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Sunday Conversation: 1/26

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What is going on with Xavier's defense, Matt Stainbrook's recent issues, and seriously, that defense.

Get comfy, everyone!
Get comfy, everyone!
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Joel
Man, how disappointing has our defense been lately? Providence is not a bad offensive team, but we should not be giving up 81 points in 67 possessions to them. Acknowledging that they had a guard go for 25, it has been our forwards that have been letting us down lately. More than once, a big man of ours got caught wrong footed and nicely picked the guard chasing Cotton. They had big men hit a couple of nice shots, but most of it was just sub-par effort by our bigs. I will say that Philmore gave it the ol' college try, but he was not the right combination of tall, athletic, and favored by the refs to do much. Farr gets lost too much, Stainbrook couldn't get his feet to work, and Reynolds is a rolling foul. We just looked disinterested at times today, and that's not good. It was like the loss at La Salle two years ago at the start of the conference season. I kept waiting for us to get it in gear and overmatch them, and we never did.

Brad
Let's not let the offense off the hook here either. We never, as you said, overmatched them and just took that game. I lay a lot of that on Semaj. It's great that he gets his teammates involved and doesn't play me first ball anymore, but he was a passenger way too long today. With us sputtering and Stain Train stuck in the station (metaphor!) he's got to at least take a shot in the first 12 minutes. If he gets going while the Imp is still visible, maybe we win today.

Joel
That's what is most frustrating to me. We had a chance to beat a good team on the road without having to do anything extremely special, and we frittered it away. I was kicking it around in the comments section of the game thread, and frankly I think we just played badly. It wasn't a bad scheme or a poor game plan or anything they did that we didn't seem ready for. We just had bad individual outputs from guys who can play better but didn't. James Farr shot badly. Myles Davis shot badly. Semaj took a while to even try to get going, then took a while from that point to succeed in getting going. The Imp was there and then he was gone; gotta take more than two shots in the last 19 minutes if you've been cooking like that. This one will be fun to ruminate on for an entire week.

Brad
Let's step back from the ledge just a bit here, at least on the result. Losing to Providence at the Dunk (I swear they call it that) isn't really a terrible result. The process may be worrisome, but this isn't like losing to GWU or even La Salle on the road. We bounced back from the Bahamas, we can bounce back from this.

Joel
I'm sure we will, I just hate that we have to wait a week to get a chance to do it. If we don't do work against Seton Hall, then I'll be concerned. What would make you feel better from that game? Since I'm the one who is apparently feeling the worst, I'll go first: Seton Hall has an above-average offense. Holding them to something in the .90-.95 points per possession range would give me that old-fashioned romantic feeling back.

Brad
I actually generally don't equate romance and hoops, unless I'm watching Love and Basketball. That said, I agree. Obviously, a win is foremost, but we need to play some defense. I'd also like to see us slow the pace a bit. It seems to me like the team has fallen in love with offense a bit.

What is going on with Myles Davis? Freshman wall, defensive adjustments, just not as good a shooter as his start indicated? To add to that, Davis is four for his last 20 from deep. (That's from Wake on). In that time he has played 114 minutes, grabbed 10 rebounds, and dished out five assists. Basically, if he's not making threes, he's not adding a lot to the team.

Joel
I was going to bring Myles up at some point, too. I think the expectations he set with his hot start were probably a little unfair. Couple that with the fact that he's a lot older than the average freshman and I think we might have expected too much of him. The fact is, though, that he's coming off a year in which his basketballing was limited to summer leagues and open gyms, neither of which are renowned for their defensive intensity. Now he's up against dudes who are going to put a hand in his face at one end and he's expected to be doing the same at the other; it's probably taxing for him. He's still a good shooter, I just think he's going to need the adjustment period we were hoping he wouldn't. Still, it would be nice for him to be doing something else of value.

We need to beat Seton Hall soundly, because that trip two Villanova two days later is going to be tough. Then we get Providence at our place, a game I'm suddenly looking forward to with some relish.

Stainbrook hasn't been great lately. Your thoughts?

Brad
My car keeps warning me that roads may be frozen. No kidding. (NB: Brad sent that message from his destination, not from a moving vehicle in dodgy conditions. I think.)

I think Stainbrook is having the same adjustment Davis is. Plus, there's tape on him now. He doesn't finish well through contact, and he's desperate to get the ball in that left hand. So, teams body him up and push him right, knowing backside help is coming if he back spins. If he doesn't adjust, we'll get more 2-13s.

Joel
That's not great, if we're honest. If he had a counter move to his right hand, he could bust it out to great effect right now. He is still an excellent passer, but being defended man up really blunts that. Semaj and JMart are both still getting buckets by running into space in the lane when the big man has the ball.

With our depth, I almost feel like we could press more often. We've got athletic players with long arms; Dee, Semaj, Randolph, JMart, Farr, and Reynolds all have the right combination of physical tools to do it, and Stainbrook and Philmore can be hidden at the back.

Brad
I like what our press has done, too. Unfortunately, we can't stop anyone in the half court, and I guarantee that Coach Mack will address that first.

Joel
Interestingly, this has happened right as our offense has hit stride. We went through a stretch when we couldn't score without getting stops, but now we're scoring pretty well and suddenly can't get stops. We can score with some people, but you can't win on the road if you're giving up 80 points.

Brad
Goodness, no. This officiating has hurt our defense too, I think, because we focused on packing it in and punishing teams for shooting inside. When everything is a foul, that doesn't work.

Joel
That has been frustrating. It feels like they're letting a lot go in terms of fighting for position and going after loose balls and boards, but then once a dude catches the ball it becomes a guessing game regarding what's a foul. Sometimes it's a blood sport, sometimes you get calls like Farr's incomprehensible fourth yesterday. The bottom line, though, is that we need to adjust, because defense like we've been playing isn't going to take us anywhere.

Brad
How can you adjust to this officiating, though? It's impossible to make an adjustment when there is no standard to which you can adjust. I'm interested to hear what the Big East thinks the "new rules" are accomplishing.

Joel
I wish you luck in your Quixotic mission to get a statement from them regarding inconsistent officiating. Me and my girlfriends have a trip planned to go find the lost city of Atlantis.