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Water Cooler Takes: Better, but not good

Xavier stayed on the bubble with a win yesterday. That’s both the good news, and the bad.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at DePaul
This seems like the kind of season where someone would be injured by getting his head caught in the net.
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Today the gathering may be more communion table than water cooler, but that’s no reason not to talk about Xavier basketball. Yesterday the Musketeers were faced with one of those games that had no really helpful outcome. Beating DePaul is de rigueur but losing to them is the ultimate death knell. The Musketeers at least managed to stave off NCAA tournament at-large elimination for another day, but they stare down the same barrel again at 930 on Wednesday.

Winning this did nothing to help Xavier on the bubble:

No one who saw that game thought “oh yes, that is a team that we must have in the tournament.” Ignore for a moment, if you can, the manner of the win, it simply doesn’t help anything to beat the Blue Demons. Joe Lunardi dropped Xavier into the play-in games after the win, Rob Dauster said it left them in position where they needed at least two Big East tournament wins, and Jerry Palm dropped them a seed line to the last bye into the tournament. Beating DePaul, and then beating them again Wednesday, isn’t even holding serve.

Winning like this did nothing to help Xavier fans sleep better:

While Xavier finished a respectable 34.5% from behind the arc, they also had stretches of six and 11 straight misses. That’s the more galling because RaShid Gaston, Sean O’Mara, and Tyrique Jones combined to miss a grand total of two shots. Xavier’s bigs were dominant against a woefully overmatched Blue Demon front line yesterday, but simply didn’t get the ball enough for it to really tell. Defensively, Xavier continued to demonstrate that they are too undermanned to play man. Trevon Bluiett may not be literally limping, but he’s as close as someone can be. Kaiser Gates has becoming a turnstile, and JP is JP. Coach Mack was forced into long stretches in zone yesterday, and no one wants to see that.

Winning is better than losing:

The doom and gloom can get a bit overwhelming at times. The simple fact is that winning sometimes begets more winning. Xavier couldn’t afford to drop this road conference game, and they didn’t. Tre heaved himself up like Hector out to meet Achilles and came up with 24/10/2. He’ll need that again on Wednesday and Thursday, but at least he did it the first time he had to. Maybe the taste of winning will help exorcise the demons, maybe the team can start to rediscover the offense after two straight games scoring 1.18 ppp, maybe Coach Mack can make a defense based on 1-3-1 and 2-3 work. This thing isn’t over yet.