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Grading Coach Mack: Defense

Xavier's defense started the year well and was amazing at times, but it faded as the season wore on.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to everyone who participated in this year's Banners on the Parkway postseason report cards. With the players done, we are moving on to breaking down the various facets of Coach Mack. In addition to showing how the community rated the coach on offense, defense, man management, and overall, we'll be assigning and explaining our own grades as well. If you've missed any of the previous breakdowns, check them out in our 2016: Season in Review section.

Coach Mack: Defense Votes % of Votes
A 67 29.3%
B 121 52.8%
C 38 16.6%
D 1 0.4%
F 2 0.9%
Community GPA: 3.09


Xavier's defense finished the season ranked 20th in the nation in efficiency. At times, it was bloodless. Alabama and Dayton got absolutely suffocated, UC didn't fare much better, and Butler went through the wringer twice. It was also, at times, a disaster. Seton Hall had no issues with the Musketeers defense in either of its iterations, the Georgetown loss was both inexcusable and horrendous, and Villanova did whatever they wanted in the game when Edmond Sumner went down. With extreme outliers in both directions, there's really only one grade to give here.

Coach Mack on Defense: C

That seems really harsh for a team that finished 20th in the nation in defensive efficiency, but the whole numbers don't tell the real story here. Of Xavier's 17 worst defensive games (roughly the amount of times they were average or worse) all but five came in February or March. Two more of those games came in conference play, leaving Xavier with all but three of their worst defensive games coming when they really mattered. The Musketeers gaudy ranking was built a great deal on plowing through the non-conference schedule in the way they did.

Those games count, of course, but there's no denying that the Musketeers defense wasn't as good down the stretch as it was when they built their resume early. Part of that came because teams figured out the 1-3-1 to some extent. Creighton and Seton Hall led the way in that by placing ball handlers opposite JP on the top and then attacking the short corners. It wasn't for lack of effort that Xavier got beat in their zone, but every zone has places where it can be attacked, and teams started to find those.

The rest comes down to Xavier's well documented inability to guard anyone in the man to man. How much of that is Coach Mack's fault is debatable, but the simple fact is even playing the packline didn't keep Xavier's guards from getting blown past. Take a bow, Creighton, for also victimizing Xavier here. Unable to effectively stop penetration left Jalen Reynolds and James Farr in the position where they were picking up fouls because they had to go up with attacking guards.

That leaves Coach Mack with a C. The team was great at times and rotten at times. Fair or not, it's on the coach to figure out how to make the defense work well enough to win. Xavier was able to keep rolling in large part because they could outscore teams. In a slow paced game though, the margins become slimmer and the defense has to crack down. One of those 17 late games where Xavier's defense wasn't quite what it had been early in the year? Wisconsin.