashed from 4-0 and moving up the S-Curve to 4-2 and needing the automatic bid in the space of one bad week. In that week Jeff Robinson played hard once, Dee Davis got exposed, and the Atlantic 10 went crazy.


MLK Day Sunday Conversation: 1/21

A 4-0 start has us looking at the S-Curve, talking about VCU's defense, and breaking down exactly what Xavier has to do to have a chance the rest of the way.


Sunday Conversation: 1/13

In the last three days Xavier has equaled their win total from the month of December. Despite Dee Davis missing a game and various other hurdles, this team is 2-0 in conference.


12/23: Two losses, no offense, poor coaching?

This week wasn't full of banner efforts from the boys in blue (or green). While the Sandy Hook Elementary tribute showed a classy side to Xavier off the court, the on the court product just slipped farther from contention for the all important NCAA tournament. First, a chance for a good win was spurned as the offense, and Semaj Christon, disappeared in the second half against UC. Yesterday, a bad loss hit the books in the form of a complete disaster against a Wofford Terriers team that should have been nothing but a morale booster.

Brad: What in the name of everything holy was that? Dad is fired up about Coach Mack right now and I'm not sure I'm the one to talk him back from the edge. Good Lord, I've never seen a team capitulate under so little impetus from their opponent.

Joel: I don't know. I'm trying to come up with a defense of that display from any angle, and I can't. Trav clearly came ready to dominate, and they clearly couldn't stop him. If they double, kick out and then repost. Why Mack didn't cycle the roster for someone who would feed Taylor is beyond me. If the people out there won't look inside, find someone who will. He's the coach, and that's on him.

I want to take this opportunity to apologize for every good thing I've ever said about Jeff Robinson.

Brad: I still can't get over that foul. Watch it again and watch Redford react [Brad dropped to both knees with his hands on his head in disbelief]. Also note who goes over to console Robinson. That would be no one. He's a hanger on that is sucking time away from someone that could do something with it (Stenger).

Philmore is worrying me too. All that popcorn muscle is nice, but get in there and move someone with it son. He lingers around looking like every other big dude that is scared of contact. This team is infuriating, and that's before you factor in the brain lock the coaching staff had.

Joel: Remember when we fed it to Butler and beat Purdue on the road? Was that even this same team? I checked, it was. We know the talent is there, it's just a question of getting it in play. I've identified three things I find the most troublingly fixable and fixed percentages to the likelihood of each happening.

1) Feed the post. Trav can score, and we've worked inside-out to some effect when we've been bothered to go in. I also watched this same coaching staff let Big Kenny get ignored for almost his whole career. If we feed him down the stretch against Baylor, we win. Different cast here, but the same script. Maybe 20% chance this happens, which is a shame, because it's an easy and obvious fix.
2) Find Semaj a jump shot. Christon is so explosive off the bounce, but teams are starting to mitigate that by playing a mile off and daring him to shoot. He can't. Even with that much space, he's still finding his way to the rim. If only he could hit free throws... Anyway, a player can work himself into being a better shooter, but that's hard to do during the season. I'll give this one a 10% chance of success. He need to lock himself in the gym this summer.
3) Stop being so stupid. Wofford scored too many easy buckets on back cuts and simple motions off the ball. Martin had his head in the clouds. Robinson happened. Surprisingly, I think there's hope here. Stenger, Taylor, and Redford have all played fairly intelligently, and Dee and Semaj have it in them. Give me those five for a spell and I think we have an 80% chance of not doing something to shoot ourselves in the butt. The percentage drops with every substitution.

Obviously, there are other problems, but those three are the most obviously harmful to me.

Brad: It's the stupid one that bothers me. All teams have talent deficiencies in places, and we knew this team had more than most. It's the fact that we just keep putting ourselves in places to lose that bothers me. This was a simple win. It was never going to be sexy, but it was just a walk to 8-3. Instead we find ourselves hoping Christon makes free throws because we are too dense to feed the post. We just stupided ourselves out of one of the only gimmies on the schedule.

Joel: Now we head to Tennessee. I haven't followed them too closely, but I recall from the offseason writeup that they have some talent in the paint. If we don't figure it out on the perimeter, we're going to get our taints handed to us.

I actually agree with Mack that this team has a high ceiling. Unfortunately, it also has an extremely low floor. I'm most worried right now about JMart. Even with Taylor playing well, Martin is the key. He's literally the only player on the team who can score from behind the arc or off the bounce. Too many more listless 2-8s out of him with no defense and we're hoping for an invite to the CBI. You think we can go .500 in the conference?

