Well, that happened. Xavier received from Georgetown as thorough a beating as they have in quite some time. Whether the thumping that Villanova was worse or not is a debate that no one really wants to have, but this one was bad. You can argue about whether adjustments need to be made or if the issue is with the players (and we have) but in this game, everything went wrong. The game plan was bad, the effort was bad, the result was bad, it was just all bad.
Xavier trailed by double digits less than 12 minutes into the game, suffered through a field goal drought of over 12 minutes, allowed Georgetown to shoot 52% from the floor, got outrebounded, turned the ball over 11 times, and just in general was appalling in every facet of the game. The Musketeers never led in the game and never really even made a significant run. The last significant road game that Xavier won was December 21st against Alabama. Since then, every meaningful road game has been a loss, and two of them have been collapses so significant that you wonder whether the team had just decided to lose before the game even started.
To get to the narrative of this game is to jump feet first into systemic failure. Xavier once again had no answer for a team willing to shoot the ball early and often from beyond the arc. Georgetown went 4-8 from deep in the first half, spreading the floor out so well that they shot a combined 56% in the first 20 minutes. It is foolhardy at this point to deny that the Musketeers need to adjust something defensively. Blaming the players or saying that steps are being taken in practice ignores the fact that the defense is fatally flawed. Coach Mack and his staff are performing rescue breathing on a patient whose heart quit beating weeks ago. It's time to change the defensive gameplan, not just keep gamely hanging on to a scheme that is killing the season.
That's not to say that the players came out and fought their very best in this game, because that wasn't the case either. Justin Martin (13/4/2) was actually the most passionate of the Musketeers during the game, which says a lot. Semaj Christon (18/0/2) played a great game but isn't really a vocal leader. At his best when leading by example, Semaj scored eight straight points near the end of the first half, but was let down by teammates who chipped in a grand total of two in the last 10:24 of the half. Matt Stainbrook (12/3/1) was also effective, but was nullified when Georgetown took a 16 point lead to the half. Deficits like that are not generally overcome by feeding the ball into the post. By the time there were 15 minutes left to play, it was clear the team was ready to be on a flight back to Ohio.
We've reached the Rubicon of this Musketeers season at this point. Xavier was just demolished by a team that should have been dead and buried in the conference. No longer close to the top two, Xavier now sits in a tie for third with Marquette, only a half game ahead of resurgent St. John's and Providence. In order for the Musketeers to get the wins they need, something needs to be done with the defense. Blame whoever you must, but the packline is no longer viable. Georgetown bombed Xavier out of the game when they needed to and then just played keep away in the second half.
In the nine games including the first win over DePaul, Xavier has allowed teams 15 or more three point attempts in every game. In that span teams are averaging 18 attempted threes per game. Those numbers don't include the 10-18 Georgetown shot the first time the teams met or the 28 Creighton rained down. Only 53 teams in the nation have allowed opponents a higher percentage of their points from behind the arc. Since conference play started, Xavier's numbers are in the bottom ten in the nation. That's not indicative of anything other than a time for change. If Xavier does not greatly adjust or totally abandon the packline defense, they will not be playing in the NCAA tournament. It's that simple.
- Will fatigue be a factor? Apparently not. Georgetown poured in 42 first half points and put the game out of reach long before tired legs could have had their effect. More than that, the Hoyas got so far ahead that they were able to empty the bench and rest the starters. Rather than leave even more fatigued after playing just 36 hours previously, Georgetown got a rare chance for some respite.
- Who guards DSR? For all the problems the Musketeers had, DSR was not one of them. He went 1-8 from the floor and was a non-factor scoring wise. He did, of course, make a three pointer in the first half. Dee Davis (0/1/3) drew Smith-Rivera and did a decent job on him, but also fouled out.
- Does Georgetown have anything left? They have more than enough left to beat a team that refuses to play a defense that makes any sense, yes. The Hoyas came out seemingly determined to drag themselves back into the Big East picture, and they did. Credit has to be given to John Thompson III and his staff for noticing where they could attack the Musketeers and then doing just that.
Xavier has played 27 games this season. The worst two defensively have occurred in the last three games. First Marquette and now Georgetown have simply destroyed the Musketeers. Both of those teams have also played 27 games, Marquette has only been more efficient once than they were in their last Musketeers game, Georgetown twice. Teams like Wright St and Lipscomb were better defensively against the Hoyas, and New Hampshire and IUPUI both gave Marquette a harder time.
Xavier's defense has put this season on life-support. Whether it is dropping the high hedge, not pulling the weakside defender so far into the lane, or just completely scrapping the packline, Xavier must do something or this season will end much like last did. That this has been allowed to go on for so long boggles the mind. Games against the two best three point shooting teams in the conference (including the best in the nation) remain. The Musketeers must win one of those games in order to have some breathing room before the conference tournament. Does anyone think will happen?
Tweet of the game:
Calling a tech on @RickBroering and @BannersParkway before this timeline joust ends up in a reflection session— The Xavier Popes (@TheXavierPopes) February 22, 2014
Things got a bit heated on Saturday.