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Sunday Conversation: 1/19

The Big East is better than the A-10, our favorite comebacks, and this year's chances of going farther than the 2007-2008 team did.

This is not how one conducts polite conversation.
This is not how one conducts polite conversation.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Joel
I'm sure we have some Xavier fans out there who have heard the A-10 is in position to send more teams to the NCAA tournament than the Big East is. I was mildly vexed by the amount of buzz that has gotten early on this year, because who wants to believe they've moved to a worse conference? Take heart, though; there are four teams in the A-10 with worse KenPoms than the worst team in the Big East. The bubble teams in the A-10 are going to have to play those bottom feeders, and even winning those games hurts your resume unless you score a blowout. It's axiomatic that there are no easy road wins in conference play, and when a team - I don't know, Dayton or someone - blinks on the road against URI or Fordham, that's a huge drop in every meaningful ranking system. I believe in the crucible of February to cull the bubble. Give it seven weeks and we'll be looking at 4-5 Big East teams in and the A-10 sitting at 3 and hoping for a 4th.

With that said, we're getting close to the point at which Bracketologies go from a frivolous entertainment to something worth tracking.

Brad
I know. We're both married to young ladies who love Christmas and that whole season, but is there anything better than March? Scoreboard watching literally every night, games that matter all over the dial, and Palm and Lunardi updating daily. Can't wait.

We're not quite there yet, though, but we've moved past the part of the schedule where I have to care what Evansville does on defense.

We talked comebacks this week. Which back from the dead performance is your favorite?

Joel
Dang, I really liked this one because Cintas was jumping and Dee led the way. Gun to my head, though, I'm taking Purdue. When Big Kenny threw down that missed FT and let the airplane fly, for some reason I sensed big things afoot. Then Dad texted me something akin to "Put your arms down, you big doofus." I may have mentioned that to him once the comeback was complete. Yours?

Brad
What about this one? Notre Dame brushed a 90% chance of winning that game and it ended just so bizarrely. I remember watching that game, together in my front room, as it should be, and feeling like we were right in it even as the Irish started to grind the game out and slowly pull away. We then did the same thing in the very next game and came storming back again. That team was just never dead.

And this team sits 17 spots higher in the KenPom.

Joel
Were we really down to that low of a WE%? I guess that one didn't make as much of an impression on me because I just never really felt like we stood a chance to losing. My memory of that game is mostly the collection of errors they made to take themselves out of it at the end and Tu coming off the screen face-up with Cooley. It was a foregone conclusion in my mind as soon as I saw that, and he delivered.

Jumping back into the present, we're kind of a scary-deep team. You mentioned that you never felt like the team Tu's senior year was ever really dead. I think we have some of that in us this year. By the same token, that 2007-2008 team could hurt you from a lot of different angles, and I think we have a little bit of that going right now. They had six guys who could do it to you plus a young Jason Love coming off the bench for 6 PPG. JMart waking up and Phil all over the offensive glass gives us those two plus Semaj, Matt, Dee, and Farr scoring at 7.7 per game, and Myles is getting 7.3 and shooting 41.7% from deep despite his recent slump. That team was 216th in the nation in bench minutes; we're currently 94th.

That squad went three wins deep into the NCAA tournament before getting bushwhacked by a UCLA squad just loaded with NBA talent. By the time the game was over, I wasn't even mad. Anyway, am I crazy to think that our squad this year might have something resembling that level of special in it.

Brad
Are you asking if I think we could be a Final Four team? That 08 team very well could have been if it had met someone other than UCLA.

No, I don't think we are there yet. The defense choked the Hoyas late, but it has not been good recently. Yes, Creighton is going to get theirs, but Marquette? 67 to a Georgetown team down two starters? I need to see more before I'm looking for that next Sweet 16 banner. On the other hand, if the last 15 minutes of the Georgetown were the sign of a bounce back, we are just marginally behind Nova.

Joel
Okay, that's fair. On the other hand, that team gave up 78 points in 63 possessions to Temple on January 16th to fall to 14-4. At that point they were good but not necessarily special. In eight days' time, they choked the garbage out of UD on the way to ripping off 11 straight and cementing themselves as definitely special. I'm not saying this team will necessarily do that, just that they won't necessarily not do that.

So say we need to get to get meaningfully better on defense; where do you see that happening? Do we need individual improvements, or is there something schematically you want to see?

That 2008 team was also a little better on offense, but I'm not worried about that. The way this team's offense feeds off its defense, that will take care of itself.

Brad
Schematically I think we are the same as we always are. It really seems to almost be a focus issue. Stainbrook and Philmore are solid, but our other bigs are prone to wander or just hammer people. JMart is JMart.

All of our guards are solid on the ball, with all but Myles probably being above average. Off the ball, though, both Semaj and Randolph lose their man or get beat on backside cuts more than they should. That just seems like a simple adjustment to remember to stay plugged it. It's not like being in the 60s out of 351 teams should set the alarm bells ringing.

Joel
No, it's not, and it's not like a defense like that can't get this offense to the tournament. If our defense gets hot, though, we have an NBA level guard leading an incredibly balanced squad. There's a chance this ends up being one of those seasons we talk about for a long time to come.