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Water Cooler Takes: UNI

Xavier rolled to 6-0, but do they need help soon?

NCAA Basketball: Northern Iowa at Xavier
One of these guys came ready.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

A scorching hot team demands scorching hot takes. Yesterday sports talk was abuzz about a conference game in football that was decided by three points and what it could all possibly mean. Come Monday morning, you’re going to need some good stuff to get everyone’s attention back where it should be, on Xavier basketball.

Xavier needs Myles Davis back, and soon

I know it seems like a bit of a stretch to say that any team that is top 10 in both polls and 6-0 needs much of anything, but it’s true. Last year’s Xavier squad shot about 7% higher from behind the arc than this group currently is. Some of that is down to Trevon Bluiett’s bad start, but this group really only has JP Macura as a consistent outside threat. Yes, the Musketeers made up for that deficiency by subjecting Northern Iowa to the kind of physical play not often found out amongst the cornfields, but that isn’t happening to that extent against Villanova or Baylor. Xavier needs a defense stretching shooter soon.

This group is currently playing like a complete team

The Musketeers are 6-0 without much from Davis or Kaiser Gates in large part because the whole is currently greater than the sum of the parts. X has four rotation players with a better than average offensive efficiency, but the 13th most efficient offense in the nation. Only Rashid Gaston looks anything like the defensive rebounders that James Farr or Jalen Reynolds were, but double digit rebounding rates from Edmond Sumner, Malcolm Bernard, and Bluiett are helping end possessions better than all but 23 teams in the nation. Only JP Macura has a steal rate over 3%, but the team is forcing turnovers at a 22.6% clip. There isn’t a standout star right now, but everyone is doing something to help the wins keep coming.

Chris Mack is elite

Go to any other team in the nation that was ranked in the top 25 at the start of the year and remove a rotation player for mysterious reasons that land him back in Canada and then yank two starters. Where does that hypothetical team end up? Sure, the Duke and Kentucky type teams of the world might land on their feet, but that would greatly damage a lot of programs. Xavier is 6-0 and has played, at least according to KenPom, the seventh toughest schedule of any top 25 team. Far from feasting on cupcakes, the Musketeers have rolled through a relatively impressive group of conference contenders despite their losses. That’s down to the influence of the man on the sideline, and the UNI win merely showcases how much he outworks and outplans opponents. Given equal time to prepare after a game decided by eight, Chris Mack and Ben Jacobson quickly demonstrated that there is a difference between good coaches and elite ones.