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Three takeaways from Xavier's double big man lineup

Xavier has two excellent bigs but rarely plays them together. That changes about 14% of the time, and here's what we can learn from that.

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Xavier has done a lot of what it has done this year on the back of the two-in-one monster Jalems Farrnolds. James Farr and Jalen Reynolds have both played almost exactly half of the minutes available this year, and both have been incredibly effective. Farr, even at this advanced stage of the season, remains the best rebounder in the nation. Reynolds fouls almost everyone he can reach, but is an athletic freak the likes of which few teams can match. Between the two, Xavier has amazing frontcourt production.

However, Xavier rarely has the entire Farrnolds combination on the floor. Due to their slap happy tendencies, the two generally rotate at the four or five position. Having both on the floor risks a situation in which Xavier suddenly has two post player with three fouls in the first half or, even worse, a situation in which probabilities take over and Farr and Reynolds begin fouling one another. Against Butler, with Edmond Sumner down, Coach Mack played the two of them together from the start for the first time all year.

The results were rather impressive. Farrnolds had a line of 21/18/1 in 51 minutes and committed only three fouls. Joel posited in the breakdown that perhaps having Farr on the court drew some of the attention off Jalen and let him operate more effectively. With this newest data point in hand, it's now possible that Coach Mack will run his double pivot out there together much more often. Here are three salient points from the Jalems Farrnolds double pivot.

1. Jalen dominates the ball when paired with James

Farrnolds have played together for about 14% of the minutes (with some margin for error) in Xavier's latest five games. In all of the lineups in which they appear together, Reynolds has the highest usage rate on the team. In fact, Reynolds tends to dominate the ball in those lineups. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Jalen's offensive efficiency is only four tenths of a point lower than Trevon Bluiett's for the year. Xavier clearly makes an effort to pound the ball into Jalen when the double pivot is in the game.

Interestingly, James' usage rate doesn't change when Jalen comes into the game. Farr is primarily a scavenger (that's not an insult) and very rarely is the initiator of the offense. Most of James' usage rate of 22.6% (Jalen is at 24.6% on the year) comes from his insanely high 19.2% offensive rebounding rate. There's no meaningful fluctuation in his rate because he just keeps doing what he does.

2. Xavier changes the way they play when the double post is in

This might seem obvious, so let me explain. In most of Xavier's most common lineups the highest usage players are the guards and wings. When both bigs are in, that changes drastically. When playing a double big lineup with Sean O'Mara, that same change isn't there, the wings still use the ball more. When Farrnolds stands astride the lane, Xavier drastically changes the way they play and starts feeding it into the post. Even when Coach Mack goes full big and brings Trevon in alongside Farr and Reynolds, it's still Jalen that gets the ball most of the time. When Xavier goes big, they fundamentally change the way they play.

3. Edmond Sumner and Jalems Farrnolds don't know each other

This is partly due the fact that the double came when Sumner got hurt, and partly because Xavier becomes post oriented when Farrnolds combine. If Farr and Reynolds are on the floor together, you are much more likely to see Myles Davis keying the offense. No one on the team has a high a usage rate as Sumner does. When he is in, he's running the show. When Coach Mack runs both of his bigs out there, he uses Myles or Larry (both of whom have far lower percentage of shots taken, to key the offense.