If you watched that game yesterday, my apologies. I may have made it seem in the preview like Creighton was 1-9 in the conference and playing some of their worst basketball of the season. I may have also made it seem like the team mascot is the Blue Jay, and not the Bluejay, a semantic difference I am now aware matters to Creighton fans. Clearly, I was wrong on both counts. The Bluejays are obviously an awe inspiring basketball juggernaut that our little Davids of Xavier weren't quite able to overcome.
That's wrong of course. Creighton really is very bad, they're going to finish at the bottom of the Big East this year. What happened last night was an absolute basketballing travesty. Xavier somehow contrived to be absolute garbage at the worst possible time and manage to pull off the previously unthinkable feat of losing to what should have been the worst team in the conference this year (DePaul) and what actually is the worst team in the conference this year (Creighton). Some thoughts:
It is really the crutch of the ill-informed, and often very loud, fan that his favorite team would win if they would just try a little harder. Anyone who has ever played organized sports at a moderately high level knows this is farcical, but that doesn't keep the guy behind you who probably drinks Coors from yelling it 45 times a game. Well, last night it looked there were times Xavier couldn't be arsed to try. Creighton, especially in the final 15 minutes of the game, simply played with more energy. Maybe they're more used to chasing down their own misses, maybe Greg McDermott threatened to make them live in Omaha after they graduate, or maybe they actually did want to win more. Whatever the case may be, the Bluejays brought a level of effort that the Musketeers, with the obvious and very large exception of Jalen Reynolds*, didn't seem to match.
Yes, we're starting with two tropes here. No, there's no way anyone is blaming the refs for Xavier losing this game. What is absolutely inexcusable, though, is what Twitter has take to referring to as the #RefShow. Apparently unaware that most people tune in to games to actually watch basketball, officials have begun to take it upon themselves to become a part of the narrative. Incessant checks of the monitor, conferences with coaches, conferences with each other, another check of the monitor, making sure to talk to the tv guy so everyone can see them some more, another monitor check, six seconds of action, rinse and repeat. Rush the Court did an excellent piece on how this grandstanding detracts from the flow of the game. Tonight's game was just another installment in this theatre of the absurd and featured a college basketball official somehow completely unaware that a college basketball shot clock doesn't show tenths of a second. Until there is some actual oversight of poor officiating, we'll continue to see the greatest sport on earth marred by accountants who work nights and weekends as referees.
3. Poor coaching:
Chris Mack didn't shoot 38% from the floor and he also didn't allow 12 offensive rebounds. Chris Mack didn't stand in the middle of the lane while his man casually knocked down corner three pointers, and Chris Mack didn't dribble into traffic and force shots. All those actions are squarely on the people who committed them. Still, there were a lot of issues solid coaching would have prevented. Rick Kreklow does little but shoot left corner threes. In fact, that's almost literally all he does. Tonight, he took his first look from there without a man near him. That trend continued and Xavier didn't adjust. Xavier somehow lost 19 seconds late in the game without fouling, Xavier didn't feed Jalen Reynolds until only his own fatigue kept him from scoring, and Xavier somehow allowed another team to get up 20+ three point attempts. Those are all coaching issues, and some of them are alarmingly recurrent.
4. In real trouble now:
I've said on this site many times this year that Xavier was as good as in the NCAA tournament so long as they didn't do something catastrophic. 5-5 in the Big East coming into last night's game was more than enough to be off the bubble and in good position for an at large. Last night, the Musketeers did something catastrophic. Dropping to 1-6 in close games and combining that with yet another resume torpedoing loss is going to be something the committee has to think about long and hard come March 15th. There is nothing, nothing, that will take away the stink of this loss when it combines with three other RPI (I know) sub 100 losses. Excepting a run that seems almost incomprehensible right now, Xavier will now have to sweat it out. That's how bad this was.
*And maybe Myles Davis