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Post-Maui Conversation

Xavier played three times over Thanksgiving, and reviews are mixed,

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

Hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving and are especially enjoying a wintry mix welcoming you back to the work week. With most of the Banners staff in one place for the holiday, the conversation about the team threw thick and fast, but not all of it made it to the page. Here’s what we thought after Xavier went 1-2 on the island.

Joel: So far this year, we’ve punched with a very good Wisconsin team, taken top 10 Auburn to OT, been down 1 with the ball with 3 minutes to go against a probable bubble team in SDSU, and walked away from NIT at best Illinois. We’re doing the things an NIT team would do, but we’re also doing the things a high-ceiling team putting it together on the fly would. How do you interpret the evidence so far?

Brad: I see it differently than you do, which is either what makes us great or makes one of us insufferable. We played badly in two buy games and barely won them. We then took a seven minute thrashing from Wisconsin and only late on dressed up the score in a game we weren’t actually in. In Maui we played with Auburn in an ugly game, imploded against a mediocre team in SDSU, and beat another mediocre team in Illinois. On balance I see an NIT team (right now) that is suffering from poor execution and unsteady coaching.

Joel: KenPom currently has us 64th in the country, squarely in the middle of the NIT pack. Bart Torvik has us 45th, right on the bubble. Which of those do you think is closer to accurate?

Brad: KenPom. This isn’t a team playing like it belongs in the tournament. The defensive numbers, especially, are just shocking. The last time Xavier’s defense was this bad, Churchill Odia played in 25 games.

Joel: KenPom has Xavier going 8-5 in the non-con and hitting MSG at 16-15. That would be a showing on par with Semaj’s freshman year. You think we’re heading for a 16-win season?

Brad: I don’t think it’s unlikely, no. I fully expect us to walk into MSG with work to do barring a drastic defensive change. That Welage played 17 minutes over the last two games might be the first sign of that. Or maybe he’s just carrying a knock.

Joel: If you’re a regular reader of the site, you’ll know soon what the ceiling on a team with the kind of defense Xavier is sporting right now is. SPOILER ALERT: not as low as you’d think. In the meantime, I do feel like we need to figure out ways to get Welly some more minutes. The dude is a legit traffic cone on defense, but he’s been our only consistent threat on the perimeter.

Brad: He is all those things, but I was encouraged by the way Harden and Kennedy shot it in Maui. Harden especially has a confidence he was obviously lacking last year. Poor coaching held him back against SDSU, but he was back in go mode against Illinois. That’s a great sign.

Poll

Is Xavier an NCAA tournament team right now?

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  • 12%
    Yes
    (15 votes)
  • 87%
    No
    (105 votes)
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