Xavier v. VCU: Recap (Sunday) conversation

Dazed and confused, Xavier's best hope spent most of the second half on the bench. - USA TODAY Sports

Sunday conversation takes a bit more of a VCU related twist but we also touch on needing two more wins, at large talk, Memphis, and Gus Johnson calling soccer games.

Much as we did before the game, Joel and I took to the messages after Xavier fell to VCU. The sting of blowing a 17 point lead, combined with the injury to Dee Davis (15/4/3), didn't make for a terribly cheerful conversation. Sadly, that's where we are after Xavier most likely lost any chance of earning a bye in the Atlantic 10 tournament after a disastrous second half against HAVOC. This may not have been worst case, but it stung.

Rebounding

Joel: I thought we attacked the broken press well, much as I speculated we needed to do in the comments of our preview conversation. There were open looks to be had, and we took them. I think we had Redford more times than we took advantage of, though. His shooting we huge in keeping us at least in with a shout.

Other than (obviously) our turnovers, I thought rebounding killed us. That was the first time we'd been outrebounded in conference play, and they outscored us by almost a dozen on second-chance points. Taylor (5/9/1) had 9, Martin (11/8/3) had 8, but both JRob (3/3/1) and Philmore (11/2/1) were simply not good enough. Against a team we knew was aggressive on the offensive glass and should have been vulnerable on the other end, having both of those guys wet the bed on the boards was crippling.

Brad: One of the issues I thought was possible with attacking the broken press was wearing ourselves out. Not sure how much injury played into that, but we got leggy late. What was helping early was that we didn't turn the ball over in the half court. We got through the press and then calmed ourselves enough to be effective. Dee was really instrumental in that. You're right though, we got pounded on the glass. The box score shows it as close (depending on which one you use), but close was more than enough to end us.

Joel: We never really went and stayed big for any stretch of time, but I'm not sure that hurt us in any meaningful capacity. I thought the biggest issue in the collapse was that we stopped getting stops in the half court. Daniels hit a couple of big threes; there's no excuse for losing track of him like that. It's a given that they are going to score off of the press, especially when we're turning the ball over like it's been greased. Once they started scoring out of their regular offense - which isn't actually very good - we were in really big trouble.

In 20 minutes, Dee outrebounded JRob and Philmore, both of whom played 24 minutes. Between that and his general comportment on the floor, I am led to believe that he wanted this one.

Semaj and Dee

Brad: Your boy was stellar yesterday. He did it turn it over four times, but he handled the press as well as could be expected and was a consistent threat to score.

Semaj (11/1/7), on the other hand, is clearly not ready for the big time. 10 turnovers is dreadful, no matter who you play. Once he lost Dee, he was doomed. That game was too much for him from the tip. He never settled in either. He is, though, a freshman playing as essentially the only ball handler against the best pressure defense in the nation, so he gets a bit of a pass.

I think if we attack like we did in the first 25 minutes yesterday for a full 40, we are a tough out. Saint Louis can defend too, but Taylor comes back into play against them.

Joel: We've always had senior, experienced players to bring along the talented underclassmen in this program. We don't have that this year, and we're missing it. Semaj has always been able to dribble out of all his problems in the past; this is the first time he's really consistently needed things like a left hand and teammates, and he's having trouble adjusting. Some of that can be blamed on coaching, but it's hard to reprogram instinct. That doesn't happen overnight.

Brad: I understand that, and I don't want to pile on him. It's tough to go against that press as someone with experience, let alone as a freshman who is used to dominating on talent alone. It was a learning experience, to be sure. Who knows, maybe it will pay off in the tournament.

Can we win two more?

Joel: Enough autopsy, though. I thought this was our best chance to pilfer a win, but you and KenPom both think it's the Saint Lou game. I watched the Billikens lock down Butler at Hinkle on Friday, but I think they're not invincible. Do you still think we can grab that win and get to 10?

Brad: I'm not certain we can beat Saint Louis, but we aren't beating Butler. Does 10 guarantee us anything at this point? VCU, Butler, Saint Louis are all grabbing byes. That leaves us, La Salle, and Temple going for that last one. We have the toughest closing stretch of that group. It's starting to get a bit grim.

Joel: Yeah, it's not looking good for us. We need La Salle and Temple both to stumble pretty heavily down the stretch. We can still theoretically win 11 conference games, but it would strain credulity to say that I think we can. The bye is barely more possible; we'd need a lot of help. Temple has 5 losses, just like we do, but they have Charlotte, URI, and Fordham still on the schedule. Charlotte has 4 losses, and they have Duquesne, URI, and GW still looming in front of them. Each team also has a game against one of the conference favorites. Can we get play even with Temple (because we hold the tie breaker) and take one fewer losses than La Salle (against whom we also hold the tie breaker) the rest of the way? Maybe. I think the odds are higher that we win four in four days in Brooklyn, though. I'll look at that possibility once the bracket is set, which is still a couple of weeks away.

At large chatter

Joel: There was some conversation around the internet that we could still take an at-large bid. I do hope everyone would concede at this point that that chance has gone.

Brad: Who is still saying that? Steve Wolf kept prattling on about RPI during the game. He really should be embarrassed about that. Even before that loss, we were buried so far down the S Curve or seed line or whatever they call it now that there was no chance whatsoever at all for an at large. I'm not looking forward to writing NIT recaps.

I'm watching Chelsea play City right now and Gus Johnson is calling it. Very weird.

Joel: Message board chatter. You know how it is. It's auto bid or NIT (or worse) for this team. That's not that different than we thought it would be at the start of the season, right? All the ups and downs of the year haven't taken away from the fact that, by and large, this team is pretty much what we thought they would be. I have been encouraged by how they've stepped up at times, but they've also looked as thin and inexperienced as they are at other times. We'll save that for the season autopsy, though.

Side note one: I got to hear Gus Johnson call a game the other day; I think it was the first soccer game he had ever seen. I'll miss him calling games in March.

Side note two: how does Jimmy Fallon have a career? I have more talent than that dude. Why any company chose him in their adverts is beyond me.

Memphis

Have you ever been less excited for a game than for the Memphis game? It has absolutely no bearing on anything of import for us.

Brad: Memphis was a game scheduled for a different team. We might as well let Tim Whelan start and let Dee recover. I know this is what we expected, but that doesn't make the Wofford, Wake, Tennessee, or this loss easier to take. Two of those were to garbage reams and in two we threw away platter served chances for nice wins.

Joel: There's no way I play Dee on Tuesday. High risk, no reward.

Brad: That about sums up the season, doesn't it?

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