Sunday Conversation: 3/3

Trey Davis is either diving or launching into his terrible release again. Hard to say. - USA TODAY Sports

Other teams to watch, carrying the load as a freshman, and whether liking a Duke player is ever allowed.

Another blown lead and another loss send Xavier into the last two games of the season most likely needing to win out to secure a first round bye. With that unlikely given that the opponents are Saint Louis and Butler, discussing just Xavier seemed just a bit too depressing.

Embracing advanced statistics

Brad: How lazy are announcers? Steve Lappas just said that UMass tries to turn teams over. Well no, they don't. They run a lot, but they don't force turnovers much at all. More to the point, it's nice to college ball starting to follow baseball down the numbers route, but it needs to be more widespread.

Joel: I was watching VCU-Butler and Stephen Bardo said VCU was one of the best half court defenses in the nation. Well, no, not really. Twenty bucks at KenPom, gang; I promise it's worth it.

Brad: The game just makes more sense when you know the numbers. I enjoy doing the Saturday previews for that very reason, you get to know the team very well just from looking at empirical data. Unfortunately, you've still got this old guard hanging on that thinks their eyes tell them the whole story. I'm not saying it is wrong to make judgments based on what you see, just make sure it's reasonable.

Joel: I think one of the most important numbers to understand is 3P frequency as opposed to 3P% for defenses. Letting teams play that lottery will eventually burn you.

On technicals

Brad: Nothing more awkward than your coach getting tech'ed while you are on the bench. "So... crazy weather, huh?"

Joel: I was only ever on the floor when the coach got pegged. Probably says something about our respective careers, or maybe just the fact that you played one level higher than I did.

Attempted subject change

Joel: It's slowly striking me why we're losing these games that seem so winnable: we're mediocre. They seem like games we should win because we're used to being good. But we're not. So we end up with mediocre results because we should have done some things better (played defense, shot free throws, and gotten the ball inside, usually), but we didn't do them better because we couldn't because we're not that good. We're not a good team that has lost some winnable games because we got unlucky. We're a mediocre team that almost won several games but didn't because we're not quite good enough, and that's why we're 16-12 (8-6), incapable of establishing any sort of momentum, and staring at a nearly impossible task to make the tournament. That team is who we are this year.

I'm not saying this in a denigrating way. If anything, the realization is a little freeing. Nor am I saying that we're going to be this again next year, because I don't think we are. We lost all five starters, 79.5% of our scoring, 65.5% of our rebounding, and 86.2% of our assists. Almost no program can bounce back from an Exodus like that and be even mediocre. We have, and we're still on the rise. This year, though, we're staggeringly inconsistent and sometimes not that fun to follow.

Brad: I find Xavier a bit depressing at the moment, so I watched some other games after I watched the recording of ours.

Other teams to watch

Brad: Is it ok to like Ryan Kelly a little bit? After one of his threes he looked legitimately surprised. Not the like the usual Duke white guy "look at me, I'm so amazing I actually impressed myself" thing, but more like a "Holy crap! I should call my mom!" reaction. Other than him, the thing that most impressed me in that game was Miami. Shane Larkin is a player and that team is pretty deep.

I got to see K-State and Baylor too. I know familial obligations may prevent you from agreeing, but I like the Wildcats. The play they ran to get their last shot was very nearly art. Seeing Brody Haslip (Heslip?) lose is always enjoyable. Baylor really needs to do something about their court/uniform combination. I needed Dramamine after that.

Since Xavier isn't going to be there, who are you most looking forward to seeing in the NCAAs?

Joel: Isn't it Brady Heslip, not Brody? Also, how do you lose McGruder in a tie game with a second left? Inexcusable. [Also inexcusable, throwing an in-bounds pass out of bounds on the other end of the floor to set your opponent up to win]. Speaking of inexcusable, do you mean the Ryan Kelly on Duke? Then no, it's not okay to like him, not even a little bit.

Since you asked, I actually am looking forward to seeing K-State in the tournament. Their losses are to Kansas, Kansas, Gonzaga, Michigan, and Iowa State. I think they have a shot to do some damage, and I've always been a Bruce Weber fan. Also, I love Wisconsin; watching them play always makes me happy. It's good basketball, and OSU fans hate Bo Ryan. Win-win in my book. Virginia also intrigues me. The way they play defense, I can't imagine anyone wants to pull them in the first weekend.

Brad: Brady/Brody, if that is your name does it really matter? (Sorry to any Brady/Brody's out there, we love you! Keep reading!) I think Florida is going to surprise a few people. I'm kind of curious to see Middle Tennessee St, too. They play the kind of defense that everyone thinks VCU plays. Speaking of that, "you don't want to go to war with the Rams" may be stuck in my head forever. What an incredible homecourt advantage those guys have. Butler looked like they had opened the gates to hell when that game tipped off.

Back to the future

Joel: Still (back to X now), there are teams that build a roster so that, when they are loaded with upperclassmen and have things break right, they can make the NIT. X has some serious flaws that are crippling this team, but this is the bottom of the cycle, not the top. The numbers Semaj is putting up as a freshman are fairly incredible. The building blocks of our next tournament team are already in place. This just isn't it.

Brad: You're right, Semaj is a great piece to have. Sometimes it's easy to get frustrated with him (and God knows I have), but he's carrying the scoring load and handling the ball as a true freshman, that's a big ask for anybody. You sort of alluded to it earlier, but it basically comes down to the fact that we are all spoiled by the teams that we've had in the past. We are used to winning and then marching into the tournament like it is our birthright. Hopefully this just makes next year that much sweeter.

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