Did last article seem like a downer? Well being realistic, Xavier has had games where they just weren't quite up to snuff this year. The good news is that there have also been times that Xavier, for the most part, has looked like a bonafide Big East contender. Here are the games in which X produced the goods to win in varying degrees of style.
#6 Xavier 77-69 Utah: December 10th
There was a lot to like about Xavier's offensive performance in this game, although issues could be spotted with the defense. 4 starters were in double figures, Xavier shot 8-17 from three, and X got back over 40% of their own misses, Gaston in particular shining by grabbing 8 offensvie boards. Lorenzo Bonam and Devon Daniels found a lot of space inside the arc against X and went 14-19 on two pointers combined, keeping the Utes in touching distance far longer than they should have been. Takeaway: When X is able to balance the offense, everything clicks better.
#5 Xavier 85-56 E. Washington: December 20th
X got off to a sputtering start in a gmae they were supposed to win in a runaway against by far the worst team they have played to date. After 10 minutes, X trailed by 6, which was down from the 11 it had been, and looked like they were going ti be in for a long night. Ed Sumner insured that would not be the case with his best game of the, posting efficiency rating of 198, and the defense clamped down to make this one the runaway it should have been. It was a comfortable win, but EWU is a pretty bad team, so it should have been. Takeaway: Don't panic after a slow start. When X brings their guns to bear, no lead is safe (especially if you aren't very good).
4 Xavier 85-55 North Dakota State: November 29
This was pretty much just a straight up pummeling of a worse team. The Bison will contend in the Summit League, but are only above DePaul in Kenpom rankings among Big East teams. Bluiett led the way with 23/5/7 as Xavier met expectations in this one. Takeaway: Xavier can simply beat a team down, if the talent gap is there.
#3 Xavier 86-53 Buffalo: November 14th
In their second game of the year, X got in some MACtion by hosting a Buffalo team fresh off an NCAA tournament appearance. Buffalo ranks only one place higher than NDSU in Kenpom and was similarly dispatched from Cintas Center having suffered a thumping. In what you may see as a theme, JP Macura was the big performer for Xavier, posting 18/2/3 without turning the ball over. Tyrique Jones coralled 11 boards in 21 minutes and Buffalo rarely looked competitive. Takeaway: When Xavier has more a hot hand after Sumner and Bluiett, they will blow lesser teams off the court.
#2 Xavier 83-77 Clemson: November 18th
This game is this high for two big reasons. 1) it is by far Xavier's best win so far this year from a tournament resume perspective. Clemson is 19 places higher than Wake, X's next best win. 2) it showed precisely how hard Xavier is to guard when the three pointer is falling. JP Macura hit 6-11 from deep and had 28/4/5 for the day. This led to Sean O'Mara seeing single teams in the post and scoring 10 points in 12 minutes. To top it off, Trevon Bluiett went toe to toe with Jaron Blossomgame and outdid him in the second half as Xavier held off the Tigers. Takeaway: Xavier is dangerous when hot, Trevon is dangerous when angry.
#1 Xavier 64-42 Northern Iowa: November 26th
The story of this game for X was defense. We have focused on the offense a lot this season, but when this group brings the energy on the defensive end, they can do a lot of damage. The score at half time was 35-12, showing how completely Xavier's defense had dominated a team that had faced them for 40 minutes just 6 days before. Some of it was strategic adjustments, but mostly it was that Xavier was all over the passing lanes from the word go and never let the Panthers get a clean look at the basket. Takeaway: Xavier's defense will take them places if they keep their energy and focus high.
So what we can see from these snapshots is that Xavier has all the elements present to be a great team come March. They work best when they share the ball, shoot well from the outside, and stay intense and focused on the floor. I wonder if they could add a guy who brings all three of those elements to the table...