Shaking Things Up

Don't be too proud to ask for input, Coach. - Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Something has to change, and quickly, or Xavier's season is going to go down the drain.

If you've ever seen the critically-acclaimed film Hot Tub Time Machine, you remember a scene early on in the movie when three childhood friends and one of their nephews arrive at a run-down lodge where they spent some of the best weekends of their wilder youth. They run semi-excitedly to a hot tub on their room's balcony, only to find upon opening the cover that there is a raccoon decaying inside. One of them summarizes the situation by saying, "Well this is obviously unacceptable." Watching Xavier right now, I know how he feels.

The time to act was probably during the week-long layoff before the Seton Hall game, but we'll give Coach Mack the benefit of the doubt and assume he was unprepared for how bad things were about to get. After back-to-back completely listless performances from most of the squad, the team sits at 5-4 and on the precipice of a season-ruining slide. Something has to change, and fast. The question is, what?

Let's start with what doesn't need to change: Semaj and Stainbrook. Those two guys are bringing both effort and results to the floor. I would say they're largely above the fray. Beyond that, let's take a look at what is going wrong on a somewhat itemized basis.

Isaiah Philmore
God bless him, he tries hard, but Philmore simply is not enough of an offensive threat to make teams respect him. If he can hit face-up jumpers, his game opens up. He is currently 11-28 on two-point jumpers, which just isn't enough to get teams to lunge at him. He's a beast on the offensive boards, but opponents know they can play six feet off of him and he won't burn them. He's not athletic enough to go around or over a sagging defender, so his only offensive contribution is on the glass.

Dee Davis
I love Dee. Dee, however, has not been rewarding my loyalty with performance. As the new rules have gone the way of the baseball shorts, Dee has once again found himself physically overmatched by bigger guards. It's not entirely his fault, but it's not entirely my fault I'm slow and dumpy, but that doesn't mean I'm a viable basketball player (I'm not). When he's getting bullied, Dee's decision-making goes downhill and his value to the team follows.

Justin "The Imp" Martin
Now you see him, now he's gone when you turn to look. A man his age should be more consistent and reliable than Martin is. Too many silly decisions, too many bad fouls. Martin has the largest upside of anyone listed in the problems section here, but he has a knack for undermining his own good work. He toes the line between languid and lazy, and that's not a good look if you're not pouring home buckets.

James Farr
Farr never isn't trying hard, but he is still prone to mind-boggling defensive lapses. On the offensive end, his shooting has run hot and cold but his effort on the glass has never waned. Compared to where he was last year, he's a revelation. Gotta get better on defense, though.

Myles Davis
A shooter who can't hit. Not much else to say.

Brandon Randolph
I think Randolph is caught in a little bit of a pinch here. Xavier needs a third scorer so badly that fans are screaming "SHOOT!" at their TV sets when he has the ball. To his credit, he seems aware of the fact that his shooting line is abysmal and he's more suited to advancing the ball quickly in transition and dishing off to teammates. In a better world, he would be commended for his hesitance to shoot. Sadly, we live in the world where we need a freshman who is 4-25 from beyond the arc to be looking to pull.

The defense
Goodness me, this has been bad from top to bottom. Against consecutive opponents who love to shoot a ton of threes, Xavier looked completely unprepared for the idea that they would be lifting early and often. Rotations have broken down, men have been getting lost, and the glass has been far too open. A lot of Xavier's defensive woes can be blamed on easy baskets off of turnovers, but the half court has not been above reproach, either.

Possible solutions:
I don't have a ton of them. My first would be to shake up the lineup. JMart and Dee Davis would be the victims. For all his limitations, Philmore plays too hard to yank, and Semaj and Stainbrook are trying to carry the team. Give me Farr and Randolph in what would admittedly be a slightly odd Randolph-Semaj-Farr-Philmore-Stainbrook lineup and tell them to play their hearts out on both ends and then come out for a breather. If Dee and JMart are going to continue to make bad decisions and drift around the edges of the game (respectively), they can sit their and watch lesser talents get more time because they give more.

Assuming he's getting things figured out, I'd give both Reynolds and Stenger more minutes (though never together). Both of those guys have their problems (like having combined for 27 made buckets and 56 personal fouls), but they play hard and don't give an inch on either end, and that's what X needs right now.

You might also look into becoming a more press-heavy team. It's a risk/reward thing, but the defense is getting shredded anyway and there is more than enough athleticism in this team to put pressure on opponents for long periods of time. Coach Mack has used it out of desperation more than as a change of pace this year, but I wouldn't mind seeing more press earlier. It gets the crowd excited, increases the tempo of the game, and sets a more aggressive tone for a team that is developing a nasty habit of coming out flat.

I'm sure there's more. What would you do to rattle this team's cage and get the ship turned around?

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