After a bright start featured a brilliant comeback win over Wisconsin, Xavier’s recent games have looked decidedly less encouraging. A rough win over GWU turned into an absolute hammering at the hands of a good, but not great, Arizona State team.
Brad: So what just happened in Vegas? Xavier looked sloppy against GW, but then looked flat awful against Arizona State. 73 points allowed in 23 minutes must be some sort of Xavier record for futility.
Bryan: Lumping in the Hampton game, the reaction to beating Wisconsin seems to have been negative. Sure X is 2-1 in those games, but none of them have seen the same level of intensity on defense or focus on offense. I am not sure what the game plan was against Arizona State, but our bigs shooting 14 times against a team that straight up can't guard the interior was probably not part of it. I'd like to think we will see a return to basics this week after that result.
Joel: I feel like ASU was a matchup featuring a couple of traditional Mack weaknesses. We all know a team that can shoot it from deep is almost always going to make it rain; that's why X has struggled with Nova (aside from the fact that they're just really good) and those Wragge era Creighton teams.
The other is force feeding the post. Aside from occasionally the Stain Train, I feel like X has been hesitant to just keep throwing it in there. How many times have we seen a big man go something like 5-6 and be just eating in the paint, but not continue to get touches? They couldn't stop Kanter or Jones. Why we went away from them when they shot a combined 10-11 is beyond me.
Brad: One thing that wasn’t usual for a Coach Mack team was the way X just wilted in the second half. I figured the ship would be righted at the half, but instead it went full on horror show. Rarely does a Xavier team wilt in the face of a challenge, but there’s no question they did on Friday. It wasn’t so much that there was no answer to Arizona State, so much as there wasn’t even an attempt.
Bryan: I think that was partly just down to playing against an opponent that was unbelievably hot from the field. There was definitely an element of giving up in the last 4 minutes, which was concerning after Mack had questioned the effort level earlier in the week.
Brad: I don’t mind not chasing a lost game, but we didn’t play active defense when it was still a contest. There’s another test coming up this week, and I expect we won’t see that same laxness.
Elias Harden is looking more and more a man out of his depth. When we didn’t have Q out there, Harden got demolished defensively and he’s yet to really contribute on offense. Scruggs is clearly a step ahead.
Joel: It's amazing how much the program has progressed in terms of recruiting in the last ten years or so. I can remember BJ Raymond's unspectacular early efforts and be willing to just ride it out with him. Now freshmen who come in needing a lot of development are less and less the norm.
Looking ahead, we've got a couple of big games this week. Baylor and UC would look nice on the resume come March. I think we'll score enough to win both games, we just need stops.
Caleb: We’ve come leaps and bounds with our non-conference scheduling as well. Baylor is going to be a great test to see if our defense against ASU was just a fluke.
Bryan: The debut of the zone was not a roaring success this year and ASU clearly had a plan for dealing with it, which, to be fair, seemed to hinge on their ability to shoot the lights out. Do we need a new change of pace option since people know to expect the 1-3-1 or was the fact it didn't work just down to their crazy good shooting?
Brad: Any zone is susceptible to a team getting blazing hot and shooting someone out of it. I’m sort of inclined to tip the cap to a team that knocks down 48% of their threes. What concerns me is that our standard defense was shambolic. The change of pace not working is one thing, the constant beats off the dribble and trips to the line are a real worry to me.
And Caleb is right, Baylor and UC can shoot it, too.