If the night is always darkest just before the dawn, then one can only figure that Xavier’s season is about to burst forth into glorious day. The other option, that Xavier continues to plow forward into the crater, is difficult to contemplate. There were long stretches of the game last night when X looked like it was going to come up with the win it so desperately needed, but a 10-2 second half run by the Pirates put the Musketeers into a hole they never climbed out of. If there is a pattern to this mess so far, that may well be it.
Xavier is on the bubble
This game dropped Xavier onto the bubble. You may see people saying the heavy lifting has been done, and it has, the problem is that the lifting was not as heavy as we’d hoped and it didn’t factor in a collapse late in the season. X now needs to start compiling wins and watching scores. Right now, most bracketologies have them in the dreaded 8/9 game. The trip from there to Dayton is not very long at all.
JP can’t be a focal point
JP Macura thrived last year as the guy who provided variety off the bench. Even early this season he was excellent zipping in and out of space that Edmond Sumner and Trevon Bluiett created. Now, frequently having to try to make his own shot, he’s become a volume scorer who doesn’t take care of the ball very well. Last night he finally cracked 100 in offensive efficiency again, but it still took 7-17 from the floor to get him there. Once Trevon comes back into his legs JP can move a bit away from being the focus of the offense, but his audition for the leading man role has not been successful one.
Q was once again a bizarre combination of really good and bad last night. Against Creighton in his second start in Sumner’s role, he went for 15/3/5 and made five of his 14 shots. Since then he’s made more than field goals in a game just one time and hasn’t scored in double figures again. He’s eight for his last 40 from the floor. On the other hand, last night was his second straight game with eight assists against only two turnovers. His assist rate of 27.2% in Big East play is good for fourth in the conference. Goodin isn’t scoring or finishing at all, but he is setting up teammates better than any Xavier freshman since the turn of the century.
Trevon isn’t a panacea
In a vacuum this wasn’t that bad of a loss. Xavier went on the road and lost to a team that they barely beat at home. It happens in major conference play. Trevon Bluiett was supposedly the magical pill that this team needed to win again, though, and it didn’t happen. Bluiett returned for 38 minutes and his ankle looked fine even if his legs weren’t quite there. He was unable to paper over the fact that the bigs aren’t reliable scoring options, Xavier isn’t a good shooting team, and a 20% turnover rate isn’t sustainable. Trevon will help, but he’s not going to suddenly make this team good.
An opportunity and possible final nail loom
Butler comes to the Cintas on Sunday. That means, blessedly, that Xavier won’t be on the road and that the Musketeers can dig themselves a little bit back up toward daylight. Of course, that also means that the losing streak could go to five against a team that just buried Villanova late on the road. The Bulldogs held Nova’s vaunted offense without a single point for over five second half minutes. Who thinks that augurs well for Xavier?