It's probably no secret to you that Xavier has some serious problems winning away from home. The Muskies are a sterling 7-0 at the Cintas Center with an average margin of victory of nearly 22 points. They haven't exactly faced the Wooden Era UCLA squads, but some decent teams have come into Cintas and left humbled.
Away from home is a different story; X is 1-3 against four teams you would look at on paper and think the Muskies should beat. Frustratingly, Xavier is actually outscoring opponents on the road, albeit to the tune of just .75 points per game. Add it all up and Xavier is just a different team on the road than they are at home. Here's how they've been giving away those games.
Poor interior shooting
Xavier is normally a great two-point shooting team, ranking 7th in the nation with a 57.5% two-point shooting percentage on the year. In their losses, they are shooting 46.8% from inside the arc, which would be 196th, down with Grand Canyon and Presbyterian. This comes down to execution more than shot selection.
Xavier is still getting a good percentage of their shots at the rim in losses, but they shot 46.4% at the basket against Auburn, 45.5% against UTEP, and a respectable 64.7% against LBSU. Compared to Xavier's season mark of 67.5% shooting at the rim, they've definitely left plenty of points on the floor in their losses. X is usually a decent mid-range team - 40% on the year - and their performance in losses closely tracks with their season numbers both in volume and in success rate.
Xavier has cruised to early leads in all three losses and has carried each of those leads into halftime. The Muskies have then been outscored 140-112 in second halves, giving away more than nine points of margin on average. Xavier's offense has dipped a little bit, but they are still averaging 1.02 points per possession in these second halves.
The defense, on the other hand, has been horrible. X has been surrendering 1.28 PPP in second halves of losses, allowing teams to come storming back from halftime deficits. Just to put that in perspective, no team has even approached that number in offensive efficiency since Ken Pomeroy started tracking the stat in 2002. Creighton's raw efficiency last year was 1.20 PPP. Xavier's defense has gone from slightly above average to historically bad in the second halves of each of the three losses.
A surprise explosion
Each of these games has featured an opponent who probably wasn't circled on the scouting report coming up big in the points column. UTEP's Earvin Morris came into the game averaging 5.3 PPG; he dropped 15 on X on 6-9/2-3/1-1 shooting. Long Beach State's Temidayo Yussuf had 4 points on 2 shots against Xavier at the Cintas Center and was averaging 5.5 PPG going in; he shot a blistering 6-7/0-0/3-4 and put up a game line of 15/5/2 with 2 blocks at the Wooden Classic. Finally, Malcolm Canada of Auburn was averaging 4.9 PPG on the year and 2.7 PPG in December before he put together 15/3/2 with 3 steals against X last week.
These things happen in college basketball, but to see a player who has struggled all season spring to life against the Xavier defense to make the difference in a tight game is frustrating to say the least. What exactly it tells us about the Xavier defense is ambiguous, but lapses in concentration haven't been at a premium at the defensive end this year.
So those three factors are the what of Xavier's road woes this season. The why is a little more difficult to discern. If I had to guess, I'd say interior shooting suffers because defenders are going to get a more friendly whistle at home than they would on the road. When Xavier has a lead in the second half at home, Cintas is rocking with support for the Musketeers; when away from the friendly confines, X doesn't have that wave of crowd energy to ride to a big win. As far as having less-heralded guys go off... sometimes you've just gotta tip your hat, I guess.
Those are my conclusions at any rate. What do you blame for Xavier's trouble on the road this year?