Last year after Xavier beat St. John’s on January 6th, they hit #8 in the KenPom rankings. This year after beating St. John’s on January 7th, they landed at 22nd. That’s not quite the same heights, but the meat of the schedule now lies ahead and Xavier is both hitting stride and bringing in one of their best players. The Banners crew sat down around Facebook to kick around exactly how things look with Villanova looming.
Bryan: So we are going into the mouth of the lion finally back at full strength. The first question will be the one on the minds of all Xavier fans right now: what can we expect from Myles at this point? Is there any reason for him to be pressed back into a big role if the bench keeps contributing like it did against St. John's?
Paul: I think Mack will play the players that he thinks give Xavier the best chance of winning. That said, I dont think Myles will be game ready for Villanova and wouldnt expect him to get very many minutes. A player who hasnt practiced or trained with his team in months is just too big a liability to play meaningful minutes against the best offense in the nation. My expectation is for the next 2 weeks to be focused on getting Myles back in shape and clicking with the team, with easing him into games as a secondary objective. After that, I think he gets a chance to prove himself in game against Georgetown and assuming that goes well, he will play as much as possible at UC.
Brad: I'm with Paul here. We all want to see Myles out there knocking down shots but, in the same way that gym FTs aren't game FTs, gym and game defense are vastly different. No matter what Myles has been doing, he's not been in game situations since Wisconsin. He's going to take some time to get back up to speed. Wins in January in conference are awesome (let's storm the court!), but we need game speed Myles in March, not right away.
Paul: For the first time since November, Xavier has now hit 80 points in four straight games. Granted, we have yet to get to the meat of the Big East schedule but outside of Eastern Washington the other 3 teams are solid defensively. Is this the start of Xavier hitting their stride, or just beating up on the bottom of the Big East?
I would say a little bit of both. On one hand, we have shot a lot better from 3 which will make any team look better. On the other hand, Sumner seems to have gained the confidence to be a leader in the offense. I would lean towards this being more of a preview of good things to come than a flash in the pan.
Bryan: I think the key is that we have played teams that did not make good in game adjustments. We took away Bullock and Holt and Providence fell apart, we forced Georgetown's bigs to beat us and they couldn't, we made St. John's work inside the arc and they folded.
Now we come up against the top 3 non-Mack coaches in our conference. I think our shooting and overall ball movement has gotten better, but we will see how it works against a team with a coach that will try to counter punch.
Joel: Ball movement has been a big key; our assist rate is currently tops in the league. I think that rolls right into how well we're shooting from deep because we're getting fairly uncontested looks at the rim. We've also not been nearly as reliant on second chance points as we had been, which is huge. If you're missing first shots and not getting second ones, you're hosed.
Just looking at the schedule ahead, we've got a real chance for our worst loss to be at Colorado. If we take care of business at home and against DePaul and St. John's, Fordham isn't walking through that door. We can have a stout resume in March.