Sunday Conversation: 1/1

Brad's on the road, I'm on my deathbed, but we're still dead set on bringing you only the best in Xavier-related banter to you, our beloved readers, on New Year's Day. Please enjoy the dispatches resulting from my fevered mind and his commitment to distracted driving. (Joel)

Joel: First order of business: condolences to JMart, who received word a few hours before the game Saturday that he had lost a loved one. Not much to say beyond the fact that that sucks.

Brad: Second order of business: is this season over? I'd like a reason for hope and I usually rely on you for that. I can't find one though, because we've been complete and utter trash recently.

Joel: We have, but consider this: we play really good defense. That makes it all the more sad that we can't score in the half court at all, but it's not nothing. I think Coach Mack is smart enough to know we're not a dynamic scoring team. As I see it, we have two hopes. The first is a miracle: Semaj develops a jumper, Red becomes Skip To My Lou, Jeff Robinson grows a pair, et cetera. The other is that we shift gears, rebuild the second season around defense, and try to win ugly like The Special One at Chelsea. I don't see any other way. We're not deep enough to run - heck, we cramp at our current pace, we have exactly zero guys with a multi-faceted offensive game, and we're prone to huge scoring droughts. The only thing we can do is sit down and go for more kills than Cecil B. DeMille.

You love defense! This is great news for you!

Brad: First miles of the year are down. Wasn't fun to see that big zero in the yearly total this morning. I love defense, but we aren't winning with it. We play really good numbers defense. What I mean by that is that our fg% allowed, defensive efficiency, and those stats look good. Unfortunately, we don't get big stops when we need them, we aren't real dogs down there. UC, much as I hate them, plays the kind of defense that wins games. They can get ugly and just crush the life out of people. I thought we could after Butler, but recently we have not closed games. All the defense in the world doesn't matter when you either can't score (Wofford) or can keep the other team off the glass when it matters (UT). If winning ugly is how we do it, we need some serious work on the killer instinct.

I saw that you went with the Tu quote as your favorite moment of 2012. I have to go with Mark Lyons against UD in the A10 tournament. I could look it up, but I like remembering it my way. I want to say he went 7-2 or 10-2 when we absolutely had to have that game. After one bucket he spun out and came down the near sideline just being all Mark Lyons. That's my favorite moment of 2012.

Joel: There were some great moments to choose from. Tu over Cooley was sweet. Dee's two monster threes in the first half against Lehigh cemented my crush on him. Heck, just hearing our names called on Selection Sunday was fun.

Unfortunately, we also managed to go an entire calendar year with the same basic problems. We stop feeding the post after about fifteen minutes. We look borderline disinterested for long stretches of play. Jeff Robinson. Our offense stagnates in the half court. I lay this mostly at the feet of Coach Mack, with one cavaet: has he ever had a season where he hasn't been hamstrung by personnel issues? His first year, Miller left late, taking his recruiting class with him. Robinson was a bust, but McKenzie's career was derailed before it ever had a chance to get started. The next year, the Latham/Canty class was a huge miss. The year after that, he brought Dez and Dee in but lost Reynolds and Davis to reclassification. This year, he lost Dez and Cheeks but added Semaj and Farr. Meanwhile, Cantino lost a year of eligibility because of a stupid NCAA rule and Reynolds and Davis - who should sophomores right now - were fairly arbitrarily ruled ineligble by the NCAA. Now, some of that stuff is Mack's fault, but a lot of it is well outside his control. As a result, we still haven't gotten to see what he can do with a full squad.

Brad: All that other stuff pales in compare to how painful this offense is to watch. One entire week to prepare for Tennessee and we lay a complete and total egg. That's nothing but a coaching staff issue.

But back to the 2012 stuff, because that's topical! Worst moment? I say the ridiculous dismissal of Dez. That was a literal miscarriage of justice of the highest degree. No logical person can defend that decision. I'm getting angry just thinking about it. We threw away the most talented player we've ever had because the administrative staff is insanely short sighted.

On the court: I'd say Tu missing the free throw against Baylor. It was an improbable comeback and still wasn't likely to happen, but he deserved to go out better than.that. I don't know, maybe the tragic hero coming up short in the last desperate comeback is better story, but it was gutting to watch.

Joel: Off the court, it doesn't get worse than getting rid of Dez. An alpha male in college may or may not have been intimate with a girl who came onto him? Get out. The fact that her story changed throughout the whole thing and there wasn't even enough evidence to pursue a case just rub salt in the wound. Can you imagine the athleticism with Dez and Semaj in the open court? Let's move on before I make myself sad.

On the court, the worst moment for me was opening the conference season with a loss, I believe it was away to La Salle. After going 29-3 in conference the last two years after identical 8-5 starts, I had just assumed that X would be X once A-10 play arrived. That loss was really the first alert that the season was in trouble that I couldn't ignore.
What's more topical than the present, though!? Tell me, Coach Wooden, what your brilliant offensive game plan for Tennessee would have been and how you would have implemented it in a week. Keep in mind that UT is one of the top defenses in the nation. Be prepared to support your decisions in sentence form.

Brad: You want a sentence? Feed the post. I'm aware they are a great defense, I don't dispute that, but 10:14 without a field goal? Give me a break, you cannot be defending that.

Joel: They're a great defense facing a bad offense. Feed whom on the post? You wanted more of Taylor's 4-11 or Philmore's 4-10? Perhaps you thought Stenger could created his own shot against a 270-pound defender, or you wanted to see JRob out there? It's easy to point out that the offense sucked (sucks), but the solutions on this roster are limited. If one or two guys aren't playing up to par, we're likely going to look dreadful.

Brad: Yes, I wanted more touches for Taylor. The problem is that our offense is entirely predicated on guards getting shots, so even when the ball goes in no one reacts to it, cuts, moves, or does anything. What's the deal? The offense needs massive amounts of work.

Joel: I've stumped for more touches for Trav in the past, but then he rewarded me with 4-11 the other night. You and I could sit here and wave them at each other for the rest of the week, but the fact remains that we have zero players who are consistent enough to be relied on right now. When you don't know what you're getting on any given time out, it's hard to set up a game plan. Let's feed Semaj? Maybe he goes 1-10, misses six FTs, and turns the ball over half a dozen times. Feed Trav? Maybe he shoots 4-11 or has trouble catching the ball (which he has had). Get it to JMart? Maybe he drifts listlessly through the game, making you wonder if he's sure he is supposed to be on the court. All of those guys have the potential to take over a game; they also have the potential to submarine it.

I don't want to be all doom and gloom, so consider this: at this point last year, we had lost 4 of our last 5 (much like we have right now) and were about to drop that demoralizing conference opener to La Salle. There were questions around the squad regarding if we would ever get our mojo back. Things look bad right now, but they looked bad right then, too. We've got a road trip to Wake tomorrow followed by a home game against Temple that KenPom gives us a coin toss chance to win. Pick those up and take care of business against GW and suddenly we're 10-5 (2-0). Other than UC, we haven't been out of any game this year. Despite our problems, I still have faith that this team can do something better than most expected four months ago.

What were you favorite moments of the calendar year, and what are your hopes for the rest of this season with two months' worth of information now in hand? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section.

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