Xavier met a top 25 opponent at home last night and ran their record to 5-1 against other teams with the number in front. Ponder for a moment that not only has Xavier played six other ranked opponents this year, but that the only game that they lost was on the road to the #1 team in the nation in a game in which their point guard suffered a horrific fall. Last night's game featured a first half that built up all the cushion that Xavier would need and served notice that the Musketeers were not in the mood to mess around off the tip this time.
1. The Creighton loss may have been a good thing.
After Xavier went on the road to not play the Bluejays, Coach Mack lit into his team. Since then, the Musketeers have slapped 28 points of win on two quality opponents. The team didn't start as well as they would have liked at Butler, but they didn't let it bury them like it did at Creighton. Last night, Xavier roared out of the gates and they were the ones that buried the game early. It seems weird to say that losing might have helped a team, but it may have been the wake up call that these guys needed. It's certainly hard to argue with the effort since then.
2. Kris Dunn isn't the hero the media makes him out to be.
Once the Friars got down last night Dunn did everything in his power to try to instigate something that would get his team back in the game. I don't mean that in a basketball way. Dunn ran his mouth at James Farr, pushed Jalen Reynolds whenever he could, and generally flounced around like an offended diva. If the gamesmanship of JP Macura is a scalpel, Dunn's was a crudely wielded machete.
Much like Michael Jordan in his prime, Dunn gets the whistle whenever he wants it. (It's hard to imagine how many free throws Edmond Sumner would shoot if he got the same calls). Unlike MJ, Dunn gunned multiple three pointers off the backboard, had half of his teams turnovers, and was totally outplayed by a far less heralded competitor. Dunn might have a great future in the NBA, but he's not a great college guard.
3. Myles Davis has evolved greatly in his time at Xavier.
That was the most Myles Davis of triple-doubles last night. While my favorite memory of Myles will probably always be his explosion of emotion after capping the incredible Georgetown comeback in 2013, he's grown into an unassuming, rock steady, do it all leader. In contrast to the flash that Providence tries to play with, Myles just kept doing whatever his team needed to win until that finally happened and he collected his 11/12/12. Myles didn't shoot well last night, but he scored when he needed to. To go with that this year, Myles' assist rate has jumped nearly 10% to 24.8% while seeing only a 2% increase in turnovers. Add in an commensurate increase in rebounding rate and offensive efficiency and you have a player that exemplifies what Xavier does in four years.
4. Providence is playing themselves onto the bubble.
This means looking at the RPI, which I hate to do, as it's what the committee uses. The Friars have two big wins, Villanova and Arizona, to hang their hat on. Those are their only top 50 wins to go with five top 50 losses. Xavier is 6-1 in that same category. Against the top 100, Providence is only 8-5 against Xavier's 10-3. Providence also has three "bad losses" according to the RPI. There are no chances to improve their resume with wins in the regular season (depending on what you think of Seton Hall) so the Friars may need a win or two in the conference tournament. With an RPI of 36 and both Palm and Lunardi listing them as a falling eight seed, Providence might be running out of wiggle room.
5. Ed Cooley must not have watched those games.
Ed Cooley: "I would love the opportunity to see these guys (@XavierMBB) in the Big East (tourney), playing at Madison Square Garden."— Shannon Russell (@slrussell) February 18, 2016
Ed may have misread what was happening when his team drew withing six, but even at that point their chances of winning were...4%! According to Ken Pomeroy's probability charts, the last time Providence had a 10% or better chance of winning the game was with 14:03 to play in the first half. Ed Cooley may want to see Xavier again (perhaps he feels they really get his whining game going), but Providence fans definitely do not.