In European soccer, some coaches are known for creating what is known as a fortress mentality or atmosphere. The locker room becomes a place where every member truly believes that “we” have been written of by “them.” That the them is never defined doesn’t matter, the squad digs in, glares out, and sets about to prove everyone wrong. That’s where Xavier is now. Given the opportunity to bemoan his fate after the game, Coach Chris Mack instead said “we can’t complain about what happened, those are our circumstances.” Led by a freshman who looked fearless for a night and junior who wasn’t going to lose, Xavier sent the first message to the assembled masses that they wouldn’t be going down without a fight.
Quentin Goodin looked like the real deal
How many times this year have Xavier’s guards and guard/forwards lingered outside the lane apparently unwilling to genuinely drive into the defense? Even Edmond Sumner’s frequently fraught trips inside came out of urgency, not an apparent set desire to force the action. Quentin Goodin, certainly benefiting from having the shoulders of a linebacker, showed no such qualms last night. he penetrated the lane routinely and kept his head once he was in there. Yes, the 2-11 from the floor is going to have to improve, but seven assists against only two turnovers in 35 minutes was a massive sign that the kid is ready to go.
Xavier toughened up
Angel Delgado still got his customary six offensive rebounds, but only managed five more. The Pirates came into the game grabbing 36% of their misses but only got their hands on 26% against Xavier. Trevon Bluiett grabbed seven defensive boards, as did JP Macura, and Kaiser Gates chipped in another six. No one who played for Xavier failed to grab the ball off the defensive glass at least once. Seton Hall only came up with nine second chance points, a mark the Musketeers matched at the other end.
The version of O’Mara and Gates need to stick around
The Musketeers aren’t going anywhere if their two inconsistent performers don’t keep it up like they did last night. Sean O’Mara played with energy he’s not shown in quite awhile, most crucially when recovering to a ball that he slapped off the backboard straight to an already running Trevon Bluiett. More importantly, he caught the ball securely in the post and had no turnovers for the game. Kaiser Gates was still only 1-1 inside the three point arc on offense, but he shut down possessions on the defensive glass and made his shots when he came open. if he’s going to be a spot up shooter on offense, grabbing defensive boards is a facet to his game that greatly increases his value. Xavier needs both of those guys to keep going.
The Musketeers are desperately thin
Quentin Goodin played 35 minutes. The question about who the backup point guard would be seemed less important when it became clear that Goodin was playing as much as he could. With Tyrique Jones unable to or just not going, Xavier ended up with four guys playing more than 30 minutes and two more over 20. Jones is going to need to provide some bench depth and everyone else is going to need to get used to doing a lot of running.