It was great to see Xavier back on the court in a game that actually mattered. 40 minutes later though, it seemed like a lot more questions had been raised then answered. We convened the brain trust to talk through the first game of the year.
Joel: Basketball is back! So, how about that home opener?
Paul: Not exactly the most impressive 40 minutes of basketball, but a win over a quality Lehigh team nonetheless. Biggest surprise for me was OMara getting the start and 25 minutes to Gastons 14. Bluiett and Sumner took care of business as everyone expected. Plenty to improve upon but I dont think it's worth dwelling on too much after one game.
Bryan: It is a lot easier to look past some of the problems with the performance because we won. This isn't a team I see shooting 23% from three and turning the ball over 17 times a night. That being said, what this game showed is that the margin for performances like that is pretty slim since realistically Lehigh is far from the toughest competition we will see this year. I am content to chalk this one up to rustiness and jitters and believe this is just the team getting off the ground, but if that happens against Baylor, Colorado, or any of the other stiffer tests in the non conference schedule, I can't see it not resulting in a loss.
Paul: Agreed on all points, so long as we're playing 8 guys the margin for error is much smaller. Game reminded me a lot of last years opener where XU turned the ball over 15 times and didn't shoot well from 3s resulting in a too close for comfort game against Miami. With that said, we beat Michigan by 16 at Michigan 7 days later.
Joel: Not only are we relying on just eight guys, but half of them were executing the system in a meaningful situation for the first time. I'm hoping that accounts for some of the sloppiness we saw out there against Lehigh.
With that being said... Sean O'Mara had an ORtg of 141, and RaShid Gaston posted a 164. They combined to shoot 7-9/0-0/1-2, and I thought O'Mara looked composed with the ball in his hands. I've got no conceptual problem with our guys who are going to play in the NBA trying to control the game, but should we have been looking to establish the post more?
Brad: Joe certainly thought so during the game. Offense wasn't really our issue though, 84 points should win you most games. Our defense was pretty bad for long stretches of that game. The 1-3-1 is clearly not in midseason form yet, and we're going to be stuck running it for a lot of minutes given our lack of depth. It's one thing to be down to seven or eight rotation guys by late February, to start that way and have anything left in the tank come March is really a big ask.
Joel: Which isn't to say it's impossible. Two years ago, Coach Mack took this team to the Sweet 16 with just over 30% of its minutes coming from the bench. Xavier made the 2012 Sweet 16 with exactly 30% of minutes coming from the bench. Maybe the crowning achievement in this field was the 2011 team, where 14% (!) of the minutes came from non-starters and Coach Mack still took them to the tournament before getting beaten by a bad matchup against Marquette. Mack has been a magician with thin teams in the past.
Perhaps more pressingly, those teams all featured a high level of continuity from the previous year. This team is blooding in four new guys - three of whom weren't even on campus before this year - while also working with a short rotation. Kaiser obviously won't be full strength immediately on his return, but we need to hope that he will be soon after. Having him and Myles back and clicking would make a huge difference for this team.
Brad: Just for some perspective, the school where I did my postgrad work, Akron, just dumped their season opener against the 253rd ranked YSU Penguins. The Zips don't have nearly the expectations X does, but listening to those games on back to back nights made struggling a bit with Lehigh seem not so bad.