As we look ahead to the grind of Xavier’s conference schedule, we can make prognostications of what we think may happen (which I am sure we will), but ultimately the future remains, for now, unwritten. What is not unwritten is the past. It has, in fact, been written about quite a bit on this very website. So, while we can talk all we want about the future, let’s see how Xavier performed in their 12 previous games this season, and rank both how they performed and glean what we can from the patterns that emerge.
#12 Xavier 61-76 Baylor: December 3rd
As the calendar turned, so did Xavier’s fortunes as their undefeated record went by the wayside in a complete meltdown in Waco against a team now ranked in the top 5. There was a lot to not like about what went on (for instance: losing), but most galling was the 10 second half turnovers and the 15-28 mark from the line. Trevon Bluiett was the only Muskie to get anything going on offense, leading to stagnation when he wasn’t on the floor and probably contributing to the fact that JP Macura felt compelled to take 16 shots despite it not being his night. Takeaway: Xavier can’t survive not executing well against top teams by a large margin.
#11 Xavier 83-82 Missouri (OT): November 17th
To understand how bad this win was requires understanding how bad Missouri is. They lost to North Carolina Central from the MEAC. At home. By 10. Yet here was Xavier needing the worst defended out of bounds play in basketball history to hold them off in overtime. A 2-22 performance from deep didn’t help, but the biggest issue was probably the fact that O’Mara and Gaston went for 25 points on 8-11 from the floor but, well, only shot 11 times from the floor between them. Takeaway: X cannot be one dimensional on offense, especially if that means going away from what is working.
#10 Xavier 84-81 Lehigh: November 11th
Xavier opened the season by very narrowly surviving a second half surge by a tenacious Mountain Hawks squad, surrendering 25 points to Tim Kempton in the process. 17 turnovers and a 4-17 mark from three were both blemishes, but X made Kempton work and got 49 points on 31 field goal attempts from Sumner and Bluiett combined. Takeaway: Sometimes you just feed who is hot and see how far he/they can take you.
#9 Xavier 66-68 Colorado: December 7th
Compounding the effect of the Baylor loss on the psyche of Xavier faithful, this loss came in a game that followed a sickeningly similar script. Turnovers were down, but Xavier left points at the line with a 13-21 performance and got only 6 points, 9 boards, and 4 turnovers from 41 bench minutes on the road. Once again Trevon was shouldering a large part of the load himself, although Gaston would add 14 and 11 before being conspicuous in his lack of touches down the stretch. Takeaway: When the starters are out or off, X can’t afford empty minutes from the bench.
#8 Xavier 67-59 Northern Iowa: November 20th
Xavier won an in-season tournament for the second year in a row by beating the Panthers in Orlando in what was a somewhat ugly game on both sides. X assisted only 7 of 24 makes but held UNI to 8-24 inside the arc and forced them to settle for threes. Of course they drained 10 of 24 to keep it close, but the inability to establish anything inside kept them from maintaining much of a foothold as the game wore on. The bench of Gaston, Goodin, and Jones came up big for X in 47 minutes of play, scoring 16 points and grabbing 13 boards to secure the win. Takeaway: When the bench gets minutes and produces, Xavier is really hard to keep up with.
#7 Xavier 69-65 Wake Forest: December 17th
Xavier trailed by one at the half but did just enough to get this one across the line. It would have been lower were Wake not Xavier’s second best win this year. 15 turnovers hampered X’s stop-start offense all game and another rough day from three (5-17) didn’t help get the engines going. 4 points in 43 minutes from the bench got them the opposite of congratulated by Coach Mack, and when you consider Malcolm Bernard only had 3, that is a lot of scoring left to Gaston, Bluiett, Sumner, and Macura. Fortunately, they had 62 points in them that day. Shid and Ed were the most efficient scorers, but Ed did have 6 turnovers blemishing his record. Takeaway: When none of the role players are scoring, it is all the main guys can do to keep up.
Hopefully looking at Xaiver’s 6 worst games this season has been a cheery trip down memory lane for you all! Obviously, better memories are yet to come, but the trend that in unavoidable in the games in which Xavier has struggled the most is the absolute need for the team to function as a unit and get production out of all of its parts. Xavier appears to no longer be a team where a Jordan Crawford, Tu Holloway, or Semaj Christon is on the ball 70% of the night, hauling the rest to success. These guys work best in a mixture with one another, not so much as a one-man show.