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Sunday(ish) Conversation: Guess what? More defense

So long as Xavier keeps giving up loads of points, we're going to keep talking about how to fix the defense.

Defense, but probably not the legal kind.
Defense, but probably not the legal kind.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

After yet another game of hemorrhaging points, the conversation returned to a familiar topic.

Joel: I'm starting to worry that our defense stinks. Someone dissuade me.

Brad: It does. Maybe the #Team93 was how many points Coach Mack thinks we need to average to have a chance.

Joel: Well... that's probably not good, because there are some teams in the Big East that can defend. We're going to have to be able to stop someone at some point if we want to finish up near the top of the conference. Coach Mack even showed some half court zone and some full-court press tonight and we still managed to look silly for large portions of the game. Do we have a bunch of guys who can't defend, or do you think we're going to improve as the season goes on?

West Coast D'Artagnan: Maybe I'm an optimist, but I see the defense improving as this season goes on. There are so many young guys on the court for us that need time to grow and learn. Obviously we need to improve our defense or else the Big East will have a field day with us, but I think it will come.

Bryan: Considering the game was played at an elevated pace, they are a good free throw shooting team, and the refs were so keen to make calls that I am pretty sure the mascot had 3, I actually think the defense wasn't as bad last night. Alabama got a few good looks from behind the arc, and still hit an uncomfortably high percentage, but they couldn't just grab a three when they needed one, like LBSU could last week. Abell also held Randolph pretty well in check until it was out of reach, but our defense at point guard seems to make that the point of attack for whoever we play, which Tarrant took advantage of.

Brad: Dee does seem to still be a step slow. I wonder if that has to do with that rib injury still, ribs don't fully heal quickly. Randolph (and I'm bracing for the backlash here) hasn't been great at the point defensively either. More impressively, no Mack team has ever scored like that against such a solid defensive team.

Joel: They had 18 from the line; is that a lot? They still shot 60% from two-point range and 43% from behind the arc. Dee has always been better at chasing a shooter off the ball than defending a driver, but I'm not sure what other options we have. Abell needs to defend scoring guards, and the bench guys haven't been great in defense either.
How about that JP Macura though? Dude is a hurricane when he gets hot. It's almost scary that he's a freshman.

Bryan: Macura has been better than billed, I think. I also think Sumner has potential that we haven't really seen tapped yet. I think as he gets more in the flow, it will be crazy to think about him only scoring 3 or 4 in a game.

Brad: I'm not sure there's currently a need to tap Sumner's potential that much. Easing him seems like the best way to go so far. I do think he will have a game where he just explodes.

Joel: If Sumner has the potential to stop dribble penetration, that would be nice to tap. KenPom currently has X as the #10 offense in the nation in adjusted efficiency, which is awesome. This team can flat out pour home buckets, and they are fun to watch when they get going. I was gratified to see them take hold of that game in the first half even with Stainbrook out. Being able to run the offense without running it through him is a concern.

West Coast D'Artagnan: Have we ever been #10 in KenPom before? [ Yes, in 2008 under Sean Miller we we're ninth.] That's downright impressive. This team has so many options and as Brad said, there's really not much need to use Sumner that extensively. Let him get minutes and experience, but don't shove him into the deep end until he's ready.

Bryan: I wasn't really saying to force Sumner, merely that I think as the season progresses, he is the freshman I see as having the most upside we haven't yet seen.

West Coast D'Artagnan: Right, I was agreeing that there is no need to force him in with all the depth.

Bryan: That is a huge luxury that this freshman class has. Did anyone else think we looked more competent from the zone last night? Maybe it was just not being in the pack line, but we looked more like there weren't major areas to exploit in the zone.

Joel: At this point, I'm not too proud to go zone. I think we have the size across the back line to still dominate the glass, and maybe that helps keep our guys from giving up dribble penetration and getting lost on rotations. As long as nobody we're playing has one of those 42-year-old white guys that plays at the YMCA and finds the soft spot in the zone every time, I think we can defend out if it. I mean, our three-point defense is tragic right now; a zone could scarcely make it worse.