Yesterday may not have been the most glittering example of Xavier basketball yet served up this season, but it was a win the team needed after an impressively poor performance against Georgetown earlier in the week. Sources close to the team said yesterday that they believe the Musketeers' best basketball remains ahead of them. Given that the team is 17-2 now and had just come off of competently handling a Seton Hall team that gave Villanova fits, that's high praise. Yesterday's win may continue to fuel that level of optimism, but it should also fuel plenty of message board and office chatter. Here's some takes to keep you ready at the front of the opinion line.
1. Sean O'Mara is outplaying Jalen Reynolds right now.
Jalen was effective yesterday, but he never looked dominant. His offensive efficiency was 87 on the day to take him down to 105.7 for the season. That's not awful, but it's the worst number Jalen has posted in his career. Jalen is also playing fewer minutes than he has since his freshman season. O'Mara, meanwhile, scored nine points in just nine minutes and, if the officials had any clue what over the back was, would have had even more. Sean isn't a leaping rebounder like Jalen, but when he plays, he scores. It's really that simple.
2. Trevon Bluiett is emerging as a dominant scorer.
Trevon went 20 minutes without scoring yesterday and then seemingly flipped a switch to find go mode. In the first half he took only two field goal attempts, in the second half he went 4-7 to put up a half line of 15/3/2 in 16 minutes. The best part was that he never demanded the ball and dribbled the game to death like a volume scorer, he was just bloodless when his chances came. It's Myles Davis that this team looks to when it needs a bucket, but most of the time Xavier is in that position it's because Tre has almost quietly kept them there.
3. Myles Davis runs this team.
Watching Myles when he is off the ball or even off the court is very informative. On the bench Myles functions almost as an auxiliary coach. Yesterday it was Kaiser Gates who was receiving a lot of animated instruction from the junior every time he came in or out. After players come by Coach Mack on the way out, Myles is there with something to say and hand out. At one point yesterday when Xavier was getting to rebound, Davis lept to his feet and ran over to Coach Mack. He and Mack had a brief conversation and then Xavier made a substitution. Xavier is loaded with talent, but it's clear who the leader on the team is.
4. JP Macura is immensely annoying.
Watching JP Macura off the ball is also informative. Most of the time I am, like most Xavier fans, prisoner to the whim of the tv cameras. In person, JP is a whirling dervish of off ball actions of dubious legality. A handful of shirt here, a shoulder bump there, some "inadvertent" arm waving, and soon JP is looking innocent, aggrieved, and saddened by the violence in the world as a marauding opponent flattens him in front of a ref. It is, frankly, brilliant.
5. Isaiah Whitehead...
We've spilled a lot of ink on Whitehead. There is no question as to his prodigious talent. The dude is built like a small truck and finishes in the paint as if his shot can't be affected by the attentions of defenders. Unfortunately for the Pirates, he far too often settles for jumpers. In timeout huddles he looks disinterested, when teammates mess up, he barks at them or puts his arms out in frustration. No one likes being shown up, and fewer people like being shown up by a guy with an ORtg of 96.8 who still uses more possessions than anyone else in Big East conference play. By the end of the game, even Xavier players were clearly wearying of Whitehead's schtick. If Kevin Willard had any authority at all over his player he could have an amazing weapon. He doesn't though, so he's stuck with a 3-4 team.