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Xavier surrenders 45-17 run to lose to San Diego State in Maui

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The Muskies started hot and closed okay, but that garbage in the middle killed them.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at San Diego State Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

At one point in time in this game, Xavier was up 32-13. Elias Harden had hit a trio of threes, Paul Scruggs looked dangerous, Xavier was clearing the glass... it was all coming up aces.

Over the next 20 minutes, it fell apart entirely. Xavier fell in love with the three and forgot that they were only making them because the ball had gotten into the middle of the defense first. This is not a good jump shooting team, and they appear to be set on being the last people in the country to realize that.

When Zach Hankins (15 and 4 on 6-8/0-0/3-4) or Tyrique Jones (8 and 5 on 4-6/0-0/0-2) got the ball in the post, good things developed from that. When Naji (8/6/5 on 2-9/1-5/3-4), Paul (11/6/2 on 5-15/0-5/1-1), or Q (20/1/3 on 7-11/3-5/3-4) decided to go it alone, the offense stagnated and nothing good came of it.

After coughing up the lead and the game through the middle 20 minutes of the contest, Xavier rallied from down as many as 9 to make it respectable in the last 10 minutes. Other than getting run off the court for half the game, Xavier was the better team here. Any time you open and close the game by winning the first and last 10 minutes by a combined 57-34 score, you should win the game. As our tweet of the night says, though, the span in between that is still killing X.

This is not a guard-based team

The only way this offense has been consistently successful is to pound the ball into the post. It was clear today, and it has been clear all season. Zach Hankins (133.9 ORtg) is clearly ready to be a D1 big man, and Tyrique Jones (130.5 ORtg) is just a dog. Both those guys are also colossal on the glass. The ball needs to go into one of them on the post to initiate the offense; the perimeter guys are going to be a lot more successful playing off of that.

This defense is miserable

They can’t force turnovers at all, and they completely surrender the arc. They’re frickin’ 318th in the country in defensive 3PA; teams take 47% of their field goal attempts from deep against Xavier. They absolutely don’t challenge shooters at all, and they’re getting gashed from distance. If you like Shooting Open Threes, you’ll love Playing Against Xavier.

It’s right there

Xavier has just lost games against Wisconsin, Auburn, and SDSU that they put themselves into position to win. I’d seriously give a nad (not one of my own) for Kaiser Gates right now. When X was hemorrhaging against Wisconsin early in the second half, or needing one more bucket to not need OT against Auburn, or fouling in the last minute against SDSU, you have to imagine one more experienced guy who could get the ball into the bucket might make the difference.

So might have an experienced head coach.

Or guards who weren’t taking turns trying to do too much.

Or a big man who would demand the ball and actually get it.

The frustrating thing about this team is that it looks a lot like it could be good. A resume isn’t built on almosts, though, and Xavier needs to finish some of these games if they want to hear their name called on Selection Sunday.