Sunday Conversation: 12/22

Jalen Reynolds is one of many Muskies not afraid to let it eat. - Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

Regarding Xavier's latest big comeback, bad announcing, and a balanced team with tournament aspirations.

Joel
Great win on the road over an SEC team. Alabama now has a losing record, but they've played a lot of good opponents and have come up just short against all of them, including Xavier. By the time March comes around, this is going to look like a good win.

I loved the fight back from down a dozen. Is it just me, or is this team more genuinely fun to watch than some of the teams from the recent past? Last year's team simply wasn't very good, and for a couple of years before that there was a question of if they even really liked each other. This year, Stainbrook looks like he's having all kinds of fun, our young guys are exuberant and expressive, and even Semaj seems to be coming out of his on-court demeanor shell. They seem like a group you'd want to be a part of, and that makes them fun to cheer for.

Brad
I completely agree that this looks like a good win come March. As far as KenPom goes, it essentially flips the teams. Xavier is now 47th and Alabama is 59th. Want to know how good that comeback was? When the Tide came into the game they were ranked 36th in defense, now they sit at 60th. Duke's offense, currently third in the nation, only put up 74 on them and certainly didn't drop 51 in one half.

And I think that goes to your second point/question there. When we went behind, there were no attempted heroics ala two years ago (not to be too critical here, sometimes those heroics worked) and there was none of the burying of the head resignation we saw last year. X just kept playing their game and trusting it. I think Farr goes a long way to making this group so fun. You know I love swagger, and he has it in buckets. After his threes against UC he surveyed the crowd like Maximus and yesterday he just almly gestures for the ball on the break and then jars it with that dude way inside his hula hoop.

Joel
No doubt Farr is a stone-cold pimp. I know we've been over this ground before, but how incredible has his progress from year one to year two been? Still can't believe it, won't ever believe it. It almost makes you think Kamall Richards might be something other than the answer to our problem of having oversigned in recruiting this year.

Speaking of our recruits, they've been scary early on. Trevon Bluiett is averaging 44 points per game, JP Macura is somewhere in the mid-30s, and Edmond Sumner leads the nation in retweets about himself. Sean O'Mara and Makinde London are hanging out below the radar, but I feel like they'll have some time to improve from when they show up on campus to when they're asked to contribute... which brings things nicely back around to James Farr. Needless to say, I think the future is extremely bright for this squad.

This season, it should be said, is also looking good. We're 2-3 against KenPom's top 100 (all of those games came against teams currently in the top 60), and USC is our only thing even resembling a bad loss. If we beat Wake and take care of business against Seton Hall and DePaul, we have the foundation of a very good resume in place.

Brad
Just need to avoid the proverbial "bad loss" and pull a couple good wins. It's a shame the committee will be looking at something as stupid as RPI rather than KenPom or even ESPN's rating system. It's like insisting on driving a car that still has a tape player in it. Sure, it was nice in the 80s, but we've moved on. I'm just stunned, stunned I say, that the NCAA is behind the times. Next you'll tell me the mainstream media doesn't understand the game either.

Joel
Speaking of the mainstream media not understanding the game, last night's announcers were among the worst ever. The play-by-play man identified Myles Davis as the team's assists leader (he has 11, good for sixth on the team), said Xavier hadn't gotten many offensive boards as Isaiah Philmore was pulling down the team's 17th of the night, said Dee was a guy Alabama wanted shooting from outside all night (came into the game hitting 36% from deep) and needed 38 minutes of game time to realize Philmore and Stainbrook both wear goggles. Meanwhile, the color guy just wanted to go on about his personal All-American Team. Deplorable. The cost of having so many games at so many levels on so many channels is that any hack with a pulse can find himself behind the mic.

I'm loving what we're showing from behind the arc as a team right now. We are able to hit consistently and have somewhere between three and five guys who can make themselves a threat from deep, depending on what you think of JMart and Semaj shooting jumpers on any given night. By the same token, we're not reliant on them, shooting only 25.7% of our total shots from there. Last night was a great example: got down big, shot 4-7 from three-point range in the second half to get back into it, but never got into a team-wide Marshall Henderson kind of mode where we were just running up and down frantically chucking threes. We've had more potent offenses, but this may be our most balanced one in a while.

Brad
Don't be afraid to give me a million things to talk about. I'd start by saying Jay Bilas still has to be one of the worst announcers I've ever heard. ESPN insist on using him on their top broadcast and he still dreadful. The list of people who think that by virtue of having played the game understand the game continues to grow. He and Tim McCarver seemed really good examples that that doesn't always hold true.

I do like how balanced we look now. When we have 2 bags getting on the offensive glass it really opens things up for us outside. I said to myself as Joe was going over the halftime stats yesterday that if we that if we matched the four threes they made in the first half with four of our own in the second half we would probably win the game. Clearly I didn't anticipate falling down 12 first but the way our offense just kept taking over was impressive.

Joel

Don't be afraid to put a bow on what I said without leaving me anywhere to go next. How about this to wrap things up: we have 15 games remaining against teams in the KenPom top 100, 14 of which are in-conference. The Big East is going to finish somewhere between second and fourth in overall conference rating by time things are said and done; probably closer to second once conference play begins and games like Butler's upcoming slugfest against NJIT are a distant memory. We're in as good a position as we could possibly want to be, both this season and going forward. The opportunities are there, we just have to go out and take them. Despite the egg in the Bahamas, we need a win over Wake and ten in the conference to get us to 20 before the postseason starts. I've said it all year: that gets us in. I love what I've seen out of this team so far; time to go out and get it done.

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