Part of the allure in Banners on the Parkway joining SB Nation was that Joel and I could continue to work together. As anyone with a brother can tell you, there is a connection there that cannot be faked. Frequently, this leads to collaboration and chemistry on the stories we hope that you want to read. Sometimes, though, it just turns into an argument. This season promises to be one of the more difficult in Xavier history. Trying to parse that out over Facebook message occasionally becomes a bit problematic.
Periodically throughout the season we will run these Sunday Conversations. Essentially nothing more than a (slightly edited) Facebook message transcript, this is what happens when two life long Xavier fans have a moment to do nothing but talk about their team. It's a bit different, but hopefully what it lacks in format and flow it will make up for in authenticity.
On the exhibition:
Joel: First things first: we beat a division two team by 22. Your gut reaction? X Scoring: Christon 12, Stenger 12, Robinson 12, Taylor 10, Martin 10, Davis 8, Philmore 5, Amos 3, Farr 2
Brad: Not impressed, but unless we win by 60, the score won't be impressive. Stenger is discouraging to me. An NKU transfer walk on gets more than Farr, Martin, or Davis? I know all the caveats, I still hate that
Joel: I don't like it either, nor do I love the fact that he started, but what can be done? For him to be our statistically most impressive player is less than encouraging. They hung with us by starting hot from deep, but then faded as soon as they stopped hitting. We proved last year, though, that there are teams in our league that can bury you from deep. Other discouraging things: at 49-34, we had outscored them 30-8 in the paint. We're not going to dominate D1 teams inside like that. We also had 31 points off of their 23 TO. I can see how we might be very good at pressuring the ball, but I don't think teams that were facing down Tu and Lyons last year are going to be shaken into scads of TO by Dee and Semaj.
Brad: Points in the paint are generally only as impressive as the competition. Listen, it's good that we forced 23 turnovers and that we converted off of those, I like to see that, even against bad teams. That said our three point shooting was criminal, we won on the glass but didn't exactly dominate, and Semaj and Dee combined for 8-22 from the floor. Our supposedly pass first, defense second, point guard saw fit to shoot ten times.
Joel: Each of them had five dimes, which is nice. We managed to turn it over 15 times, which isn't. An autopsy of an exhibition game against an overmatched opponent isn't all that interesting, though. What do we know now that we didn't before this tipped off?
Brad: Stenger will score if given opportunity? That's something, right? Coach Mack clearly trusts the guy.
Joel: Sure. This was akin to watching Andrew Taylor go off against Marquette a couple years back. Who is going to start next week? Here's what I have:
1 - Davis: energy guy, didn't look any more like a scorer today
2 - Christon: needed 12 shots to get 12 points tonight, probably our most talented guard, but going to need time to adjust
3 - 5: This will be three of Martin, Taylor, Stenger, and Robinson.
Does Coach Mack have the nads to start a walk-on in the season opener?
Does Jeff Robinson have the attention span to play more than 12 minutes per game?
Does Coach Mack trust Martin enough to start him?
Who is Travis Taylor?
In my gut, I think it's Stenger, Taylor, and Robinson. Mack loves effort and scrappiness, and Stenger has those in spades while Martin doesn't.
Brad: Martin isn't even close to having those. (This is so depressing, by the way.) Still, he has to start, because we have to score. I like what you have at one and two, I go Martin at three, Philmore at four, Taylor at five. Four is a mess right now though.
Joel: Philmore can't start the opener, he's suspended for three games. Now what?
Brad: Robinson and a 1-2 start.
Joel: Hard to see where we outclass Butler in any capacity, but I think we can beat FD and RMU. I want to believe it's not as bad as all that, but I didn't see a lot encouraging me. Here's something though; due to Semaj cramping up, Martin got some run at the two. So...
Let's try some gimmick lineups. Let's go big and run out Semaj (6'3"), Martin (6'6"), Philmore (6'8"), Taylor (6'8")/Farr (6'9"), and Robinson (6'10"). That's not sustainable, but who in the conference can hang with that height for a four-minute burst?
