One of the most fun things about subscribing to Kenpom every year is using it to notice things that you may not have seen watching the games. Here are a few of my observations thus far.
- One of the bigger issues I had with Xavier last year was they had the 35th fastest tempo in the NCAA. Sure, this was great when they were going on huge runs against USC, Dayton, Butler, etc but perhaps not so great when we trying to hold a lead in a game I still don’t have the stomach to mention by name. This year Xavier is sitting at 108 in adjusted Tempo, a much more reasonable number. One way I have read this explained is that young teams play like heavy metal (wild, exciting, brash, but a bit out of control) while more experienced teams play like classical music (elegant, precise, and always deliberate in when to go slow and when to speed it up.) Last year, I thought at times Xavier (and more specifically Sumner) played a little too out of control, like heavy metal, leading to poor shot selection and a 2P% that was lower than it should’ve been. This year, a slower (but still above average) tempo and higher 2P% may indicate that Xavier is learning to play a bit more like classical music, while still utilizing their strengths as a fast-paced team, which is a very good sign.
- Xavier is currently shooting 29.6% from 3, which is good for 301st in the nation. Now this is undoubtedly a very poor 6 games of 3P shooting, but I’m going to flip the script on this and tell you why it’s a good thing. Xavier is a team full of good 3 point shooters, you know it and I know it. Bluiett shot 40% from 3 last year and is currently shooting 25.6%. Myles Davis shot 38% last year and has not yet played this year. Kaiser Gates, the CM proclaimed "second best shooter on the team" (a VERY bold statement) has shot one 3 so far. Even Sumner and Macura are below last season’s average. This year’s percentage has nowhere to go but up, and up it will eventually go as this team settles in, I’m sure of it. Now with that said, Xavier has a pretty darn good offense in spite of 3P% and is 6-0 because of it. Is it better to be shooting 30% from 3 knowing you can still beat good teams in spite of it, or to be Creighton who is good largely because of 3s and only beat Mississippi by 9 shooting a ridiculous 61.5% from behind the arc? If Xavier looks like a top 10 team shooting 30% from 3, what will they look like if they start shooting 36% like last year? A great example of this is Villanova. In 2015 they shot 39% from 3, good for 21st in the nation, and scored 43% of their points from behind the arch, good for 32nd in the nation. Come tourney time they went 9/28 (32%) against NC St, which led to them losing in the second round. Live by the 3, die by the 3. 2016 Villanova, however, shot 34% from 3 in the regular season, good for roughly 180th in the nation, and took a much lower percent of their shots from behind the arch. They had a great offense in spite of the 3 ball, demonstrating this by still beating Kansas while shooting 22% from 3, but were able to get hot from behind the arch in their other games leading to one of the most dominant tournament runs in history.
- JP Macura has been the team MVP so far this season. He leads the team in offensive efficiency (by FAR of those playing >50% of minutes), effective FG percentage, True Shooting percentage, Steal Percentage, and Free Thow percentage. For all you old school fans out there, he also leads the team in 3P made and 3P percentage, FT made and FT percentage, steals per game, is second in assists, and leads in points. Perhaps the most important stat in my mind, however, is that in Xavier’s biggest game thus far against Clemson he put up 28 pts while also having far and away the best Offensive Efficiency on the team. Macura is an absolute stud, and may be the best "3rd option" in the nation. He can take over games when Bluiett and Sumner aren’t at their best, which is a huge luxury moving forward.
Thanks for reading, and always put your thought, praises, and criticisms in the comments.