I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you, kid, that was bad. Xavier was 64.3% to lose at the start of the game according KenPom’s win probability charts. Twice they flipped that number over: once leading 21-12 in the first half, once when leading 46-42 with less than 15 minutes to play. A 29-10 run later and X had gone from being the favorite to win the game to trailing by 18 and being dead and buried. When you gather around the water cooler (or communion table?) today, here’s the talking points that dominated the game.
1. Xavier’s bigs vanished:
7/15/0. That’s not a classic Takeoff Trav line from back in the day, that’s what Sean O’Mara, Tyrique Jones, and Rashid Gaston combined to do in 50 minutes of court time. 5/9/0 of that came in the first half when Xavier was still playing as a competitive team. There was no question that Xavier’s front line was going to have their hands full with Johnathan Motley and Jo Lual-Acuil, but they flat out didn’t answer the bell, especially in the second half. Gaston, at least, hammered the glass, but his offense has gone from being a concern to being worrisome.
2. Edmond Sumner needs a backup:
Ed’s final line of 19/3/2 was good, especially considering the encouraging 8-10 from the line (more on that later). 37 minutes against a very good and unique defense told in the second half when he turned the ball over three times. Quentin Goodin turned the ball over twice in his eight minutes and didn’t look very comfortable doing. Myles Davis is the easy answer here, but he’s not a panacea. Xavier needs to figure out a way to get Sumner off the ball and still execute something that looks like an offense. Yesterday they got shook and just threw the ball all over the place.
3. Don’t blame JP:
JP Macura went 2-16 in the game. Before you spend any time figuring out what that percentage is, allow me to tell you that it’s so dreadful that the actual digits don’t matter. Macura has taken some grief on Twitter from Xavier fans for continuing to life but, I ask you, who else should have been shooting? Trevon Bluiett was excellent, but he committed five fouls in 15 second half minutes, so he wasn’t always an option. Sumner was getting to the rim, but he steadfastly refuses to shoot a jumper, Kaiser Gates didn’t make a shot in the second half. We’ve already mentioned the front court. For Xavier to get clicking in a circumstance like yesterday, someone has to lift. Were all of JP’s shots good choices? No, but someone had to do it.
4. 16-28 from the line is inexcusable:
There’s really no other way to say that. X went 11-21 from the line in the second half. Free throws are not hard to make but twice int he second half Xavier went to the line for two and made neither, two more times the missed the front end of one and ones, and once Malcolm Bernard stepped into the lane to erase a make. Whether it was a lack of focus, a lack of practice, or just flat out choking, Xavier’s inability to take the easiest points on offer in basketball killed them yesterday. When Baylor needed to be, they were bloodless. Xavier folded, and they did it at the place that could have helped them the most.