Xavier came out flat, needing four possessions in two and a half minutes to get on the board. More troubling than the offensive start was the defensive effort, as Xavier got zero stops in that time and found themselves down nine on the road before they even got on the board. The Muskies cut it to a single possession several times, but a 23-7 run over the last 9:22 of the first half put Xavier in a hole they could never find a way out of. Seton Hall moves to third in the conference at 11-5 in Big East play, and Xavier has locked into the two seed in the Big East tournament.
1. This was a lot more about Seton Hall than Xavier
As much as it pains me to say it, the Priates are playing really good basketball right now. One writer who covers the team said that their rotation is so locked in right now not even Kevin Willard could screw it up, and a team full of talented but mercurial players is settling in. Since losing at Cintas to fall to 3-4 in conference, Seton Hall has ripped off 8 of 9, moved to 3rd in the league standings, and all but locked up their tournament bid. Playing the number three team in a major conference on the road is going to be a big ask, and Seton Hall proved today that they deserve that kind of respect.
2. Xavier can't let the ball stick
The Musketeers had just 12 assists on 30 made buckets today, for an assist rate of 40%. In their four losses on the year, the Muskies have 50 assists on 95 made buckets (52.6%), which is a tick below national average. In their 25 wins, Xavier has 406 assists on 658 made buckets, for an assist rate of 61.7%, which would be in the top 20 nationally. Xavier has plenty of very talented offensive players, but playing as a unit is what has gotten the Muskies this far.
3. The Muskies still haven't played in a close game this year
Today wasn't a referendum on Xavier's ability to play from behind, but it also wasn't a really encouraging data point on that front either. Xavier has played pretty comfortably down the stretch in almost all their wins and not had very late opportunities in any of their losses. Maybe this doesn't tell us anything about how they'll roll in March; maybe it never even becomes an issue. Until such time as we know for certain, it is something to talk about.
4. Xavier is still a national championship contender
Wednesday's win over Villanova didn't win Xavier a bid to the Final Four. Yesterday's loss against Seton Hall doesn't mean that Xavier is destined for a first round upset loss and an offseason of angst. Of the teams ranked in the top 10 this week, eight lost. A total of 73 top ten teams have gone down this season. If a loss - and this wasn't even a bad one for Xavier - of this caliber eliminated a team from national title contention, we'd have to roll this year's crown into next year's tournament like unused cell phone data. I don't know if you were nursing a low-grade freak out because of this, but if you were, you don't need to be. Xavier is a very good team with a couple of interesting flaws; it's not clear that anyone in the nation can claim to be anything better right now.