Xavier’s first win and its second both count for the same when the standings are tabulated, but the difference in how they felt to the fan will be immense. After looking thin and ragged against Lehigh, the Musketeers pulled away from Buffalo early and this time didn’t look back.
1. This one was never in doubt
If you split this game into ten minute quarters, Xavier led 27-11 after the first, won all four, and generally clamped the game down before it could start. For a team that ripped away from Lehigh before really struggling, this was a good sign. The Musketeers never really let off the gas, but in this game no one recorded more than 30 minutes. Edmond Sumner and JP Macura will have a lot more punch left in March if they aren’t playing 35+ minutes per game.
2. The officiating is yet to settle down
Every year we get new points of emphasis and instructions to officials to cut down on physical play. Every year the refs start out by calling everyone who so much as looks at someone else crooked before eventually losing their nerve and driving everyone crazy with conference play that is officiated sometimes like it always has been, sometimes like the start of the season, and sometimes both in the same game. Last night, the officials got themselves television time to the tune of 59 fouls called. Buffalo alone was whistled for 38. When basketball games start taking almost as long as baseball games, there’s a problem.
3. Xavier’s rebounding isn’t great
I’m aware it’s early, I’m aware Kaiser Gates isn’t out there, and I’m aware that foul trouble has created some problems, but Xavier’s lack of depth isn’t glaring anywhere as much as it is on the glass. Last season’s team grabbed 35% of their own misses and 74% of their opponent’s. So far this year those numbers have dipped to 32% and 74%. That may not seem like a lot in either direction, but it’s the difference between being in the top 40 nationally in both rates and not cracking the top 100. Tyrique Jones is grabbing an insane 47% of defensive rebounds but has yet to snag one off the offensive glass. Sean O’Mara is having somewhat the opposite problem, and Rashid Gaston’s general excellence on the glass has been diminished by limited playing time. It’s not a major concern yet, but the competition for rebounds isn’t going to get easier as the season goes along.
4. Xavier’s offense is great
11th in the nation in efficiency, to be exact. After the game last night Coach Mack said he wasn’t worried about the offense, and it’s easy to see why. The two players with efficiencies below the break even point of 100 are Malcolm Bernard and Tyrique Jones, the two players on the team with the lowest usage rates. Xavier’s big three of Sumner, Macura, and Trevon Bluiett are all at 114 or above in offensive rating and have combined to go 30 of 34 from the line. God willing, the addition of Myles Davis will bring some more punch from behind the arc, where the team is still knocking down 35.7% of their attempts, and Kaiser will add a bit more threat from the four spot. That would truly make for a fearsome offense.