Brad: I won't know until I do previews, but my guess is no one. I'm watching Chelsea now. I'm really curious as to what is up with the Sneaker Stacker (Chris Cantino). How do we bring a guy in for relief without knowing if he can play? Also, will he be able to take minutes off Robinson? Swansea are giving us a run here. [Ed note: for more on Chelsea Football Club check out SBN siteWe Ain't Got No History]. The more I think about that big line, the more I like it. Slow the pace, dominate size, work matchups, and win ugly.
Joel: He'd be nice to have; he adds some bulk inside that we're missing with Philmore out. I'd anticipate the NCAA to have a decision to us sometime in late February. The problem with that big lineup, of course, is that we need somewhere to hide Martin on defense and the shooting guard isn't the best place to do that. Do we have anyone who we can consider an eraser in the middle? My guess is no. Farr has crazy length but is a freshman and weighs 11 pounds. Robinson is himself. We already gave up a crazy amount of 3PA last year; do we want the 1 and 3 sagging even farther for the inevitable roasting of Martin off the bounce?
Brad: Martin's length will cause issues out there for an average two but you're right, (Mikel with a deft flick, not often you say that) anyone quick will run right past him. How quick is Stenger? If Red runs the one and Semaj the two, that size advantage disappears, doesn't it?
Joel: Right. We lose the size advantage while retaining the quickness disadvantage. Rick Bro tweeted that Stenger was spending a lot of his time guarding perimeter players tonight and doing a good job of it; do we think that's something we can count on? I feel better with Martin guarding the four than the two, but do we really want Stenger trying to check the shooting guard?
Brad: I don't like Martin on the four either, he's too weak. He's actually quite hopeless, isn't he?
Joel: I think he gets off the ground quick enough and is long enough to at least make a PF work for his points. That's better than his being 15 feet from the bucket just getting his hips turned as a guard lays the ball in. I actually like him at the four, which leads me to my next gimmick: go small.
Joel: Red, Davis, and Christon at the guards. That's a shooter, a slash-and-distribute guy, and a raw scorer on the perimeter. Martin at the four; I believe in him as a scorer and I think he can stretch the heck out of defenses. He was feeble last year, but I think he can do damage given a chance to shoot himself into games. Then you've got real options at the five. You can play to stretch the whole way and run Farr our there. You can decide you want some beef with all that skinny and opt for Philmore or the Sneaker Stacker. You can decide you need a glue guy to get all the little stuff done and have Stenger out there crying havoc and letting slip the dogs of war. Or you could go with whatever it is that Robinson offers.
On the strength of our roster, I don't think we're going to just straight up outplay a lot of teams. So let's have Coach Mack coach, run some different looks at them, and try to pinch a few games on the merit of being more clever.
Brad:I like that, and I like the way you are thinking. I hate that I'm responding from a phone. Small is also intriguing, but now you don't have much to keep them from posting on Davis at the one or Semaj at the three.
Sometimes coaches don't like to gimmick like that though, for whatever reason. It's like David Ortiz refusing to just bunt to beat the shift. Not manly, or whatever.
Joel: I don't see Mack as that guy. I mean, he just started Stenger and gave Feeney some meaningful run a couple of years ago. You're right, that doesn't give us any way to stop that, but... there's the chance we're bad at basketball. If we spend the whole time trying to get the best guy at each traditional position onto the floor, we're going to get outclassed and go 6-10 in conference on our way to a 20-loss season. If we're not going to be good - and we may not - let's be fairly interesting. How many college teams have an offense that posts the one or the three? At least we're getting them out of their comfort zones.
Brad: It's a tightrope, to be sure. Get too cute and you risk dropping games to teams you should beat, play straight too long and end up getting routed.
This conversation ended with an unplanned nap near the end of LSU-Alabama. Join us again next week for more Facebook ruminations.