"Guys, our offensive incapability has once again somehow surprised me!" - Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
What a train wreck.
Goodness me. I don't even know what to say after this garbage anymore. Xavier, once again, was horrid on offense. Xavier, once again, took what should have been a controlling lead in the second half and blew it. Xavier, once again, stood around and watched the ball on offense. Xavier, once again, could not get a stop when it mattered. All the usual problems were there and some new ones managed to pop up. Xavier, once again, took a crap in a game it needed, desperately, to win.
Teams that play elite level defense don't need to do much in order to win games. Make free throws, take care of the ball, and knock down a few shots. Stifling defense affords you a good degree of wiggle room in the other aspects of the game. Xavier is certainly capable of squeezing the very life out of teams defensively, and they did it again tonight. Any time you only allow 51 points, hold the other team to a woeful 3-20 from deep, and force 13 turnovers to go with a 38% fga, you win.
You win unless you play one of the worst games in recorded history. Xavier was trash against Wofford, they were somehow worse tonight. The Musketeers shot 32.7% from the floor, 1-8 from deep, turned it over 19 times, and somehow only scored 47 points. That kind of performance defies adjectives, adverbs, or any other sort of descriptive language suited for a family website. Xavier spent 85% of the time they had the ball watching someone, usually Semaj Christon, dribble before panicking and rushing a shot. Even when pulling away to the double digit lead that they blew with all the predictability of a Hindenberg disaster clip on loop, they looked tragicomic on offense.
Xavier took that 33-23 lead at 15:34 when Travis Taylor converted a jumper. (It must be said that part of Taylor's less than artistic line could be attributed to the beating he took from a mostly unpenalized Volunteer front line). It was exactly 10:14 until Xavier made another field goal. In that stretch the men in blue came up with a plethora of ways to ruin the holiday season for their fans: they tripped and fell, they travelled, they missed free throws, they threw the ball away, they allowed offensive rebounds to extend UT possessions, they missed layups, they travelled some more, and then they missed jumpers. It was a corucopia of misery, it was nothing but a pulchitrudinous exhibition of abhorrent basketball.
None of these things came out of the blue, Xavier was atrocious against UC and somehow even worse against Wofford. In those games the offense was stagnant and putrid. Somehow, after a week of practice, the offense was, inconcieveably, worse. Apparently the plan that the coaching staff came up with was "Stand there, and hope Semaj scores or Travis gets a stickback." That was it, that was the saying. After seven days, that was it.
So forgive me now, but I'm going to rant.
How on earth can you take seven days to break down film, analyze a team, and come up with nearly the perfect defensive scheme, and still lay that complete egg on offense? Coach Mack is the same man who completely stifled the team ranked 18th in the nation, guided three teams to the Sweet 16, got the very best out of disparate personalities for the last two years, and kept the team alive through an incredible mess of a summer. Despite those things going for him, he's somehow apparently run out of ideas for the last five games. What you saw today was the result of a full week of planning. Every time you start to think that this was somehow acceptable, remember that. This was the result of a week. Justin Martin looking like he couldn't be bothered. A week. Dee Davis dribbling off a screen to see no one rolling. A week. Brad Redford ever dribbling. A week. Travis Taylor having to beg for an entry pass. A week. Allowing the opponent to again grab clutch offensive rebounds. A week. No adjustment for the fact that Semaj cannot SHOOT AT ALL. A week. Absolutely ridiculous. How in the name of everything holy can a performance that awful, that disgusting, come from an entire week of preparation? It's inexcusable, frankly, there is no logical reason for it at all. Yes, they players were equally culpable with their effusive sucking, but there clearly wasn't a viable plan in place in case Christon wasn't on, and make no mistake, he was terrible. Unreal, if I ever see a game that bad again, I'll be ill. Please, I beg you, Coach Mack and friends, give me a reason to do something other than physically assault my television the next time I'm forced to watch a game.
- How does Xavier handle Stokes? Stokes was completely ineffective today, going for 6/3/1. Xavier actually competed down low, winning on the glass 42-28. That didn't matter, because the Musketeers were horrid on offense, but hey, at least they rebounded a bit. I'm sorry, I can't come up with anything here. No, Stokes did not beat Xavier, Xavier beat Xavier.
- How will Xavier address the pace? Well, 47 points, 32.7% from the floor. Xavier cannot play a half court game at all. Against Wofford Brad Redford came from nowhere to briefly redeem things before Jeff Robinson was Jeff Robinson. That didn't happen today, because Redford went 1-5 and no one else has any sort of clue what do when faced with an defense that has already set up. If Xavier isn't running, they, aren't scoring. Tennessee is frightening on defense, so they were ready for the Musketeers to run. Xavier had no answer, because there was only a week to prepare for this game. It's hard to gameplan in only a week.
- Can Xavier handle the road? It wasn't the road that did our motley crew in tonight. Actually, the UT fans didn't do a whole lot to convince anyone that the Thompson-Boling Arena is going to become a Mecca of crowd noise anytime soon. The Volunteers, on the other hand, defend their home court tenaciously and continued to do that. It wasn't really the road that doomed the Musketeers today, it was the same things that have crippled them all year, the same things that they failed to address, that crushed them again.
Next game: I can't think about it right now, but it's Jan 2nd @ Wake. After that, conference play.