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Sunday Conversation: Dead cats and three point shooting

Did Xavier show signs of life late against Wisconsin, or was that an illusion?

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Xavier Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

We begin, as we so often do, with an argument.

Brad: So we got railed by Wisconsin. The last five minutes put some gloss on it, but that game has me worried that Auburn may beat us by 20.

Joel: So we outplayed Wisconsin. That 7-possession stretch cost us the game, but we’re young and we’ll learn from it. I think we can do something special in Maui.

Brad: I’ll have what you’re having. You can’t just throw seven possessions out as if they didn’t happen. We looked bad for two games, and made the Wisconsin game look good because they let up too much after we were dead and buried. During our “run” Wisconsin’s win % dropped from 99.3 all the way to 98.5. Dead cat bounce.

Joel: I’m not throwing those possessions out. We lost because of them. We didn’t dead cat bounce at the end, we played them even up before those 7 possessions and even up after them. I don’t think there’s a huge limitation or shortcoming on this team, I think it’s just a matter of learning to maintain focus and intensity for 40 minutes. When we hit that, we can punch with most teams, just like we were with Wisconsin.

Brad: That’s solely looking at the numbers, though. In reality those last few minutes in which we played with Wisconsin occurred in a game that the Badgers and everyone watching were well aware they had won.

If your argument is that X realized in those last seven minutes that, hey, getting Naji Marshall and Paul Scruggs downhill is better than spotting them to miss threes, I’ll hear that. They’ll have to do that against Auburn or they’ll lose. Xavier isn’t beating the Tigers by chucking from the cheap seats.

Mary: I think the shot selection is what bothered me the most in that game. I know that Q is capable of making the occasional 3-pointer, but I’m not sure he has the green light like it probably appeared in that game as he chucked up 8 and only made 1. When we moved the ball around, we tended to get better shots - funny how that works. I’m not sure why we didn’t pick up on that as the game went on.

Bryan: I think pretty much any game that this team dribbles into that many jumpers is going to be a loss. We were spoiled with Tre’s insane ability to hit pull ups, but there is not a soul on this roster that has any business trying them as frequently as we did against Wisconsin.

That being said, when we put the ball into the hands of our capable drivers and let them run downhill into the defense, we looked really good because things opened up. I am concerned that teams are going to pack into a zone against us and dare us to shoot over them, which we both seem to want to do and have also proved incapable of.

Mary: Also, potentially an unpopular opinion, I think that Naji is trying to do way too much. I get that scoring 23 against Wisconsin on face value may make it look like he played well, but the 3 turnovers, and when they happened, were inexcusable. I’m really hoping there is a logical explanation to this - maybe he is still out of rhythm from being sick, maybe he feels pressure to put this team on his back, but he needs to relax and do what he is good at. Throwing up 5 three-pointers ain’t it.

Bryan: Yeah, I do think Naj has looked like he’s been pressing a bit, but I actually thought he looked like he turned a corner in that second half. He is not a spot up guy, and driving the ball sans 15 pounds of yourself is probably a bit harder to do, but I am hoping that aggression off the bounce we saw out of him was the beginning of him coming out of it.

We don’t need him to be Tre, we just need him to do the stuff he is good at.

Mary: Completely agree. I love the guy but if he loses sight of what his game is, this sophomore season is going to be tough for him.

Bryan: Going back to the dead cat bounce theory: that kind of ignores the fact that it was a 2 point game and we had the momentum after 20 minutes, right? The move to bring back Jones after the break confused me at the time, and pretty clearly cost us the momentum and ant chance at winning the game. Steep learning curve for a rookie coach after 2 games, but there is reason to hope he gets better.

Brad: It’s a little odd to watch Xavier struggle to shoot the ball. We’ve had some down times in the last few years, but you could essentially always rely on JP or Tre to pull out of it, sometimes with a spectacular performance. Thus far, there’s not been an indication this will get a great deal better.

Joel: I think you’re super wrong on that last part. Rookie coach blooding in five new guys? Plenty of talent? Some solid performances marred by lapses in focus? I would wager that we will see more improvement out of this team than we would typically expect over the course of a season.

Brad: I agree with all that. I mean I don’t think this team makes great strides in three point shooting. I don’t see that as a strength this year. Overall, yes, I think this team will be much better come February.

Joel: Three point shooting is a different beast entirely than shooting is. We’re actually shooting better on two point jumpers this year than we did during the Tre/JP era. We just happen to be weirdly bad from behind the arc.