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Water Cooler Takes: Total Collapse

Xavier needed a win very, very badly last night. For the sixth straight time, they didn’t get it.

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Xavier
“Why can’t we win anymore?”
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

At some point during that two and a half hours of misery last night, announcer Nick Bahe said that Xavier was safe in the tournament as long they “don’t have a collapse.” While Nick should be shown some consideration for his apparently unquenchable optimism, he was blissfully unaware of the carnage around him. Xavier has already collapsed. It can get worse, yes, it can, but the wheels are off and the car has hurtled into a bridge abutment.

Xavier needs three now:

As things stand, Joe Lunardi has Xavier in one of the play-in games, Jerry Palm has them as a falling ten seed, and Chris Dobbertean has them right on the edge of the bubble as well. If the season ended today, Selection Sunday would be an exercise in gut churning stress. Thankfully there are two guaranteed games left. Unfortunately, they figure to both be against DePaul. Winning both of those doesn’t really boost Xavier’s resume at all. No committee member will be impressed by a team that has three wins since Feb 8th, and all of them against one of the worst teams in major conference basketball.

That means that X needs to win another game if they beat the Blue Demons twice. The winner of that 7/10 Big East tournament game gets the two seed, Butler. Xavier has lost to Butler twice this year, once by five, and once by nine. To get in the tournament, they’d have to win. Lose the first game against the Blue Demons and they need to at least make the Big East final, and likely win the tournament. Lose the second one and it’s time to ponder whether an NIT bid is worth it.

The problem wasn’t the offense:

Recently the offense was what was keeping Xavier from winning games. Last night they scored 1.18 points per possession, a number that should result in a win. It was the defense that was the issue last night though. Some of that did stem from the offensive end. Marquette turned 14 Xavier turnovers into 25 points. Kaiser Gates was the main culprit there, somehow getting 17 minutes of playing time despite turning the ball over five times. (More on that later).

Outside of Duane Wilson and Haanif Cheatham, neither a major cog in the Golden Eagle offense, no Marquette player had an offensive efficiency under 100. Two, Katin Reinhardt and Matt Heldt, managed an efficiency over 200. Xavier simply couldn’t stop anyone. The constant switching meant that both JP Macura and Malcolm Bernard ended up guarding 6-11 Luke Fischer in post. When that looks wasn’t there for Marquette, they took advantage of Xavier’s defensively slow footed forwards to get clean looks from behind the arc. It was a bloodletting.

Kaiser’s disappointing season continues:

For a brief stretch there, it seemed like Kaiser Gates had put things together. He was driving, monstering on the glass, and enjoying an expanded role. That stretch lasted about three weeks, from St. John’s until Seton Hall. In the last two games Kaiser has played 43 minutes, collected two rebounds, scored only ten points, and turned the ball over five times while only taking seven shots. Gates didn’t start the season well after his knee surgery and he’s not really turned the corner despite his hot stretch. Kaiser has all the potential in the world and the body to fulfill it, but he’s too frequently hesitant, he’s painfully slow defensively, and he just can’t seem to put it together. He may well end up being Xavier’s Big East Jeff Robinson.