Brad: Can we? Yes. Will we? A week ago I would have said yes, but now I don't know. We just don't look good right now. Coach Mack called it disheartening, and he was right. For one, you have a senior committing a foul whose stupidity cannot be overstated. What hurts more is that we were even there. Wofford scored six in nine minutes in the second half and won.

Remember at the start of the year you were talking about the ball moving more and everyone being involved? Well now Semaj is very close to being a ball stopper but he doesn't finish plays off. We are watching last year's offense, just without the talent.

Joel: That's what worries me. Is it something Coach Mack is doing? It must be. Is the offense he teaches really "stand around and watch a guy dribble off a ballscreen and run into the middle for an improbable attempt at scoring?" Didn't he see how much more smoothly it went when we dumped it in to Trav and let him go to work? I think Trav has a good feel for when to kick out, but we do him a disservice when we never dump it back in. I'm just frustrated that we are the more talented team losing because we're less cohesive and worse at basketball. Didn't the shoe used to be on the other foot there?

Brad: I'm concerned it is the offense. We seem to run a set to get someone the ball and then just sort of wait. What is even more concerning is that we all saw what needed done last night. You, me, and Dad are all calling for the repost, but the coach isn't. That fix isn't some bit of basketball nuance that DVR and hindsight were able to dredge up. This isn't one of those nitpick the coach things either; this is a glaringly obvious switch we just didn't make.

Joel: Are we that smart? Probably not. So apparently it was fairly obvious. More concerningly, Randolph scouts as being "too focused on scoring." Are we setting up for more of the same going forward? I hope not; it's less fun to watch, even when it works.

Brad: Maybe he gives us someone with the ability to win a game even after we crap it away. Tu could do that, Lyons did from time to time, no one did yesterday.


12/16: Catholic Seven and Shootout week.

The big news this week was the realignment (again) of the Big East. The so called Catholic Seven [Georgetown, DePaul, St. John's, Marquette, Seton Hall, Villanova, and Providence] have officially announced their intention to leave what was once the marquee basketball conference in the nation. Xavier looms as the biggest name that could break allegiance with another conference to join the basketball-centric conference that has been proposed. Closer to home, it is Shootout week. Come 7pm on Wednesday, the Musketeers will take on their arch-enemy afer a 10 day layoff.

Joel: So... what are your thoughts on the Catholic Seven coming after Xavier?

Brad: First blush I don't love it. The A10 has been great to Xavier and has put together a solid conference.I guess I'm a bit of a fundamentalist on this. I wouldn't mind seeing the A10 shed lesser lights though, so I'm apparently not totally opposed to some realignment.

Joel: I'm with you on the A-10. I love what we have here. We know that we're going to have a challenging out-of-conference schedule almost every year to bolster the resume. We know that we're going to have 10-12 conference wins except in down years. We'll have the occasional "bad win" kind of game against Fordham or GW, and we'll have some good resume games against VCU, Saint Louis, and Butler and occasionally Dayton, Richmond, and St. Joe's. By the time March rolls around, we'll almost always be positioned to at least have a chance to play our way into the tournament. But...

The landscape is unstable. Realignment has been seismic in the past few years, we've just avoided it by not having a football team. Our number one priority should be to find somewhere stable where we can avoid all that. If the A-10 wants to rededicate itself to being a great basketball conference, I'm all for that. If not, I'm open to exploring the Catholic Seven's offer. What we don't want to do is hold fast in the A10 and then have some of the other teams at the top bolt, leaving us in the new CAA.

The A-10 meeting this week will tell us a ton. I hope they come out of it saying we're all together and the dead wood at the bottom has to either improve or get cut. I think we can all agree that X is positioned well to pursue a favorable outcome in any event.

Brad: I get the stability argument but it seems like the classic girl who cheats on someone else to be with you. If the Catholic Seven (Catholic 7? Don't tell that business comp lady, but I like it better with the numeral) are willing to leave to leave the Big East, especially when teams like DePaul haven't been there that long are they really going to be more stable? What about when the next great offer comes along?

Right now, we play an awesome non-con, a solid conference, and with some luck can be a 3 seed. What, exactly, do we have to gain here?

Joel: Well, lots and lots of American dollars (Les Grossman voice) leaps to mind. The Catholic VII were basically marginalized in their own league by an agenda that was slave to football. Given the chance to get out of there before the basketball product became completely worthless, they jumped at it. This isn't the girl who cheats to be with you, it's the girl who dumps her abusive boyfriend and then starts dating you at a later point in time.

