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Xavier looks like a Final Four candidate, but the Big East picture is muddled

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Does anyone want to be the third-best team behind Nova and Xavier?

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Joel

Xavier played 142 possessions of defense against a couple of teams with really good offenses this week and gave up 127 points, for a raw defensive efficiency of .894 points per possession. I know every loss feels like it portends a first-round exit, but the defense woke up this week after sleepwalking through those two home wins. I feel good about this team again.

Paul

I feel great about this team again. Fans love to overreact about a couple let down games in February, but that's not atypical even for the best coaches and teams. Great teams come to play in the biggest games and that's exactly what Xavier did today in a game that Butler needed in a bad way. Everything about the game confirmed why we thought this team was final 4 caliber. Balanced scoring, good defense, and good rebounding. If we carry this effort and momentum into March well be in better shape than any Xavier team in the past heading into the tournament.

Bryan

I think both the teams we played this week were desperate, but Creighton channeled it into a focused, intelligent effort, whereas Butler just played super rough and hoped the refs didn't call it (which they didn't). The difference I saw in X between games is the switch we saw happen against Marquette. This just isn't a stand around, chuck it to your big gun, watch him score, rinse and repeat team like we had with Crawford, Holloway, and Christon. These guys have to get into the game on defense and be unselfish on offense to put someone away and it was a very encouraging sign to see them do that today.

Brad

What I most like to see is, again, Coach Mack had the team ready after a loss. We didn't come out that well, but it wasn't because the plan wasn't good, just the execution took a bit. The talent and depth Bry mentions are vital, but so is having a coach who gets the team in a position to win.

Paul

Very good point. Great teams know how to refocus after a loss and that's exactly what we did today. It seemed like we had a good game plan today and executed well. Reading between the lines a bit I'd imagine Mack told Remy he needed to have a great defensive game against Dunham and that's exactly what he did, while also having a very solid offensive game as well.

Joel

How about Big Game James taking ownership of the paint in the second half? I assign Jalen no blame for his performance today, because he was dominating when the officials weren't sticking him with garbage foul calls. When we were burying the game though, James had defensive rebounds of first shots in four of five and five of seven Butler possessions, and his two resounding blocks had the Bulldogs wanting no part of going all the way to the rim. He didn't get much on offense, but he was a monster everywhere else.

Paul

12 rebounds and no points is an incredible stat line. Is there anyone you can look to today and say they played poorly? Chris Mack went out of his way to complement LAJ, OMara, and Kaiser and all 3 earned it. Total team effort.

Bryan

We knew Butler was there for the taking down low with their rotation being extremely shallow there. Even with the ridiculous refereeing, which bailed them out on both ends of the court, the fact that we have a dude like Sean O'Mara to bring off the bench was huge. Does Remy shoot more when we play man? It seems like it to me, but I don't know if there are stats on that or not. Anyway, having him in attack mode today was another thing that made a big difference because Butler couldn't hide any of their bad on the ball defenders on a dude who probably wasn't going to shoot.

Joel

Here's a fun fact: JP leads Xavier in two-point shooting percentage in conference play. Here's another fun fact: JP leads Xavier in three-point shooting percentage in conference play. A third fun fact: JP would lead Xavier in free throw shooting in conference play, but he doesn't have enough attempts to qualify. His ORtg in conference play is 122.5, 1st on Xavier and 4th in the Big East. In Xavier's last six, he has posted an ORtg of under 128 just once. The dude is an offensive machine. The cherry on top of the whole experience is that Butler was recruiting him hard, and now he's throwing a gigantic middle finger their way with needless but awesome dunks.

What do you guys think of the way the conference is shaking out? Villanova is going to win it, Xavier is going to finish second... and nobody else wants to step up. It's X, Nova, and a bunch of bubblish teams. Is anyone going to make a run?

Paul

A few weeks ago I predicted Georgetown and Butler would make runs. Well that window is quickly closing. Creighton, Seton Hall, and Providence all have the schedule to potentially make a run down the stretch and it wouldn't surprise me if one did but I couldn't guess who. It's a little disappointing to see the rest of the big east look so average, but Xavier picked up enough solid non conference wins that it shouldn't effect our seed too much.

Brad

I think Providence is in barring a pretty major collapse. Seton Hall and Butler are both going to need to do some work to be comfortably on the right side of the bubble. What is really odd to me is the way Georgetown has folded. I didn't expect them to be great this year, but this level of ineptitude is a surprise. They've played themselves to the point that the absolutely have to beat Marquette, Butler, and one of Xavier or Nova to even be back in the conversation.