Xavier doesn’t care about its bubble-ridden and injury-riddled past. “If you’re not gonna be on the Xavier bus, that’s fine,” said junior forward Trevon Bluiett. “We’re gonna do it with or without you. We’ll never let any adversity hit us.”
From early December through late February, Xavier kept stumbling. The losses, both to players and against inferior Big East competition, were powerful enough to exhaust the Musketeers of every ounce of its preseason optimism. They came and went like Quentin Goodin, the backup quarterback who became the starter as quick as an Edmond Sumner fast break gone wrong.
The low point took place after the second Marquette game, a breakdown on senior night that extended Xavier’s losing streak to six. “(Everyone) was like we’re done with this losing,” said Quentin Goodin. “We wanted to win. We didn’t care who scored the most points, who got the ball more. We just wanted to win.” A new identity began to coalesce.
Goodin’s performance soared after the Marquette game; the budding point guard is averaging almost 9 points, 6 assists, and three rebounds. He credits Bluiett as his mentor who laid the groundwork for his improvement.
“To have somebody like him, a junior, picking up a freshman, telling him you’re gonna have to lead this team as a freshman from the point guard position,” said Goodin. “I feel like that boosts a whole lot of confidence in myself... I’m not the same player as Ed (Sumner), but now I feel I can do some of the same things that Ed could do.”
During almost every dead ball, Bluiett pulls his teammates together. His message tends to be directed towards Goodin. “Especially him being a freshman, I got to talk to him, give him some guidance,” said Bluiett. “I really think that helps our relationship.
Goodin’s improvement, influenced by Bluiett’s leadership, has paid dividends for Xavier’s leading scorer. Bluiett has played the best basketball of his career since the pivotal Marquette game; his improvement seems to be synchronized with Goodin’s.
Xavier’s new leading duo- Bluiett and Goodin play almost the entire game after all- claim to have elevated their games to a new level while gelling on the fly. “Once I blow by my man and once I see his man suck in,” said Goodin, “I just dish it out and I know it’s good.”
“He’s doing it pretty much against anybody,” said Bluiett. “Seniors. Juniors. If he keeps reppin’ out and putting confidence in himself and we keep giving him confidence, then (we’re) gonna keep improving.”
The bond between the junior and the freshman is strengthening like Xavier’s Final Four chances. As Goodin’s improvements accentuate Bluiett’s strengths, their teammates level of play has been elevated to a new level as well. Macura, O’Mara, Jones, Bernard, and Gates have unquestionably been playing some of the best basketball of their career over these three weeks.
The Musketeers are just two games away from Phoenix, with a grudge match against Sean Miller and Arizona up next. Bluiett and Goodin have become the type of leaders that can prolong Xavier’s run. When I asked Goodin about making noise in March, he said, “(We) want to take every game and win every game.”
The lyrics of the leading scorer are coming from the mouth of the freshman point guard. What more could you want in March?