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Water Cooler Takes: Uh Oh

Xavier ate up a lot of their margin for error by going on the road and getting crushed.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Marquette Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

There is a story that surrounds the sinking of the Lusitania that involves a man with a gun calmly fighting off panicked men who were desperate to escape the rapidly sinking ship. As those men frantically hurried for the boats, they cast aside women and children and some took life belts from the less fortunate. The man with the gun and others like the implacable Alfred Vanderbilt remained on board, passing out flotation devices and calming those who hoped for rescue as best they could. As the Lusitania thundered beneath the waves just 17 minutes after being torpedoed, the helpful and hopeful were overwhelmed by the sea and those all too eager to leap off the ship they had boarded not that long before.

The good ship Xavier Nation now finds itself in a similar circumstance. After an explosion, then a lurch, the ship is now taking on water at a truly alarming rate. Panic stricken fans now race for the exits, screaming as they go “Quentin Goodin can’t score!,” “Coach Mack doesn’t know what he’s doing!” and “Xavier has fallen apart... they’ll get stomped if the make the tournament!” Even long standing and venerated fans who can remember teams with Aaron Williams are beginning to wonder if this thing is truly going to stay afloat. After last night, it’s hard to blame them. Unlike Lusitania, this season will reach its end. It’s hard to say with any certainty that it will do so with any measure of success.

What just happened?

You can be forgiven for thinking that Xavier hasn’t played a game recently that was so conclusively over before it had really even started. Even in last year’s game against Villanova when Edmond Sumner went down, the Musketeers kept the game closer for longer. The year of the brawl Xavier fell behind to Baylor 22-4, but almost immediately came off the mat swinging (figuratively). Last night, Xavier took the early hammer blow and simply never recovered. There was no rally, there was no fightback, there was no moment where it looked like momentum might swing. Even when Xavier crawled back within ten, Marquette answered with authority. Once again the Musketeers didn’t quit, and once again their efforts made no difference.

The offense is broken

Tyrique Jones and Sean O’Mara put up gaudy offensive efficiency ratings, but the offense was once again under one point per possession. It won’t surprise anyone to learn that the last time it wasn’t was in Trevon Bluiett’s last game. Xavier can feed the post and score, but that tends to go by the wayside in games where the deficit climbs rapidly. Against Marquette that happened early, against Providence it happened late. The Musketeers are effective in the post, but have to keep games close and score much more efficiently to make that matter. Right now the utter lack of any outside threat enables opponents to eventually clamp down on the post.

Quentin Goodin is halfway there

To focus on the positive would be to note that Q had eight assists and only two turnovers last night and now sports an assist rate of 26.1% against a turnover rate of only 19.7% in conference play. Those are excellent ball distribution numbers for a freshman, far better than Tu Holloway or Dee Davis and much more closely in line with Semaj Christon. Like all three of those guys, though, Goodin is struggling to put the ball in the basket. Christon leads the bunch with an efficiency of 95.6 as a freshman, then comes Tu’s 91.4, Goodin’s 84.8, and Dee follows the pack at 78.

None of those are good, but where Goodin really loses ground is in his shooting numbers. Tu is the only other guy under 40% from inside the arc, and he balanced that out with deadeye free throw shooting and and 32.7% from deep. Right now, Goodin is doing neither of those things. Yes, he’s having to do a lot at a moment’s notice, but he’s simply not shooting the ball anything even vaguely resembling well right now. The debate will undoubtedly rage on, but at this moment, Q is half of a very good point guard and half of a very bad one.

Xavier may not be safe anymore

We aren’t yet at the point where bubble watches and bracketology update daily, but you can bet that the outlook isn’t a rosy as it was earlier this week. The Musketeers are probably still safely on the right side of things, but getting destroyed in a game that you arguably should have won goes a long way into eating up any remaining margin for error. Last year the highest rated team in KenPom that missed the tournament was St. Mary’s at 34th. Right now Xavier is 37th. Don’t get trampled by the masses rushing for the exits, but at least recognize that the panic may not wholly be an overreaction.