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Sunday Conversation: 1/5

Happy New Year! We talk Xavier's hot streak, Semaj's distribution, NCAA tournament, and (of course) Dee Davis.

"EVERYONE COME LISTEN TO WHAT THESE GUYS HAVE TO SAY!"
"EVERYONE COME LISTEN TO WHAT THESE GUYS HAVE TO SAY!"
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Joel
Butler is kind of the new Dayton in that I'm always given a boost by how much I hate them. I swear I have more energy the rest of the day when we beat them. Favorite part of the whole thing: Dunham wetting down his leg while Byron repeatedly referred to him as Kelli.

Brad
He wasn't as advertised, was he? Take out the free throws he got with the Reggie Miller move and he was entirely unimpressive. I thought putting Dee on him was an interesting choice but it paid off. Davis lack of size wasn't an issue, because Dunham doesn't run at the rim hard.

Joel
Dunham likes to work off the ball, and that's where Dee is his most sticky. He's not consistently excellent on-ball, but you can't get an inch of space by running him around. Just a really stout effort on his part.

Looking down the road, we have Marquette, @ Creighton, Georgetown, @ DePaul, @ Providence, Seton Hall. We could be 5-2 or 6-1 in our first 7 Big East games if we keep executing like this. What a start that would be.

Brad
Don't include this, but I feel like I nailed the analysis in the preview. Props to me.

I've got to give it to your boy. I knew as I listened to the game that you'd be trying to restrain yourself in the Boxscore Breakdown, and I thought only one paragraph of hero worship was a pretty admirable effort.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves too much on the schedule. I'm excited too, but those next three games are brutal. Marquette is actually the easiest of them. How crazy is it to say that? Marquette is our, on paper, easiest conference game of the next three. This program has come a long way since the days of the MCC.

Joel
Coach Mack called him the player of the game; I'm just passing along the news (that he's the best basketball player in history). He has steadily improved over the past few weeks, and now the ol' ORtg is back up above 100.

Going back to the Shootout, Semaj has 29 assists and 3 turnovers. If you're looking for something indicative of our step up in level of play, that might well be the one to point to. Once he well and truly started playing like he didn't need to be what he was last year, this team has taken off. That's 5 straight wins against teams rated 82 or better by Ken Pomeroy. Those are going to show up on the resume in March. Man, I can't wait for March.

As far as getting ahead of ourselves goes, I'm going to ignore your advice and get even farther ahead of us. Five of our last eight are on the road. We need to start stockpiling wins now, because that's a rough finishing stretch.

Brad
Dee's improvement has helped the team, but Semaj stepping back from being the sole scorer has really been the key. He's been incredible in this stretch, but he's not being talked about as much because his scoring is down, or at least it was before yesterday.

Wow, you're way too far ahead. Still, we dont have to go a game at a time because we aren't actually on the team. The awesome thing is that any win is, for the most part, a good one and there are no disaster losses now. Would dropping a DePaul game hurt? Sure, but it's hardly fatal and there is always a chance to rebound with a big win.

Joel
Semaj being able to step back from sole scorer has been huge. Last year he didn't have the options that he does this year, and he is definitely choosing to take advantage of that right now. Even when games were getting down to brass tacks, he has been willing to let the ball out of his hands.

More than that, we have a passing team this year. From the beginning of the Mack era, we were 225th ('09-'10), 150th ('10-'11), 208th ('11-'12), and 292nd ('12-'13) in the nation in assists per field goal made. Much was made at times about how Mack's offense was no conducive to moving the ball, but it might also be the case that the personnel was just not up to it. I'm sure Mack has grown as a coach over his time at Xavier, but having a roster not derailed by injury, defection, or last-minute recruiting certainly seems to be agreeing with him.

Basically what I'm getting from you is that the Big East is better than the A-10. Agreed. Losing to DePaul at our place would be close to unforgivable, but there's really no one else that is going to be crippling in the ol' "bad loss" column come March.

Transitioning from way too far ahead to completely fictional, we had been talking about the Ohio Cup for a couple of years and then I ended up writing it in about 15 minutes. What did you think? How would you address some of the concerns with the eight-team format?

Brad
That's a lot to process. Suffice to say we agree on the Big East and I really cannot wait to see us play in the MSG.
As for the Cup, I'm honestly not sure how you make it work without creating conference issues somewhere along the way. I love the idea of Akron-KSU, but we get that twice a year already, with a possibility of three. OSU isn't going to do it because Thad Matta sucks, unfortunately.

What I consider doing is playing it throughout the year. One round early so the big guys (us, UC, OSU) get a cupcake win and the little guys (YSU?) get a chance to knock off a mid level team. Play another game around Christmas at the end of non-conference and the last round in mid February where we've had Memphis the last couple years. If, say, OSU gets Akron there, a loss won't kill them after a bunch of Big 10 games, and Akron gets a great shot at a resume builder.

I wish they still made college ball video games, because I'd play this thing over and over again.

Joel
Do they not? I'm way out of the video game loop.

Anyway, let's bring this home by combining looking too far down the road and brackets. That's right, the NCAA tournament. Joe Lunardi has X as playing in Dayton as one of the last four in right now, which I believe is the first time he has put them into his projection. Both the Pomeroy ratings and the Massey ratings see Xavier as the 30th-best team in the nation and rising. The way this team is playing right now and with the schedule that lies ahead, is it a foregone conclusion to you that we're going to the tournament? For my part, I'm starting to think about seeding rather than getting in.

Brad
Ah boy. I don't want to say yes, because that's tempting fate. We haven't played a really, really good team (Iowa?) yet, so I'm hesitant to call us a sure thing.

On the other hand, I think Lunardi is nuts. How we would end up as an 11 seed is beyond me. Talk to me again after these next three games.

Joel
For what it's worth, I think Lunardi projects what the field would be if the season ended now, not what he thinks it will be when it's all done and dusted. If you want to hear from some people who are nuts, read the comments section on Bracketology. A lot of folks firing off RPIs and rebounding margin.

We keep executing like this, we're an NCAA team. On our floor, we can hang with anyone in our league, maybe even the country. On the road, the Semaj/Stainbrook core and the versatility of the talent we can deploy around it gives us a puncher's chance to upset the top tier clubs. Give me that formula anytime; I think we're well on the way to the ten wins I've been saying we need.