Xavier won both games during opening week, beating IUPUI and escaping Evansville.
There were surprises with both games, such as Evansville setting the record for most three-pointers made by a Xavier opponent with 17. IUPUI was also even with Xavier on the glass through the first half, though Xavier ended that game with a +7 advantage.
Over the course of the season, I’ll try to find important stats each, whether from the games that week or to that point in the year. With small sample sizes some of them will be deceiving, but are still telling for how things turned out this week.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
This is how many points in the paint Xavier has scored through their first two games. They’ve also held opponents to just 34 points in the paint, good for a +46 margin. One of the emphasis for this team was getting interior shots, and they seem to be executing that so far.
This is the percentage of opponent field goal attempts which are three-point attempts. According to KenPom.com, this figure ranks 311th in the country. This figure on its own is not necessarily an issue, as pack line defenses tend to yield a lot of threes.
It becomes a major issue when opponents knock down these threes at a high rate. IUPUI knocked down nine threes on 27 attempts while Evansville knocked down 17 threes on 33 attempts. Some of the makes were just tough shots that the defense could do nothing about. But, far too many were uncontested looks. Steele knows this, and addressed this after the Evansville game.
Execution of the defense will be key moving forward, as games against Wisconsin and Auburn will require a much better effort.
Xavier has scored 173 points this season on 178 possessions, good for 0.972 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports. This ranks in nearly the top third of offenses, checking in in the 65th percentile.
If you count the offensive rebounds as continuing possession, then the offensive efficiency jumps to 1.184 points per possession, as the number of possessions drop to 146, according to KenPom.com. This would rank 53rd in the country.
There was a lot of talk before the season that the offense may struggle. They still likely will at points this season, but it may not be as bad as everyone thought. It certainly hasn’t so far.
On the flip side, the defense has allowed 153 points on 157 possessions, allowing 0.975 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports. Given the opponents were IUPUI and Evansville, this is not an encouraging sign. The team ranks in only the 17th percentile.
As with the offensive points per possession, if you count offensive rebounds as continuing possession and not as a new possession, then the defensive efficiency number gets worse, going from 0.975 points per possession to 1.055, according to KenPom.com. This would rank 196th in the country.
It is still early, and there are very few places the defense can go but up. If the defense is still having these problems deep into December, even conference play, then there is probably cause for alarm. But, for now, the team is probably just finding its footing.
Junior Tyrique Jones has been on a tear to start the season, averaging 18 points and 13 rebounds a game, including a monster 19 point, 20 rebound and four block game against Evansville. Jones is the first Musketeer since David West to have a 20+ rebound game, when West had one in 2001.
As I touched on earlier, the offense was thought to struggle for stretches by many this year, including me. So far, the offense has been better than expected, making 37.25%, 19/51, of their attempts from three point range.
This is the total rebounding margin for Xavier through its first two games. They outrebounded IUPUI 43-36, and crushed Evansville on the glass, 51-22. Heck, Jones almost rebounded Evansville by himself with his 20 rebounds in 29 minutes.
Steele has reiterated time and time again this team needs to dominate the glass in order to be successful. So far, they have done just that. They also grabbed 32 offensive boards in those two games, while only allowing their opponents to grab 12. This will be another key moving forward.
The first week was a mixed bag of results overall. The offense looked much better than expected, the defense looked very, very bad for many stretches, and some individual performances, like Jones against Evansville, have shone through the rest.
Even though Travis Steele had been Chris Mack’s top assistant for a few years before becoming the head coach, there was always going to be an adjustment period for the new team, and the stats show this to be the case.
The defense should improve as the season goes on, as will the team as a whole. Larger sample sizes will give a clearer picture as to what this team truly is. For now, it’s not what people expected, and they should improve from here.
*Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports, KenPom.com, and game box scores