Last time Xavier lost back-to-back games, it was to a future #8 seed St. John’s and a future #1 seed Villanova, on the way to being a #6 seed and making the Sweet Sixteen. The natives were a bit restless then and all that was before top 5 rankings, beating the #1 team and future National Champions, and a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament last season. Needless to say, the two game losing streak on which Xavier finds itself currently has fans clamoring for answers and solutions to get the season back on track.
Last time out, Xavier fell short against Colorado 68-66, owing much of the blame to poor outside shooting, poor ball retention, poor free throw shooting, and an inability to shut down Colorado’s perimeter threats, all issues that had dogged them throughout the year and in their previous loss to Baylor.
|Edmond Sumner||So.||G||6'6"||186||34.8||14.6||4.3||4.3||0.459||0.227||0.692||A nightmare of a lead guard to try to defend. Sumner is lethal in the open court and an explosive finisher. He spent the summer working on his jumper; when he's hitting that, he can't be guarded. His length and athleticism help him make up for the occasional lapse on the defensive end.|
|J.P. Macura||Jr.||G||6'5"||203||34.7||14.7||4.4||3.4||0.378||0.288||0.917||JP is a lot like Pistol Pete with better hair, right down to the fact that he's not going to stop shooting just because he's missing. A 2-16 performance against Baylor has marred his line, but he can really fill it up. When he's not trying to expand his YouTube reel, he flies to the offensive glass, patrols passing lanes, and generally makes a nuisance of himself.|
|Malcolm Bernard||Sr.||G||6'6"||202||29.1||4.7||4.7||1.1||0.357||0.348||0.364||Malcolm transferred in from FAMU and we're still trying to figure out exactly what he is at this level. He defends really well and puts in a shift on the glass. His offensive performances have been all over the place so far, but I guess there's the potential he gets hot and makes someone look silly.|
|Trevon Bluiett||Jr.||G/F||6'6"||205||33.9||19.3||5.9||2.6||0.424||0.357||0.822||Tre is more or less a jump shooter masquerading as a scorer, but dang if his jumper isn't the stuff people used to write poems about. He can hit from all over, and he has great footwork and a quick release that help him score even when the opponent knows what he's about to do. He's strong enough to defend most fours, and he does good work on the defensive glass. The only player to really have played well in both losses, he is riding a 12-23 streak from three into this one.|
|RaShid Gaston||Sr.||F||6'9"||239||17.8||6.9||6.8||0.6||0.533||0||0.519||A transfer from Norfolk State, Gaston looked vulnerable offensively against the early stages of Xavier's schedule and borderline overmatched against Baylor. He's always been good on the boards and woke up with 14 and 11 against Colorado, his best game by far.|
|Sean O'Mara||Jr.||F||6'10"||245||15.7||7.2||3.1||0.4||0.609||0||0.75||O'Mara isn't going to put anyone on a poster, but he has solid footwork in the post and can score to either hand. He has struggled the past two games, but he is usually a reliable below the rim scorer. His rebounding is splint almost evenly between the offensive and defensive glass.|
|Quentin Goodin||Fr.||G||6'4"||194||16.6||3.9||1.4||1.7||0.52||0.375||0.462||A freshman guard that I really like, probably even more than Coach Mack does. He's still learning game speed against elite teams, but he picks his shots well and provides good length and athleticism in the back court off the bench. A really solid defender.|
|Tyrique Jones||Fr.||F||6'9"||243||11.4||2.4||4||0.3||0.435||0||0.25||Tyrique is a junkyard dog on the court right now. He goes after the ball like he can only secure more playing time by securing more rebounds, and it's not clear that he's wrong. His offensive game lacks nuance at this point, but he's a beast on the glass and the best shot blocker on the team. Also, he would foul out in about 16 minutes if Coach Mack left him out there.|
|Kaiser Gates||So.||F||6'8"||228||15||2.8||3.8||0||0.25||0.214||0||Kaiser is coming back off of off-season knee surgery and plainly doesn't have his legs back under him right now. He is capable of defending 1-4 and scoring from all three levels, but has been almost a complete non-factor in the 4 games he has played this year.|
The Musketeers are a really good offense with a couple of fairly meaningful limitations. Let's discuss what kind of props the offense up first: Xavier is an incredible offensive rebounding team. They grab almost 36% of their own misses. That helps them to be the #22 team in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency despite being right around average in EFG% and TO rate and just a hair above average in free throw rate. Xavier is probably a better shooting team than they've shown so far, but the numbers reflect the season at hand. As far as strategy goes, Xavier usually plays four around one and keeps the ball moving to get scorers into spots where they have an edge on their defenders. Coach Mack is a magician with set plays.
On the other end of the floor, Xavier does everything well within about 20 feet of the bucket. They are an exceptional defensive rebounding team, contest shots well, and force a reasonable amount of turnovers. The Achilles heel of this team is three-point defense; they’ll concede the arc to the extent that teams take more than 40% of their shots from deep. If you can make it rain, you’ll have the chance to do so.
Other Things to Consider
- Senior guard Myles Davis is still MIA for Xavier this year, clearing up some legal troubles from this summer. He is not expected to rejoin the team before Big East play starts.
- Xavier is 29-49 (59%) on free throws in the past two games, which has been problematic. Certain members of the public have taken this up with the players on twitter, a stance we at Banners wholeheartedly oppose.
- Gaston, O’Mara, and Jones have real trouble not assaulting opponents on the floor. None of the three commit fewer than 6 fouls per 40 minutes.