Xavier got back on the winning track yesterday by visiting a large barn in Indiana and beating a team that desperately needed a win to get back on the right side of the bubble. While the Musketeers didn't start terribly well, they switched into go mode in plenty of time to dispatch the Butler Bulldogs. Lack of effort and gameplanning weren't issues this time, and Xavier rolled to 22-3 to maintain a two game lead on third place Creighton (!?). Since it was Butler though, the game couldn't just end without something to spark the flames.
1. The Butler Way
I don't know what The Butler Way is. Does that mean being a more obnoxious but less successful version of Duke? Does it mean oozing entitlement despite having a grand total of five Sweet Sixteen appearances ever? Maybe it means trying every possible way to exploit the rules and turn what was a basketball game into a 94 foot street fight. Why you would do that when your team is as soft as melted butter is beyond me, but that was The Butler Way yesterday. There was a lot of Twittersphere talk after the game about the mystical idea of "class." It's possible that class means knowing when a superior program has slapped you down, again, and shutting up about it.
2. JP Macura > The Butler Way
Whatever The Butler Way is (is it letting opposing fans take over your home court?) JP has no use for it. With 10 seconds left Butler was inbounding in a game in which they had capitulated long before and JP came up with a loose ball steal. Rather than simply dribble out the clock, Xavier's dunk champion elected to race to the hoop and crush home a vicious tomahawk on an unsuspecting victim. After a game that Butler elected to drag into the mud rather than play straight up, the message was fairly clear. When teams elect to get ugly against Xavier, it's the Musketeers one man case of human poison ivy who sets things aright.
3. The defense looks vicious again
In Butler's final 52 possessions yesterday they scored 34 points for a decidedly underwhelming .653 points per possession. Xavier's defense was absolutely smothering. Butler's guards are only possessed of average speed and when not up against a quicksilver guard, Xavier's man to man is still more than capable of a good old fashioned zipping up. During the 30-8 run that decided the game the Musketeers took the opposing crowd completely out of it and looked very much like a shark scenting blood. That defense with the offense Xavier has shown all year is a Final Four level combination and that's not an exaggeration.
4. Remy in attack mode
It was posited that Remy Abell looks for his offense more when the team is playing more man to man. As Remy is designated to get out for early offense when he can during the man, that makes some sense. Assuming that the games the team plays more man to man are the games Remy plays more fleshes that out. When Remy plays 25 or minutes per game he averages 9.6 points on 5.8 shots. What is surprising about that is that Remy's average offensive efficiency rating in those games is 104.1, the exact same as his season average. Essentially, Remy is much more assertive in looking for his offense in games when Xavier favors the man.