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Monday Conversation: What is wrong with the defense?

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Xavier's defense was once the standard by which the program was measured. What has happened?

One of the few instances where an LBSU player wasn't running past his Xavier counterpart.
One of the few instances where an LBSU player wasn't running past his Xavier counterpart.
Gary Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

West Coast D'Artnagnan: Just got back from a hectic day and saw the score from the game. what. the. what.....

Joel D: My goodness that was miserable. We looked stone dead on offense the whole game and listless on defense in the second half. You're not going to win a lot of games where the other team hits eight more threes than you do. We're awesome at home against kind of bad teams and looked decidedly mediocre on neutral site games this weekend. How do we feel about this team seven games into the season?

Bryan D: Perimeter defense has to be an emphasis going forward, because what just happened will get us killed in the Big East. That being said, I don't know who on this team I trust to defend the perimeter. Landen Amos always went out and got the job done, and I never figured he would be a big piece we would miss from last season, but I honestly think we could have won these last two games if we had a defender like him to put on the floor, despite his offensive limitations. The fact Mack recognizes the issue does not comfort me greatly, as it has been an issue the past several years. Do we just recruit poor defenders, or is it a systemic flaw?

Brad D- Bry mentions Amos, but isn't Abell supposed to be a plus defender? I think this is systemic, though. It's too consistent an issue to just be a certain player having a problem. Do we duck screens or not close out hard enough or something? We scored 42 points in a half yesterday and lost ground. That's inexcusable when you are playing LBSU.

Joel D: One keenly observant commenter pointed out that these issues are not new, and he's correct. In his past five seasons including this one, Mack's teams have consistently allowed an above average percentage of attempts from deep, and usually well above average.

Just from what I'm seeing, it's our help rotations on ball screens. When the big man hedges, whoever is responsible for the opposite corner slides down into the middle. A couple of quick passes later, someone is shooting an open three. I have no idea why we continue to have the big hedge so aggressively on those screens, but it's clearly part of Mack's plan. Until such time as it isn't, I don't see any way this isn't a huge issue. How long have we been having this conversation? At least three years, probably more. Everyone loved seeing Kenny pick up a cheap foul on a ball handler forty feet from the rim, right?

Brad D: It seems like the big hedge has been less aggressive the last couple of years. We aren't seeing the days of Travis Taylor or Big Kenny marooned 45 feet out anymore. That said, it's probably still more aggressive than standard. I may have to do some digging to find out, but maybe the thinking is that we become enough better by preventing penetration to make it worth the potential torrent of threes.

Bryan D: That would be understandable if we were actually making that trade. However, Vince Hunter got to do whatever he wanted going to the bucket because we had Bluiett isolated on him, which was never going to work (and didn't). While I think the system needs work, we have had people who have excelled defensively under Mack. Lyons was always capable of shutting someone down and, like I said earlier, Amos had a reputation as a stopper playing the exact same system we saw over the weekend. Some of it has to fall on the amount of focus this is getting in preparation and the intensity with which it is executed in game.

Joel D: I would blame it on that tournament, but we looked loose defensively all year. Maybe this will serve as a wake up call to the team that we can't just expect to win shootouts all season. I hope so; it's frustrating to watch us not be able to maintain a foothold because we cannot string stops together. Coach Mack talks a lot about wanting to establish am identity as a defensive team, but he's never coached a top 50 defense. His teams tend to dominate the glass and do a decent job against two-point shooting while not forcing turnovers and allowing a ton of threes. Is this really the defensive game plan that we think will be the one we win a championship with?