Don't get me wrong, I love what we have in the A10. If I could make certain that it wasn't going anywhere, I'd like that in yesterday. But the A10 hasn't exactly been the model of stability (see, for instance, the fact that it has way more than ten teams), so I think it's at least worth considering the Catholic schools' offer. Best-case scenario in my mind? Temple chickens out of the Big East move and Xavier uses this opportunity to leverage long-term stability in the conference and commitment to either actually making an effort or leaving the league from some of the perennial bottom-feeders.

Brad: That's a valid point. The Big East has, idiotically, destroyed its own best event in the name of a sport in which it barely competes. Does anyone actually care about Big East football as compared to Big East basketball? Yes, clearly some people do, but it boggles the mind. Think of what we are all losing here. You've got, just recently, the UConn/Kemba Walker run, the six OT game, and that very first day of the conference tournament, when you could turn on ESPN at noon and know that now the big boys had joined the action. We used to big screen in Criminology class to watch that instead of having class. All that is gone so we can get more Rutgers football? Stupid.

Joel: No question they crapped the bed on this one. I like the A-10, but wouldn't you love to see (spitballing here, take with a pound of grains of salt) X, the Catholic Seven, UD, Butler, Saint Lou, and VCU descending on MSG for a weekend-long tournament? That would be good television.

Brad: It would. To be honest though, I'd miss playing La Salle, UMass, URI, and teams like that. I would get over it, to be sure, when I saw Xavier pulling blue chip recruits and staying in the top 15, but I'm not certain an allegiance switch guarantees that. In short, I don't see why we do this unless there is an absolute certainty it puts us in a better position than we are now. Even if we become the C7 plus some, could we not have the occasional down year like this one?

Joel: Yeah, I'd miss those guys until we were playing St. John's at 2pm on a Saturday on ESPN. Nothing is certain, though. It's a tough decision for the Xavier administration to make but also a great opportunity. I think X is at the top of the list for the Catholic Seven; staying or going, that's leverage.

Shifting gears now, this team will be on the back of a ten-day layoff when they tip for the Crosstown Shootout. Does that help or hurt them?

Brad: Hurts, no question. All the film study in the world won't help when you haven't played a game in anger in the better part of two weeks. I didn't like the gap when the schedule came out, I like it even less now. It's hard to do anything well after a ten day break from it.

Joel: I think it helps. We've got JMart back, which is a huge factor. We were ten kinds of stagnant without him against Kent State until Red shot us out of it. Even with JMart, we weren't exactly clicking on either end of the court. Ten days off gives Semaj a chance to rest his legs, Taylor and Stenger some time to recharge their batteries, and the training staff a chance to find JRob a working set of testicles. We're going to need to find the form that we had against Butler. Ten days off gives the whole thing a chance to reset a bit.

Brad: Good game on ESPN.

Joel: Crazy finish brewing. No foul?

Brad: No, there was, it just, like the timeout, went uncalled.

Joel: Bogus.

Brad: Anyway, all things being equal, I hate the time off. You're right though, we need the rest and the recharge. We just cannot afford to come out flat or rusty, or we will get destroyed. That @BearcatPalinFan on Twitter is a hack, but raises the very valid concern that we get absolutely nuked on Wednesday. Of course, that was the case for Lenny Brown, Lloyd Price, Kevin Frey, or any other number of games when UC was overrated.


11/11: First game, Butler, do we need a killer?

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. One game into the season and there is already plenty to talk about during those brief moments at work when a surreptitious Facebook message is possible.

Brad: Ok, so that was a thrashing on a grander scale than any of us had the right to expect. Did we learn anything from it though? I was most encouraged by Dee Davis' body looking way more solid and his willingness to drive, something he didn't do last year. I really wanted to see Semaj.

Joel: So we've beaten a D2 team and a shorthanded FDU. I loved not just Dee's performance, but his willingness to take charge. He's not just handing the team over to Semaj, which is great. And I don't want to belabor an obvious point, but we don't have any ball-stoppers on this team. The offensive interplay was head and shoulders above what we saw last year.

Brad: Offensive interplay is all well and good, but we need a killer somewhere. If this was Dee's first step toward that, that's awesome. Assuming MRSA doesn't cost Semaj an arm, we head into Butler with as full a roster as we are likely to have. Did this game impact your outlook on that one? I'd say no. This was a team we should beat, further depleted by suspension. Still, we ran riot when we should have, and that's always important.

Joel: Keep in mind that we were missing Philmore, too, and still murdered them on the glass. Of course, we'll be missing him Tuesday, too. What I get out of this game is that we don't have any more questions than we thought we had. Do we need a killer? We've got a bullpen by committee rather than just one closer; I'm okay with that. Last year, you knew Tu wasn't giving the ball up. That works until something like the Charlotte game two years ago happens. Coach Mack talked up the progress Rob has made this preseason, and Martin looked good. Do they take a step up, or are these just flashes?

