Xavier left the court against La Salle looking despondent. Around them, an 8-0 start had gone up in flames like few things since the Alexandrian Library. Chris Mack seems confused, Tu Holloway is a hollow shell of himself, Mark Lyons can't get right, and Kenny Frease stubbornly refuses to impose himself on a game. With those myriad issues, it's getting difficult to sit down and enjoy a game, which is ultimately the driving force behind cheering for a team.
With that in mind, what would it take for you to feel good about this team again? Did the Fordham win do it? Would a ten win stretch do it? What about a couple of 20 point victories followed by a rolling of St. Louis? Would a 15-1 conference record erase the last 26 days? No matter what happens, this stretch is going to haunt this team, will it even be possible to escape it? For the Musketeers to make any of their supporters feel better, here is what has to happen.
1. Tu Holloway has to come back: Holloway hasn't been bad since he returned from suspension. 15.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game in the six Tu has played since UC aren't anything other than excellent for almost anyone. Tu Holloway isn't almost anyone though, he's the guy who killed off Purdue like a modern day Billy the Kid, he's the guy who dominated the Cincinatti game and scored only 17, he's the guy who used to zip 'em up.
Now, though, Holloway doesn't zip much of anything up. It seems almost incomprehensible to say someone who scored 26 points had a bad game, but Holloway wasn't himself against Hawaii. In a game that was begging for a player to step up and drive the nails in the coffin, Tu couldn't do it. Gonzaga gave Tu another chance to drag his Musketeers to a win through the sheer force of his will, but he didn't do. Against La Salle, with the team desperate to at least start conference play with a win, Holloway went 2-12 from the floor when he tried to rally late. Tu needs to get back the special something that made him such a unique talent. Until he does, he's just another very good point guard.
2. Someone needs to get zipped up: The Fordham win was nice, don't get me wrong, but no one looked at it as a complete performance. For me to start feeling good about this team again, someone needs to get gutted. Ask Purdue or Vanderbilt what they think of Xavier. Both teams watched leads simply disappear as the Musketeers found another gear late in the game. Neither the Southern Illinois nor the Fordham win showcased the cold blooded finishing on display early in the season. That, also, has to come back.
3. Swagger: There is something about watching the team you support walk onto a court knowing it is going to win. When teams are confident, leads get bigger fast, deficits only seem they portend storybook endings, and every trip down the floor has the potential to be special. Right now, Xavier is in the basketball version of the prevent defense. Completely neutered by a media that didn't bother letting context or facts ruin a good story, the Musketeers now seem far more concerned with not losing than they are with winning.
That's precisely why it was actually good to see Mark Lyons get a tech for talking at (not to) Lamount Samuell. Swagger defines good teams, they walk differently, play differently, and aren't afraid to tell you about it. Xavier becoming the national villan for seeming unrepentant less than a month after the brawl would be wonderful. An us against the world edge could be what it takes to get this team believing in themselves again.
4. Some three point shooting: It would make everyone feel better if someone could knock down a long range shot with consistency. Mark Lyons leads the way at 40%, Justin Martin has made 39%, and the numbers drop from there. Brad Redford is shooting 24% from deep and looks uncomfortable simply catching and shooting. Tu Holloway is at 31% and has looked almost apathetic while lifting from deep recently. A 33.8% mark is awful for a team that tries 14 threes a game. Someone needs to start making some, and soon. The 6-15 mark at Fordham is, hopefully, a sign of things to come.
That's what it would take for me to start buying in to this team again. If those four things click, wins will come in bunches and this little run of poor form will just add drama to the Final Four DVD. What about you all? What will it take for you to get to the point at which you once again have confidence in how the season will play out?