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Sunday Conversation: 3/2

More analysis of last night's game, plus a look ahead towards the end of the regular season for X.

Buckets, Coach McDermott.
Buckets, Coach McDermott.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Joel
Okay, so that was obviously big. We don't want to get ahead of ourselves, but that had to have as much as punched Xavier's dance ticket. Let's get to the important stuff: I said last week that X would win this game in a shootout; was I right? I'm going to say yes (obviously). Both teams scored more than a point per possession, the game was open, flowing, and entertaining, and there was a total of 50 threes attempted. Everyone in attendance came away feeling like they had seen a shootout.

Brad
If you told me last wek that Creighton would take 34 threes but we would win, I'd have laughed in your face. We dodged a bullet today, but they went cold and we didn't.

Bryan
I think the fact our team seemed to realize Wragge was on the other team helped as well. What do you make of Reynolds leap on the defensive end these last two games? Is there a reason to keep him out of the starting lineup at this point if he keeps this up?

Joel
Is there a reason to start him? He had 22 minutes tonight, Stain had 23, and Philmore had 26. I'd rather not saddle Jalen with the title of being a starter while we have viable forwards. I like him as an energy guy off the bench, and he has been beasting in that role. I would let him get his burn but keep the same starting five. You'll notice Stenger isn't starting anymore; Coach Mack has found his athleticism and hustle dude in Jalen.

Where has Farr gone?

Brad
Farr cannot guard a soul right now. He came in today, got beat baseline, and exited again. I'm with Joel here, let Jalen be the juice off the bench. Philmore does well in his role, so there's no real need to change

Bryan
I guess I can see him thriving as a change of pace, but I (and everyone who watched X this week) am enthralled by his upside. If we can beat Seton Hall, I love our momentum heading to MSG, barring a blowout at the hands of Villanova. However, in interest of not getting ahead of ourselves, how do you guys see us handling the neutral court malaise that struck over Thanksgiving in postseason play?

Brad
Refuse to play games anywhere but home?

Joel
We are 6-8 away from home this year and 14-1 at Cintas. That's incredible; do we really feed off the crowd that much? It would be a huge boost if we could nip Seton Hall and then get back and beat Nova at our place.

I'm starting to think seeding is going to be a big deal for this team. The farther down the curve you are, the more likely you are to be facing an opponent playing at home. We're already in trouble without the Cintas faithful; the last thing we need is a partisan crowd supporting our opponent. To get all the way back around to your question, Bry, I think the best way to avoid that is to handle our business this coming week and in the Big East tournament. Get a higher seed, ride a wave of momentum, and hope the energy and conviction we play with at home follows us out on the road for once.

Brad
I think we get up for big games fairly well. Yes, Georgetown and Nova crushed us, but we played Creighton very well on the road. I'm hoping against hope that and the Crosstown Beatdown indicate there is something in this team that helps us rise to the occasion.

Bryan
It is just troubling to consider our fairly pedestrian play away from Cintas since we only have one game left there this year. On the positive, how about that J-Mart bouncing back today? So key that he makes people guard him.

Joel
He has always been talented, but he's finally putting it together on an almost consistent basis. With him playing like this and Philmore hitting jump shots, we suddenly have five guys in the starting lineup who you have to apply at least token defensive attention to. Having that come together is so key for this offense. How about the defensive intensity and execution tonight? More so on post digs, doubles, and harrying them into turnovers than checking the arc, obviously.

Brad
Right, because we didn't check the arc at all. I love the result of this game and I'm positively giddy about the thought of all of us watching X together at my place, but I can see I have to be the voice of reason (or negativity) here, as always.

We got lucky today.

I hit enter again so everyone could gather breath to excoriate me, but it's the truth. We know from multiple KenPom studies that defense doesn't have much effect at all, if any, on opponent's three point percentage. What defenses can do is have a great effect on opponent's attempts. We allowed 34 three point attempts tonight. If Creighton shoots their normal percentage, we lose. They didn't, so we won. And I'm aware that the Bluejays are the positive three point outlier where St. John's was the negative.

Joel
Creighton is an extreme example of three-point shooting, though, in that it's basically all they do. If you check them to 21 feet, they'll lift from 25. I mean, they've worked over an extremely good Nova defense twice.

They also shot a lot of them because they were behind. Some of the looks they put up I don't think they would have taken if we hadn't put them in a position where they were chasing the score. I think we go a little bit lucky that they weren't blazing hot early, but we also did a good job of doing what we needed to do in turnovers and on the glass. Until that final 90 seconds where they were all over the offensive boards and we were trying to keep them off the line, we whipped them on the glass.

It will be interesting to see how we come out against Seton Hall. Losing this one would, I believe, be more damaging to our resume than losing against Villanova at home. Of course, I'd like to get them both and lock down the three seed in the conference tournament and a 12-win debut in the Big East. That would be a great regular season for us. Last week we asked where we saw two more wins the last four games; this week I'm going to ask what you think happens in the last two games and why.

Bryan
I think we will beat Seton Hall if our defense turns up like it did against the Johnnies. I see us giving Nova a game, but I think they are well rounded enough to survive a night like Creighton had last night. I am going with a 10 point win over Seton Hall, followed by a 7 point loss to Nova to send us in to MSG on a high.

Joel
Seton Hall has been mediocre and now they're also looking dysfunctional. They have dropped six of seven since beating X, including three home losses and a loss to DePaul, and word was getting around that some players were not happy with Fuquan Edwin's choice to sit out the Providence loss with a thumb sprain. I'm going to go way out on a limb here and say X establishes an early lead and coasts to a double-digit win over a team that has given up on the season. We won't shoot against Nova how we did against Creighton; dropping the hone finale by seven seems about right, though I would be glad to be wrong on that one. We got to ten conference wins; I think we're in.

Brad
Seton Hall would be the classic trap game if they weren't self-destructing. Or does that make it more of a trap game? I'm not up on my media-created false narratives. The Pirates did demolish Georgetown right before Georgetown humiliated us, but for some reason I think that we carry focus forward from last night's win, not lose it.

All the focus in the world won't get us past Nova, though. They are just a special team right now. If we keep it within single digits I'll be happy. That game, by the way, will be the one where we see if the newly effective defense is benefiting from anything other than just cold shooting opponents.