Xavier's season was one for the ages. A top five ranking for the first time, top 10 rankings from December through the end of the year, finally beating Villanova, and a dominant 12-0 run to start the year. None of those things, though, comprise the moment of the season. That belongs to a whippet thin freshman guard who rose with Octavius Ellis in the Crosstown Shootout and delivered a hammering that sent UC crawling back to the depths of the AAC and served notice as to who the new bully on the block truly was. When Xavier fans look back fondly on the 2015 season, this will be the moment they remember.
As with all great plays though, Ed didn't emasculate Ellis in a vacuum. That final dunk was the product of a well drilled team doing what it should on defense and in the open court. Today, with the season long past and a fresh spring breeze coming in through the windows, it's time to take a look at Xavier's play of the season.
The play started with UC needing a bucket to answer Jalen Reynolds scoring on Ellis in the post. Xavier had stormed out to a big lead early but the Bearcats had come back and now the teams were trading buckets, waiting for the chance to land a big blow. Xavier showed man early on defense, but set up their calling card 1-3-1 for this possession. Note the length on the floor with Remy at the top and Ed on one wing.
Ellis sets a half screen low on Trevon, which frees Kevin Johnson in the corner. Johnson finishes the season shooting 31% on 130 three point attempts, but on this occasion he headfakes no one, and then hesitates. At this point, UC goes from being the aggressor to the victim, as both Bluiett and Myles Davis sprint to close the jaws of a trap.
Johnson panics and tries to cram the ball into the post. Jalen has rotated quickly, Myles is already digging, and Trevon has spun back to follow the pass. In short, this was a terrible idea. On the back side and out front, Edmond and Remy have both already anticipated the turnover and are in the midst of turning up court. Most importantly, Jalen fights over the top of Shaq Thomas to outlet.
Jalen fighting over means Myles Davis comes up with the loose ball and can head up court. Reynolds may take some stick at times for not seeming to get the most of his prodigious physical gifts, but he is right now, sprinting hard down the middle and freeing Myles to go left. Remy Abell has flared to the far corner and Edmond and Trevon are following the play. Xavier has every channel filled. UC, meanwhile, has four guys watching the ball. Only Jacob Evans has his head up to see trouble developing at the top of the key. This is fastbreak defense 101, and the Bearcats are failing.
Here's where the day is won. Jalen, hustling all the way, has pulled Octavius Ellis deep into the block with an early and aggressive post. Good coaching is evident in unscripted play, and Xavier's guys are well drilled and playing the situation perfectly. UC is reacting like a YMCA team. Evans, God bless him, has to decide between Trevon and Ed and can't guard them both. Troy Caupain hedges hesitantly, but doesn't stop the ball. Shaq Thomas and Kevin Johnson have both played the situation so poorly that they might as well grab some popcorn.
That blur in the middle is Ed Sumner, and he's about to destroy Octavius Ellis in a nationally televised game. UC, so long known for their physical approach to sort of playing basketball, is embarrassed here. Caupain dug gingerly and is out of the play, Reynolds posted Ellis so hard that he's reacting late, Evans is taking a despairing flat footed swipe. Johnson and Thomas are playing in name only. In 15 seconds UC has gone from trying to cut the lead to four, to watching a jet heeled point guard shove it on their renowned shot blocker.
One more time, at full speed.