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Sunday Conversation: 1/6

Does no offense mean Xavier needs to consider a new defense? Is there any hope for the conference season?

The amount of time between the Xavier disaster against Tennessee and the impending Temple game has served to temper some of the early season optimism. Xavier enter Atlantic 10 play on their worst losing streak in nearly 30 years. Does that spell doom for the teams meaningful postseason hopes?

Brad: Speaking of fire drills [we were], it is becoming hard to see this season ending well. Call your conference shot right here. I do think this team could get hot enough to win the tournament and sneak in though, that's the weird thing. The pieces are there if used correctly.

Joel: First of all, I'm glad we only play VCU one time and it's at home. We might lose by 30 at their place the way we're turning the ball over right now. I think January is going to be a huge month, as we play a bunch of the good-but-not-great of the Atlantic Ten. Other than calling an eight-point loss for us at St. Joe's, KenPom sees them all as one-possession games. I'm seeing four or five games on the slate that I'm fairly sure will be losses unless something unreasonable happens. With that in mind, I'm thinking this team has it in them to go 9-7 or 10-6 in conference if they cut out the silly things that have hamstrung them in winnable games so far. I'll go more into exactly what those are tomorrow at 9am, but suffice it to say right now that we are one bucket every ten minutes from being a one-loss team.

Brad: We are a six loss team though, do you see us fixing the issues? A month ago I would've said yes but confidence in Mack is shaken. I'll be happy if we get ten conference wins, but I see eight or nine as more likely. We could lose to some awful teams if we keep playing like this. Gimme games feel like a thing of the past.

Joel: We also have the talent to beat anyone in the conference except probably VCU. Even if we don't make any but the most infinitesimal progress on our issues, one point every ten minutes (I know I said a basket earlier; I mistyped) is the difference of a decent bounce or one 50/50 call. With a couple of breaks, this team can rip off four or five wins in a row and have people wondering where this came from. Call me naive, but I think we're as close going forward and we have been to this point.

Brad: I don't. I've seen nothing in the last three games that could be considered a step forward. We are getting worse right now, not better. I would love to see us force the ball to the post and then run cutters, especially Semaj, off that. I trust Trav with the ball enough to find a cutting guard or a shooter high opposite. Right now though, we are playing a very clumsy outside in.

Joel: I like Trav with the ball; I don't think I've been shy about that. We've been getting layups, we're just having trouble converting them. We had that problem last year, too; how can a program be bad at layups?

I'm more concerned with our turnover problems. We've piled up almost 40 TO against a couple of team that don't force them very well. Even worse, we're not really being forced into them so much as we're just giving the ball away. Falling down for no reason, travelling on the post, throwing the ball out of bounds. We just need to cut out the silly garbage and we'll be fine... right?

Brad: I'm in the woods here, literally. Yes, useless giveaways. Again, Philmore has been disappointing in the post especially. Trav can't play every second, and someone has to be the hub of the proverbial wheel.

Discipline is what is hurting us. Charges, taking forever to start offense, and ball watching on both ends are all symptoms of a lack of focus.

Joel: Travis isn't David West though. We can't expect him to be the hub of the offense for 32 minutes every time out. We don't seem to have a system that doesn't presume heavily on the talent of the players involved. Our three plays seem to be dump it to Trav on the post, run Semaj off the curl into the lane on his right, and stand there and stare at the dude dribbling. We also have a couple to Red open, but most of his shots happen off of open play. Obviously this is problematic when Semaj/Dee/Trav or whoever is having trouble, and none of them is a player who you can pencil in for certain production on a nightly basis. Man, we need JMart to wake up.

Brad: Agreed, but he and JRob are back in the haze of 2010, 2011, etc. It's odd that the offense is the part that is so awful, we haven't had to worry about that since pre-Crawford. If you had to fix it right now, what would you do? What about a double post and hope Philmore gets it? Maybe just eliminate a post and blaze away?

Joel: Gun to my head, I go Christon, Davis, Redford, Martin, and Taylor and put Trav on the high post. Before you point out the obvious, yes, that's a small lineup and yes, we're going to have some problems on the defensive end. We'll get there in a minute. I run Trav to the high post and have Davis, Red, and Semaj dispersed on the wings and point as their skills dictate. JMart takes the deep wing/short corner position and moves to balance the floor as the ball rotates. Swing the ball, then dump it to Trav. Red and Dee take up shooting positions and Martin and Christon run to empty space in the lane/rim area. Trav does his thing. If they take Trav away at the high post, you can either pick and roll with him or slide him to the ball side block and flash JMart from the back side to the high post. Championship.

Run a 3-2 at the other end with Dee on top, Red and Semaj on the wings, and Martin and Taylor running around down low. Obviously, this isn't a strategy that works for a whole game, but that's okay because (a) college basketball is a punch-counter punch game and (b) we'd probably have to adjust due to cramps after a bit anyway. You wanted to know how I'd jolt the offense to life, though, and that's how I'd do it.

Brad: I like the idea of a 3-2, but it's unfortunate that the get any sort of offense we have to take away from the one strength we currently have. That is, of course, part of the game. I can also see going 1-3-1 with Davis, Philmore, Martin, Christon, and Taylor. That covers more floor but is also going to leave susceptible to allowing more offensive rebounds.

The bottom line is that this year is going to be a duct tape job no matter how you look at it. At the risk of sounding massive redundant I'd say it is on the coaching staff to make something work with the pieces we can cobble together right now. We are clearly capable of playing 30 minutes of very competitive basketball with almost anyone, it's those other 10 that have just been shambolic this year.