Sunday Conversation: 2/2

I don't even want to look at Xavier right now, so here's Peyton Manning. - Rob Carr

Xavier's struggles to play like they're alive, who can be counted on, and the obligatory Super Bowl picks.

A couple of quick notes before we jump in. The first is that you'll notice a name that isn't "Brad" or "Joel" in the Conversation here. We have brought on board our brother Bryan D; his fandom is pretty much the same as ours, just started slightly after. We're not sure what all he'll be doing just yet, but we know he will bring it with his trademark combination of enthusiasm and bizzareness.

Also, a shoutout to Grandpa D. Forty years ago today he was taken from this life to the next, but not before he had reared our patriarch, Dad. His fingerprints are on everything we do here, and he is not forgotten despite the fact that we never met. On to Xavier stuff...

Brad
A piping hot load of garbage, that. Chris Mack needs to take some blame


Joel
What he needs to take blame for is ruining my Saturday. That game was supposed to be my springboard into a productive day; instead, it was a wet blanket on my motivation. Anywhere I've ever played, we laugh when opponent goes into a zone. Then we run a decisive passer to the low post or short corner and cut it apart. Xavier just didn't get that done today. Mack might be a bit to blame for not really pushing that strategy ever time down, but he can't make shots for them and that showing from behind the arc and at the line crippled us.

Brad
I agree that he wasn't the one shooting so terribly, but after the game he said both that he wasn't expecting 40 minutes of zone and that we didn't make them pay. Well, no kidding. We looked ok when Semaj hit the high post, but Dee was so bad with the ball that Semaj ended up having to handle it. Sit Dee for Randolph, get the ball to the high post, and make some positive adjustments. Mack's critics have always pointed to in game moves as his biggest weakness. Most of the time they're way off base, but today they wouldn't be.

Bryan
I thought our high post was consistently receiving the ball too far from the basket for the players we had running it. No zone is going to worry when Stainbrook or Philmore faces up 17 feet from the basket. We should have run Farr higher, despite his inferior court vision, and made them collapse onto him. That and the abysmal showings by both Davis's really did us in. After a week to prepare, there is simply no excuse for failing that badly on the simple stuff.

Joel
It was a crime we didn't force-feed Stainbrook on the block; he was a monster. We panicked a bit down the stretch. We stopped taking good shots. My word, though, we were awful from beyond the arc. Shooting like crap makes you look like crap.

A high-low with Martin and Stainbrook might have been nice, but then we would have needed two other competent players around them with Semaj. We didn't have them today.

Brad
No, we didn't. What has happened to early season James Farr? 0-2 and looking a bit timid today. He has to provide offense.

Bryan

He and Randolph have completely retreated into themselves since the beginning of the year. I figured Randolph would a bit once we got to more physical opponents (although he took care of the ball better than our other guards today and we erased our deficit in the 2nd half with him spelling Dee), but Farr has gone enigmatic on us. We need a couple of people other than Semaj to be at least steady with offensive production, but so far Stainbrook and Martin have been the closest we've come and they have both been prone to disappearing acts thus Farr (BAM! PUN!).

Joel
It's a shame we don't have a player named Crap, because I have a bunch of puns ready for that.

Switching gears a bit here, ESPN's Jeff Goodman said on Twitter that he sees the Big East as a two-bid league right now, citing Villanova and Creighton. I know this was a bad loss, but that's just openly trolling, right? Xavier has exactly one loss against teams outside of the KenPom top 100, and that came in November on a neutral site. Depending on who your favorite RPI source is, our record against teams outside the RPI top 100 is 7-2. We're 6-0 against 50-100 and 2-4 against 1-49, and those losses are two neutral site games and two road games. I only mention this because the committee loves RPI. We laid an egg today, but to state that it puts us on the wrong side of the bubble is blatantly moronic.

Brad
I do think it presents an issue. This was just a stupid game to lose, especially at home. We look odds on to lose again on Monday, after that we need to grab a couple of wins that carry some weight. Beating Creighton or Nova at home would be a big step.

Joel
Yeah, we're bulletproof at home right now. This was one to win; heading into the second half of conference play on six wins would have been nice. I don't see us picking up the W against Nova to get there. To beat anyone in the conference, we need three guys not to suck. To beat a good team, we need at least four. Let's say for argument's sake we can count on Semaj and Stainbrook; who else are we looking at? I'm setting the odds for Dee and JMart each around 75%. Philmore is 60%. Farr is 33%, Randolph hit that one three against UC, and Myles rates a -10% for me. Stenger's five fouls and a ball of energy, and Reynolds is chilling a minute. Basically, we need at least two of those other guys to show up almost every game, right? How do those percentages hit you?

Brad
How can Myles be a negative percentage? I don't really know how math works. I think what your number really reflects for Philmore is that the "new" rules are really hurting him. I honestly feel for him, because there are times when he called for a foul and he seems genuinely perplexed.

No, I don't like our chances against Villanova on any court right now. On the other hand, it seems like we are the best when coming off the mat. The Bahamas disaster led to an absolute demolition of a Cincinnati team the mainstream media can't stop fluffing right now. Maybe we shake this little mini-slump off by beating the Wildcats.

Or maybe we lose by 20.

Bryan
The "new" rules (what was wrong with how the game was played last year, exactly?) seem to be in place to give the refs license to call hand checks 35 feet from the basket while things that would get you kicked out of an MMA event go uncalled underneath. Or sometimes not. Whatever strikes the official's fancy at that point in time.
On the subject of likelihood of various players not sucking, I would say Phlimore's chances on not sucking are higher than that of Martin or Davis bur the impact of him not sucking is less. Let me explain, (*sits down, crosses legs, and stares into the middle distance*) when Philmore is playing well, he is absolutely an asset for the Muskies in that he is a prolific offensive rebounder and can finish through contact, turning some of X's misses into two, and occasionally three, points. However, when Davis or Martin are playing poorly, there are not as many misses to turn into points due to both of their tendencies to turn the ball over at mind bottling rates during poor stretches.

In addition, the extra space created when defenses have to spread the floor for a hot shooter in one of Xavier's non-Semaj guards gives Stainbrook and Philmore more room to operate under the basket, fewer double teams to deal with, and better chances to grab boards. I guess my point is that Philmore can play well and our offense will still sputter but one of Martin and Davis getting hot/taking care of the ball/taking some pressure off Christon makes things click into place elsewhere. Also, I can see a scenario where we beat Nova, but it involves a lot more fortitude than what I saw today.

Joel
That was what was really vexing. Did we think we could just show up and chalk up a win? I mean, we should have been able to, but that requires actually playing a bit. Giving them eight points right off the jump and then never looking ready for what they did was inexcusable. By the time it got back on level pegging, we had used too much energy and too many fouls digging out of a hole we should not have been in. Listless starts were a hallmark of Mack teams in years past, but I thought we had grown beyond that. I guess we haven't.

Brad
I like that as a conclusion. So we can stay topical and hashtag #SuperBowl, what are your picks for tonight? I'll take Denver 34-21.

Joel
I'm going to say 27-17 Broncos. I think Peyton can get behind Seattle's defense enough to put up a couple of scores, and the rest is ball security and defense.

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