There are times when the result of the game can inspire very different reactions in different people, or even different reactions in the same person. The loss on Saturday could have been one of those games. Xavier showed guts in fighting with everything they had, but also had to confront that everything they have right now is simply not enough to stay competitive with the best teams in the nation for 40 minutes.
There are still six games left on the conference slate. That’s enough time for Trevon to get healthy, or to get more injured. It’s enough time for RaShid to build on what he did on Saturday, or to slip back into his malaise. It’s enough time for Quentin Goodin to work on finishing in traffic (or out of traffic), or more than enough time to let bad habits creep in. Xavier’s season is in the balance and it’s at this moment that Coach Mack has to pull the right strings to get the team where it needs to be come mid-March. Our feelings on the game, and where this team is headed, are somewhat divergent.
Brad: I didn't get to see all of this game thanks to work commitments, so I'm not sure how to feel about it. Should I be encouraged we played tough without Tre or discouraged that we never really closed that gap?
And, man, we shot horribly.
Joel: Can I choose a different option? I'm going with resigned. This is who we are now. Tre and Ed can both function as primary scorers, but when they're both out, we've got a dynamic secondary guy, a revolving door in the post, whatever Malcolm and Kaiser decide to be that day, and a freshman point guard. We looked painfully in need of a focal point on offense today, like the post-Klose German national team.
Despite that, there's plenty to be encouraged by if you're looking for it. We rebounded like demons. We never stopped fighting. RaShid was good. Q had 6 assists and only 2 turnovers (and 13 missed shots, which I don't have to explain to you is awful). I feel like the season rests on Bluiett's ankle. If he's full go, this supporting cast and a good night from him can play for two weekends. If he isn't, we're screwed. I think it's that simple.
Brad: The parts of the game I saw today felt almost like being tainted. It was a demonstration of how good the supporting cast on this team is, just without the big guns to make it stick. When Goodin figures out how to finish he could be immense. He's shown he's not afraid to take a game on, even when he maybe should be.
Joel: He's got a little bit of Dee Davis in him in that regard. Do you trust Shid on the post? Obviously he did well against Nova, but they didn't have a real post defender on the floor. Against bigger men, Tyrique has seemed to be tougher to handle, at least from my angle. It's hard for me to reconcile what I see on the floor with how good Gaston's numbers look.
Brad: No, I don't. His efficiency (110) isn't what you'd expect from someone who gets full a quarter of his shots as putback attempts. That's largely because he makes 52% of those putbacks. Tyrique, on the other hand, makes 78% of his. Even Sean O'Mara makes 69%. Gaston is a great rebounder, but he's only a mediocre post player.
And that is where Coach Mack comes in. As the temperatures bump 60 this weekend and spring seems just around the corner, the Musketeers will be figuring out how to finish this season out with a hobbled leading scorer and a six or seven man rotation on a team built for ten. Final Four talk has gone by the wayside, but there is still time for this team to put on one of those runs that leaves you explaining pronunciation to friends at the office.