Joel: I'll answer my own question, since you're apparently busy: I think Robinson and Martin will be exponentially better this season. They both have apparently passive personalities, and they were only too happy to defer rather than risk the wrath of Tu and Cheeks. In the Dee Davis-fueled era of good feelings, knowing one gaffe won't get them glared at may be what both of those guys needed.

Brad: I will never think that Robinson is anything but a fluke. He's done this before, he'll do it again. He'll also be atrocious 60% of the time. No, he is what he is. I do think Martin can step into an offense where he doesn't have to be the man and contribute. I think we do need a killer. You cite the Charlotte game two years ago, and that was bad, but Tu won way more than he lost by just owning the last two minutes of a game. Someone has to want to take that last shot. Davis bringing the ball down looking for the open option could leave us with Jeff Robinson holding it as time ticks down. This bring us full circle, because Jeff Robinson will always be awful.

Joel: It's okay to have a guy or guys who want to take the last shot, but having a guy who needs to makes the team one-dimensional in crunch time. That's fine if you've got a guy who was saving a spin-back three ball for a time he might need it, but I don't see that on this team. I'm fine with Dee, Red, Semaj, or whoever else being ready to take it if it's there and ready to trust his teammates if it isn't. Anywho, I'm still having to remind myself that it was just Fairleigh Dickinson. The real season starts Tuesday at 4. I know, because I requested leave to get off of work early so I could watch it. Assuming Semaj is healthy, who are you starting?

Brad: Who is whoever else? Let's be realistic here: Dee Davis has played one good offensive game in his career (which is admittedly brief), Redford is one dimensional, and that makes end game tough on him, Semaj hasn't played a game yet. I know the ball stopped with Tu and Cheeks sometimes and I know that they were occasionally abrasive, I don't care. Against Dayton in the A10 tournament we absolutely had to win, and Lyons made sure we did. Against Notre Dame in the NCAAs, it was Tu. We need a dog, there's a reason bullpen by committee doesn't work. Someone has to be the stud.

Joel: But a bullpen can only send one guy out there at a time (admittedly, it's my own analogy I'm invalidating here), while a basketball team with good chemistry can be more than the sum of its parts. You were there when we won that game in the 3-on-3 tournament 6-2. That wasn't because we had a stud. More to the point, Tu Holloway isn't walking through that door. With what we have, would you rather see someone try to be the stud, or we have a team approach on the last possession? Depending on what we need, we have Dee and Semaj ready to drive and finish or kick, Red and JMart ready to catch and shoot, Farr and Philmore capable of stretching the floor from the forward, Takeoff Trav and Philmore getting big inside, and JRob poised on the bench, ready to jump up waving a towel over his head. Needing three, are we that hurt with Dee/Semaj/Red/Martin/Farr out there? Needing just a score, how about Dee/Semaj/Martin/Philmore/Taylor? Those are a couple of crunch time lineups that make you guard everyone. I'm not saying we're John Wooden's '63-'64 Bruins, but that's not exactly hopeless at the end of the game, even without a designated closer.

Brad: 6-2, that was a game. Those guys were nonplussed. Those fives are nice, but someone has to want the ball to win it. You and I both know some guys just can't do it. I cede the point though, the Killer has left the building and we have who we have (fluid as that group is). Now we have Butler at 4p. First off, what is with that start time? It's more suited to a Jr high girls game.

Joel: Dee and Red can, Martin maybe, JRob definitely can't, which is why he's not out there in either of my imaginary crunch times. Tu was hecka clutch, but that doesn't mean a handful of guys who are rather clutch is bad. The start time is because it's part of that ESPN 24 hours of hoops thing. You knew that. It's the regular season now, you need to lock it up. Who do you start on Tuesday?

Brad: You lock it up. Run St. Francis v. Monmouth then or something. I start my same five again. No real reason to change it. If Semaj is healthy you just ease him back in. Now we see what Stenger is worth.

Joel: Same here. Question: can Redford guard a stump? If so, he's viable. If not, he's ten minutes a game. I think his offense is game ready, though.

Brad: I think we find out a lot on Tuesday. IF Redford can guard, IF Dee can run an offense, IF Taylor can produce, maybe we have something here.

Joel: I think you're absolutely right. If we show up and answer some questions against a Butler squad that everyone is already pencilling into the tournament, maybe we have the hints of the most unlikely of contenders. What a story that would be.

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