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How four minutes cost Xavier the game against Villanova

Xavier made a huge change to start the game against Villanova. Is it possible that those first four minutes of experimentation cost them the game?

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

As you may be aware, Coach Chris Mack started a new lineup last night. That has been discussed at great length in both the recap and a quick take during the game. That new lineup was supposedly decided upon after wiping the slate clean and awarding the players who worked hardest in practice, rather than those that gave the team the best chance to win the game. The question remains, though: did the changes cost the team the game? While all the variables are impossible to figure, there are some conclusions that can be reached by looking at the game.

What could be considered a reasonable starting lineup for Xavier was first assembled on the court at the 15:57 mark in the first half. Essentially four minutes had elapsed in the game at that point. At that four minute mark, Xaiver had Dee Davis, Remy Abell, Trevon Bluiett, James Farr, and Jalen Reynolds on the floor. While not Xavier's exact starting five, it was a very close facsimile thereof. New starters JP Macura and Larry Austin Jr. had departed the floor.

Macura would go on to have a pretty solid game, putting up 14/4/1 on 50% shooting. Austin Jr. played 20 minutes and somehow managed to avoid scoring, contributing only three assists and two turnovers in his time on the floor. Neither player played defense at a very high level. That's the final tally though, what is far more informative are those first four minutes. In that span Austin Jr. committed a foul and a turnover, missed a layup, and had an assist. Macura grabbed a rebound and had Darrun Hilliard II drill a three pointer directly in his face. The 11 points the team surrendered came on just six Villanova possessions, an inexcusable 1.83 points per possession.

At the end of those first four minutes and the grand new lineup experiment, Xavier trailed 11-2. The rest of the game, they lost 77-73. After spotting the Wildcats a nine point lead, Xavier very nearly played them even in their own home. Lest anyone allege that 'Nova came off the gas, consider that they only went three deep into their bench and that no player who appeared for them played less than 12 minutes. Villanova maintained their three point shooting rate for the entire contest through the final five minutes of the game. Both of those represent steps away from the norm for the Wildcats. In short, they didn't play as if the game were already decided.

The game was already decided though. According to Ken Pomeroy's win probability graphing, Villanova had a 95% chance of winning the game with only four minutes played. By the time Xavier was up to full strength, the game had already gone.