The story of this week, and maybe the rest of the year, for Xavier is Trevon Bluiett’s ankle. Xavier’s leading scorer and best player is hobbled currently, there’s really no other way to phrase it. The ankle originally went in a game against Seton Hall when Bluiett ended up hitting the game winner with four seconds left. Against Creighton and DePaul there were hints it wasn’t feeling good, but it wasn’t until Trevon fully rolled it again against Villanova that he missed significant time.
Xavier has six regular season games left and then the Big East and (hopefully) NCAA tournaments. Without Trevon they aren’t going deep in either of those competitions. That leaves Coach Mack in something of a bind. Should he rest his star and let him reach 100%, or play him at less than his best, knowing wins are considerably less likely with Bluiett on the bench?
The case for rest:
As Trevon goes, the team goes. Wins in February are nice, no one wants to watch their squad lose, but they don’t ultimately make a huge impact on things. Xavier is going dancing unless they utterly collapse at this point. The outcome of Butler at home or Marquette away isn’t going to have a huge impact on that. If Trevon’s ankle isn’t 100%, let him sit those games until it is. The Musketeers need their best player at his best in order to go to the second weekend and shock some people that have already buried them. He’s not going to get that way if he keeps playing, even if it’s only a few minutes per game.
Tervon being a college athlete, he’s not likely to want to sit, but this is where Coach Mack needs to draw the hard line. Maybe Bluiett misses two games and then comes back ready to pour in 25 per game. If Xavier splits those two (Providence and Marquette) has it really done any serious damage to the team? Even 0-2 isn’t knocking the Musketeers out of the tournament and it could lead to them having Bluiett champing at the bit for a meeting with Butler that could impact seeding. Rest him, don’t keep aggravating it, and let things get back to how they should be.
The case against rest:
Losing is never the best outcome. All these pundits and coaches with their “you can learn a lot from a loss” don’t want to say that the main thing they learn is that losing sucks. Every time. Essentially bagging one or two games by sitting Trevon sends the message that a couple of losses are ok. In addition, this team has already had to patch players in and out and try to find some sync. Is benching the linchpin really going to help Quentin Goodin and JP Macura when they play 40 minutes with a swirling amalgam of parts around them?
And yes, Xavier is probably going to the tournament no matter what happens from now on, but the seeding is a concern. Right now a lot of projections have Xavier on the 6/7 line. That’s not a bad draw, but slipping down two places is a possible disaster. Hitting the 8/9 line means getting Villanova in the second round instead of someone like Florida St or Virginia. One or two extra losses the rest of the way put Xavier right in that situation.