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Grading Coach Mack: Offense

Coach Mack came into the season with one reliable scorer and churned out a top 20 offense that carried the team to the Sweet 16.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to everyone who participated in our inaugural Banners on the Parkway postseason report cards. With the players done, we are moving on to breaking down the various facets of Coach Mack. In addition to showing how the community rated the coach on offense, defense, man management, and overall, we'll be assigning and explaining our own grades as well. If you've missed any of the previous breakdowns, check them out in our Season in Review section.

A 62 42.76%
B 72 49.66%
C 11 7.59%
D 0.00%
F 0.00%
Community GPA 3.35

As you may have noticed - and certainly as you probably surmised from Brad's summary of the situation yesterday - Xavier's defense was not exactly the calling card of the team's success. That burden was placed squarely on the offense, and it rose to the occasion in the form of another run to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. There were times when the offense did just enough to win - and a few occasions on which it didn't - but by and large putting the biscuit in the basket was not problematic for this team.

Coach Mack on offense: A

Three times this year, the Musketeers put together an offensive performance that was the most efficient their opponent saw all season. Nine times they were in the top 3, and 20 times their efficiency was one of the 10 best posted all year against the defense they faced. If that got a little hard to follow, just know that Xavier's offense overwhelmed opponents in ways they weren't used to being beaten.

So how do we know that was Coach Mack's work and not just the product of having good players? Setting aside for a moment the fact that Coach Mack is largely responsible for the quality of the players on the roster, let's look at a couple of other factors.

The first one is pace. Despite the general feeling that Xavier liked to play quickly, the number of possessions in the game had a very weak correlation with Xavier's offensive efficiency; on a scale of -100 (fewer possessions means more efficiency) to 0 (no relationship between possessions and efficiency) to +100 (more possessions means more efficiency), Xavier tallied a 15. Anecdotally, note that Xavier put up a 130.6 ORtg in 74 possessions against Alabama and a 135.1 in 56 possessions against Georgia State. Whether or not an opponent was allowing Xavier to get into transition, the Muskies had a plan for scoring the basketball.

If you got to watch Xavier a lot this year instead of just poring over box scores, you noted that Coach Mack was often able to get X clean looks off of set plays. Dee Davis won the Shootout with a three from a play that was drawn up in the huddle (unless you think Coach Mack came into the game planning to put the game in the hands of a guy on a 6-38 streak from deep). Baseline out of bounds sets were again a reliable source of good looks for Xavier. Perhaps just as tellingly, only once all season to Xavier have back-to-back games scoring under a point per possession.

The biggest point in Mack's favor on offense is how different this team looked than previous squads he's coached. For much of Mack's tenure, he relied on a high ball screen action that pulled big men away from the basket and relied on Tu or Semaj to dribble the ball for most of the possession before making something happen. This year saw far more sets that used all five players, far more actions that saw one or two post men touching the ball, and a team assist rate climbing from 48.2% (292nd in the nation) two years ago to 62.3% (14th) this year.

I know some portion of that comes down to the personnel as well as the planning, but there's no question that this year's free-flowing, multi-faceted offense was a pleasure to watch compared to some of the comparative stagnation of years past. Coach Mack integrated five new players into a squad with one reliable returning scorer and came out the other side with a team that rode its scoring prowess to the Sweet 16. If that's not worth an A, I don't know what might be.