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Sunday Conversation: 2-0 and looking like a juggernaut

Xavier is tied for the best start in program history after two games, but the sharp analytical minds here see a few cracks in the facade.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Xavier vs Texas Southern Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Brad

What in the name of everything holy was that? Xavier looks absolutely awful and I enjoyed Doug Gottlieb. Is this even real?

Joel

So... two games into the Steele Era and we’ve taken 2 wins. Everything is going perfectly, right!?

I think we need 30-35 minutes a night out of Q. Without him on the floor, I don’t think we can defend for crap. We were a travesty on that end tonight.

Bryan

We fell apart in the second half, quit playing defense with roughly 25 minutes left, saw Q get (rightfully) ejected for a moment of madness, gave up a record three point barrage, and still won. The W is really close to the only good news, but the showing by Scruggs and especially Jones in that second half showed that we can still scrape a game plan together with Q absent and Naji basically so.

Evansville came in with a plan on what they wanted to do and basically did it, theu just lacked any real interior presence to make it pay. Obviously there is a lot to be concerned about, but 40-0 is still on the table baby.

Brad

All this is like being happy the dog crapped in the living room instead of on the kitchen table. Tonight it seemed like we had the vigor that was missing on Tuesday, but placing that into bludgeoning opponents with the ball is maybe not ideal.

Joel

Joke’s on you, I don’t have a kitchen table. Ryan Welage made it rain in the second half against IUPUI but was conspicuously absent for the most part tonight. What, if anything, do you make of that?

Brad

He’s a streak shooter. That’s a bit reductionist, I guess, but it’s not as if he’s going to change a lot of games by getting to the rim. If it goes, he’s a weapon. If it doesn’t, he’s that.

Bryan

I think Evansville saw what most teams will see. If Welage is on the floor, your best offensive option becomes whoever he is guarding. If he is hitting, he can still be an asset. If he shoots like he did tonight, we are better off without him on the floor.

Brad

Unfortunately this roster has shown nothing to make anyone think they can afford to carry a luxury piece. If we play like that against Wisconsin or Auburn we’ll lose by 30.

Joel

I think he’s a specialist, not a luxury piece. He can change the game offensively and he can get a little something putting the ball on the deck, but we need to surround him with sound defensive options. With Naj in foul trouble and Q out, there wasn’t much left in the way of locking down. We were comically poor on defense. Nova, Marquette, Creighton... there are a lot of Big East teams that will demolish us if we can’t lock down the arc.

Joel

Teams are scoring more than half their points from beyond the arc against us, putting us in the bottom 10 in the nation in 3P defense by that measure.

Brad

The question really is whether this is a bad start, or a bad team.

Bryan

We didn’t look appreciably better against Marshall or ETSU last year than we have in these two games. The difference is that we had already beaten Baylor and Wisconsin at that point, so we assumed we were probably ok. This time, we have kind of stumbled out of the gate, but I think the next couple weeks will show us what kind of a team we are.

It is worth noting that there have been stretches of really good basketball in both of these games, but we have closed out the first half dreadfully both times and gotten ourselves back into a fight.

Brad

It’s true that in both games X has had a gilt edged chance to run away and hide. In those spans we’ve looked like a genuine squad. Then, we fall apart and can’t recover.

Joel

Is it a question of focus? If so, you would expect to see something different on Tuesday against Wisconsin, right? That’s the kind of opponent that one would hope would hold the team’s attention regardless of the score.

Bryan

I think it has been bad execution for sure. Whether that is down to a lack of focus is probably at least somewhat debatable, but with Jones and Hankins going for 33 points on 18 attempts, there was really not a good reason not to get the ball into the post every time down the floor.

Also, we shoot 56% from the line, which is factually crap awful. Don’t @ me.

Keonte Kennedy and Elias Harden have posted almost eerily similar numbers in their time on the floor, which would be great if they were good numbers. I think they both can give X something this season, but is there something I have missed that makes a difference as to which of these guys is on the floor?

Joel

I think Harden is better at defense, but that might just be because I tend to see things that confirm my already held opinion that he is. He has had a couple of nice moves to the rim, Kennedy has hit a jumper or two... neither of them has really impacted either game to this point, which doesn’t fill me with hope for how they’re going to do against Auburn or Nova.