Brad: So, beyond a bizarre and mildly amusing Twitter feud with ETSU fans, there’s a couple of things to take from that game.
1. JP was horrible. X was +16 with him off the court. I have no idea what his deal was, and Q wasn’t a lot better. Despite that, Paul Scruggs didn’t play.
2. You cannot spot a good team 22 points with 14 minutes to play and win. Credit to ETSU for accepting what they were given, but Xavier should have lost this game. Chris Mack pushed every right button down the stretch while the Buccaneers looked increasingly helpless to do much more than watch. The last 6.8 seconds were perfect coaching to win a game.
Paul: I’m not sure theres a ton of great takeaways from this game, besides Xavier coming out completely flat. I'd chalk this up to a team getting a little too complacent after handling the hard part of their schedule coupled with losing focus after finals. Even good teams play bad games, and its great to get a reality check with a win rather than a loss.
I'm not sure what JPs deal was either. I wonder if he had a bad week as Mack chose to put him at the end of the bench rather than let him play through his struggles. On the other hand, Naji was absolutely fantastic. He was the only one who brought it all game.. 15 points on 4-5 shooting, 4-4 from the line, 5 rebounds and two assists. This kid is really special.
Bryan: Scruggs and Harden were suspended according to Coach Mack. That being said, Q wasn't great for most of the game today, but he came up with a couple big buckets.
I think Big Sean and Naji were the big winners today. Marshall was pretty much our best player for most of the second half, which is a big development since our depth will be tested in BE play.
Joel: I've pimped Naji as the next JP, but he really went above and beyond in making me look good today. Our depth today was the difference between a win and a loss. A team without that can't endure nights like we got from JP and Tre for the first half hour and not come away with a loss.
Forty minutes didn't look good on Q today. I wonder if a breather would have been good to pull him out of his little funk. We basically have our starting point, a freshman combo guard, and nobody at the one. Is that a problem? It feels like it to me.
Paul: I think it depends. Its definitely a problem in BE play if Scruggs is a liability. When you have to play Butler, Creighton, SH, and Villanova in an 11 day stretch you need a backup PG who is going to be able to come in and give you minutes without sacrificing too much in what will inevitably be close hard fought games. It seems possible, if not probable, that a lack of a solid backup costs us a game or two in conference. Once you get to the tournament, however, I'm not sure it matters that much. Q proved last year he can play all game in March and win games.
That said, Scruggs is roughly 25% done with his freshman season, playing the hardest position to play as a freshman. We dont need him to be great, just good, and he still has plenty of time to get there.
Bryan: I guess one positive of that game is that, if we hit the heights we hope to this season, that is about the level of team we can expect in the first round of the tournament. We shot 30% in the first half, spotted them a 22 point lead, and still won. I guess if we see a similar situation in March this experience might help the players not panic and focus on taking advantage of matchups, which is what they did this time. I don't know, I am really reaching for big positives.
Brad: It’s amazing that in a game that featured the largest Cintas comeback ever we are stretching to find positives. I think that’s born of our expectations for this team, and how truly awful we were yesterday. The last time we played a regular season game that bad was February of last season, in depths of the six game losing streak. Even not all of those were as bad as this one. X was truly miserable yesterday.
Joel: Is it amazing? To make that comeback, first we had to get down 22 to a frankly mediocre mid-major that needs to win an auto bid to sniff the tournament. It takes a lot of crappy play to get there. If I knocked out my 42-pound nephew but I was behind on the cards when I did, that wouldn't be a great bout for me. [Ed. note: Joel rarely punches children, should you meet us in oublic, your kids are safe.]
Bryan: Yeah it was not a great display by any means. One thing that stood out was the amount of quality shots X missed. There were too many turnovers and second chances given away, but if we shoot anything like normal, it is a blowout. Tre and JP went 7-30 without actually forcing all that many bad shots, they just weren't hitting good ones. It was not a good display, but it was made to look much, much worse by some frankly unusual shooting performances.
Joel: Can we talk about Tre for a minute? Riding a wave of confidence thanks to his 6-22 mark from the floor to that point, our hero ignored Coach Mack - who, by the way, had just added to his genius resume by getting a wide open three-pointer for a three-point shooter despite the fact that everybody in the gym knew it was coming - and his instruction to call a timeout with the pointed apathy of a dad who is just tired of answering his kids' questions. His answer for this behavior in the presser was, "I saw the shot I wanted."
That shot was apparently hanging out on the opposite side of the court at the time. Tre dribbled into it with his left and then took a 17-foot, dead leg fadeaway with three defenders draped all over him and not another Muskie in the picture. Square to nothing, hips facing one way, shoulders facing the other. It went in, because of course it did. He was on his Tu Holloway stuff right there.