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Sunday Conversation: Ed Sumner needs a jumper, but the 8-2 Muskies are sitting pretty

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Sure, things haven’t been perfect. They’ve still been pretty darn good.

NCAA Basketball: Utah at Xavier
I still love you, Ed.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Joel

So... a lot has happened since we published one of these. Let's start with the positives, since I suspect we'll be able to find plenty of concerns. I think RaShid has turned a real corner; this isn't a mirage. He's by percentage the #2 offensive rebounder in the nation. He took it to Colorado and then demolished Utah on the glass. We aren't winning any awards with our offensive execution right now, but as long as we miss with Gaston out there, we're going to get the extra chances we need.

Paul

Agreed, the biggest concern coming into this year was rebounding and Gaston has really stepped it up in that area. He's played with more intensity these past few games which goes a long way in the paint. I think we'll continue to see improvement throughout the year as he settles in and gets used to playing against tougher competition. The other positive for me would be the play of the freshman. Goodin has been on the court for Xavier 40% of the time, but it feels like much less than that which is actually a great thing for a freshman back up point guard. Jones has played less but has rebounded the ball well and been a human highlight reel off the bench. Mack has needed to ask more of them than he'd probably like, but I think both have answered the call really well given the circumstances.

Joel

We don't get a ton of production from our bench right now in terms of minutes. Only about a quarter of our minutes on the year have come off the pine. This, like so much else, figures to change when we get Myles back. I don't feel like we've played really well this year except for maybe the second UNI game. We aren't as good as we were at this point last season, but I think our ceiling is equally high.

I feel like Ed has taken a step back this year, but I guess the numbers don't bear that out. He's posting basically the same ORtg but defending better and playing more minutes. It almost feels like he's really defendable in the half court though. Am I the only who feels like that?

Brad

I definitely feel that. I did the same thing and check the numbers like you did though. Those don't really bear out are feeling that he's more defendable anywhere other than behind the arc. He just doesn't look as explosive as he did last year. This could be a case of the eyes lying though.

Paul

Totally agree. For a team who has 3 of the best guards in the nation, I dont think they create enough easy looks for each other. I'd really like to see Sumner try to get into the lane more and draw fouls or create opportunities for his teammates.

Joel

I think a big part of it is that Sumner just isn't a threat from mid-range or beyond the arc. He shoots 26% on two-point jumpers and 23% on three-pointers. Meanwhile he shoots almost 60% at the rim and his FT% is back up over 70%. If you had the choice between ending up on his YouTube reel or standing six feet away from him and watching him shoot jumpers, which would you take? Opposing defenses are overwhelmingly siding with the latter. The dude needs a jumper. He's a taller LAJ right now.

On the plus side, I do think JP and Trevon are settling in. When JP couldn't miss from deep last night, Tre was content to watch him work. By the end of the game, they both had 18 points despite Bluiett not hitting a three. I think they're the core of something potentially special this year. Shid is looking good, Kaiser is warming into it... the pieces are there, right?

Paul

Absolutely. Chris Mack has been Xaviers coach for 8 seasons, including this one. Lets go back and take a look at where his teams were at early in the season.

2010: Started 8-5, none of those 8 came against at large tournament teams.
2011: Started 8-5, one win over an at large team.
2012: Started 9-5. At this point we had just lost 5 out of 6 including Oral Roberts, Long Beach State, Hawaii, and Lasalle.
2013: Started 7-6. Losses to Pacific, Wake Forest, and Wofford.
2014: Started 5-3 after getting swept in the Thanksgiving tournament. Proceeded to get taken to OT by BGSU and beat Evansville by 3, both at home.
2015: Started 12-7. Losses to UTEP, Long Beach State, Auburn, and Depaul.
2016: We started 12-0.

Now lets look at how seasons ended with those teams.
2010: S16
2011: 6 Seed, lost to the best 11 seed I can remember.
2012: S16.
2013: Missed the postseason.
2014: 12 seed.
2015: S16.
2016: 2 seed

This is my long winded way of saying that one good season has quickly made Xavier fans forget what real worry over a team looks like. We have the advantage of knowing for a fact that the players on this team are elite, and the team has the ability to be elite. Chris Mack has fixed the issues with teams much less talented than this and made them great, so we should expect nothing less with this team. We're 8-2, 19 in Kenpom and 4 in RPI with a team missing its senior leadership and seeing some players only beginning to realize their potential. This team will be great in March, and we should be happy we have a coach so fantastic at the process of building towards March because after watching Huggins for many years at UC I can tell you frustration in December is much better than frustration in March.