I’d imagine watching a vet torture your dog for about two hours before finally putting it down would roughly approximate this Xavier game. The Musketeers came into one of those season defining games where the backs are against the wall and dangerous teams come out swinging. That’s exactly what happened tonight, but it was the Marquette Golden Eagles who may have punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament, while Xavier plunged into the thick of the bubble morass. The Musketeers now need to beat DePaul, likely twice, and then win at least once more game in the Big East tournament to be likely to get their name called on Selection Sunday. Does anyone feel like that will happen?
Coach Mack had a bad game:
We’ve been supporters of Chris Mack here for a long time and we’ll continue to be. However, that doesn’t make him above criticism and tonight’s game is ripe for it. For starters, Xavier chose to switch every screen. That sounds good in theory, but it constantly left big men chasing guards all over the place. That meant that Marquette racked up 19 assists on 33 made baskets and ran what amounted to a layup line in the lane. It was clear six minutes into the game that switching screens was the wrong idea, but X just kept with it anyway.
That’s not all, though. Switching screens with RaShid Gaston, who was a monster, is one thing, doing it with Sean O’Mara is quite another. Xavier is blessed with a freak of nature in Tyrique Jones, who can run the open floor like a guard despite being built more solidly than your dad’s shed where he keeps the tractor. While O’Mara was busy spinning like a turnstile, Jones didn’t even manage double digit minutes. In a game begging for someone, anyone, to put a body into one of Marquette’s bevy of shooters, Xavier’s junkyard dog was inexplicably nailed to the bench.
That brings us to offense, where Xavier’s plan was apparently... Actually, no plan was apparent. X didn’t really establish the post or work the slip screens Marquette was using to get shooters open. Make no mistake, when Coach Mack made sure a set get run, Xavier got good looks, but too many possessions, especially in the first half, degenerated into ball stopping and bad long range looks. There are myriad caveats to any criticism right now, but surely this was not the best Xavier could do, even with this personnel.
Trevon Bluiett is not ok:
I’m aware that the team is saying Tre’s ankle is 100%, but it very obviously isn’t. Tre got 15 tonight, but there is just no explosion in his game right now. He’s never been an Edmond Sumner pick your jaw off the floor type player, but his elevation to get his shot away has always been there when he needed it. Right now, he can’t jump clear of anyone and he isn’t laterally quick enough to make space. The drive he added to his game to open up the shooting isn’t there now. That makes him a spot up shooter. He’s a good one, but Xavier’s offense is begging for a dynamic scorer.
It’s all bad:
There’s just not a lot left to say. Xavier needed this game and they didn’t get it. They allowed 50 points in a second half for a second straight game. Flipping back through past results it’s easy to find games where teams struggled to get to 55 points, now they approach it in a single half. The Musketeers were still game, but there was a tinge of frustrated resignation in some of the shots they took and some of the defensive effort in the second half. They’ve not quit, but they look as if they’ve seen the writing on the wall. This season is dead in the water now, and it’s going to take three straight wins to rescue it.