We've got almost a week to catch our breath here before Xavier hits the court again. While we're doing that and planning for the best holiday on the entire calendar (fight me), here is a handful of things I've taken away from watching the Muskies play four games and listening to them play one more.
Trevon is an underrated defender
This is a drum that I've just recently started beating and you guys (and gals, and people who use non-traditional pronouns) are probably at some point going to get tired of hearing it from me. I think the evidence is clearly present though. First he went right after Jarron Blossomgame against Clemson. Then he was a large part of keeping Klint Carlson quiet in the championship game. Looking back over his body of work, you see Tre going toe-to-toe with Henry Ellenson and telling him about it and having to match up with the physical beating Gary Clark of Cincinnati dishes out to defenders. He has answered the bell every time; maybe we should start recognizing that Bluiett is at the very least capable of stepping up his defense when the moment calls for it.
We need another jump shooter
Xavier is shooting 28% from beyond the arc and 36.8% on two-point jump shots. Those numbers are good for 289th and 162nd in the nation, respectively. Some of that comes from individual early slumps - Tre is a handsome 12-29 on two-point jumpers, but JP is just 4-11 - but much of it is how the roster is constructed. Ed and Quentin are (at times incredibly explosive) drive-first scorers, Malcolm Bernard has shot 1 two-point jumper all year, and the big men are all more suited to playing with their backs to the rim.
Defenses are really conceding the jumper to Sumner, and it seems like just a matter of time until the make Goodin prove he can beat them from outside the lane as well. Xavier's offense is generating a ton of jumpers right now; the Muskies have taken 140 shots at the rim and 161 two-point or three-point jump shots. Too many possessions are coming up empty for X because there aren't enough effective jump shooters on the floor to make this kind of strategy work.
It's time to feed the post
On the other hand... Sean O'Mara and RaShid Gaston have combined to shoot 23-35 at the rim on the year. O'Mara leads the team in EFG% and Gaston is third, with only Malcolm Bernard sandwiched between them. With Ed, Trevon, and JP having combined to go 19-74 from beyond the arc, a shot from a post man at the rim is worth 1.314 points per attempt while one of the big three perimeter scorers chucking a three is worth .77 points per attempt. O'Mara especially has proven adept at carving out deep post position without the ball, but the fact that he has gotten only 19 shots at the rim - four of which have been put backs off of offensive boards - speaks to how little he's getting fed.
Then there are all the natural corollaries of good post play. Someone eating on the post forces defensive rotations in a way that chucking 23-footers does not. You're also more likely to draw a foul and in better position to grab a board and keep possession alive. I don't think Xavier will shoot 28% from deep all year, but it doesn't make sense to keep lifting when your bigs are doing good work inside.
These freshmen are good
Let's start with the obvious: Quentin Goodin dunked really hard on Northern Iowa, prompting me to call him Diet Edmond Sumner on Twitter. That's not meant as a jab; Goodin really is more than we hoped Ed would be before knee problems cost him his first freshman year. His flaws (TO rate, missed FT) seem to be more the product of working through freshman jitters than issues of ability. With the one caveat that I also loved LAJ and Brandy Randy before him, I think Goodin is going to be a big part of what Xavier does both this year and going forward.
Equally obvious is what a dog Tyrique Jones is. His offensive game is as yet unrefined, but he changes the game defensively when he comes in. He's listed at 6'9", 243, and my visual survey indicates that about 240 of that is muscle. He's an excellent rim protector (9% block%) and rebounds like a fiend on both ends of the court. If I could make one slight quibble with his game, it's that he gets called for a staggering 10 fouls per 40 minutes of playing time, which limits his effectiveness a bit. The plus side is that he's Xavier's third big and he plays like Coach Mack told him to go out there and get all five of them while O'Mara and Gaston catch their collective breath.
I know next year's class is heralded, and rightly so, but I'm excited about four years of Tyrique and Quentin.
Being 5-0 covers a multitude of sins
You could ask for a better process through five games, but you can't have a better product than getting five wins. Xavier's schedule so far hasn't featured a team ranked worse than Missouri's 139th in the KenPom rankings and they've played three games away from home and they're still undefeated. Neutral site wins over Clemson and UNI will look really good by the time Selection Sunday rolls around, and the Muskies have done it with two potential starters out and half of the rotation playing for Xavier for the first time. There's work to be done yet, but that's a heck of a start to a season.