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Crosstown Conversation: We need to talk

It’s time to admit the truth.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Brad: So before we get into laying blame, bitterness, or spewing hate, can we all agree that Dan Dakich is absolutely awful at his job? He blathered on about the rivalry while conclusively demonstrating that all he knew about it happened seven years ago. What a complete and total moron.

Joel: He managed to draw a huge rivalry game and then do absolutely no research on the current teams or their coaches. How on earth does he still have a job? He just sucks and is an petty wank on twitter.

Bryan: On a scale of 1-Bill Walton he was firmly in the “clearly not worthy of employment” range. That play by play does nothing for me either, but we can’t have Gus call them all.

Brad: I feel bad for guys paired with Walton or Dakich, because it’s hard to tell how much of the odious stupidity is weighing them down.

Speaking of stupid, Naji and Q went 2-15 from deep today while Paul Scruggs only took eight shots in total.

Bryan: A part of our issue was that we were getting a really unfriendly whistle in the lane on offense, but we did ourselves no favors by abandoning everything but jumpers again. We basically made no attempt to get Tyrique touches after he got the first bucket of the game and let a pair of 23% three point shooters try their luck from deep most of the day. Really wish Eli Harden hadn’t said whatever he said to see 23 minutes since Illinois.

Brad: And I think that falls on coaching. Everyone is going to mention Welage on Cumberland for the possessions where UC buried the game, but the substitution pattern and the willingness to just let bad shooters jack threes stand out just as much.

Joel: It’s interesting that we all kind of assented to the idea that this was going to be a rough year. We lost our top four usage rate players plus a really solid piece in Kaiser Gates. We also lost our head coach, who - spoiler alert - was worth eleventy billion dollars to Louisville for a reason.

Now we’re in it and this is what it looks like. Naj and Q both benefitted hugely from having two elite perimeter scorers spacing the floor and drawing the defense. Scruggernuts is good, but he isn’t dominant at this point. None of the freshmen is an immediate impact guy.

Travis Steele isn’t necessarily a bad coach, but he is a very new one. Keep in mind that Coach Mack’s transition year was propped up by Tu, Moog, Crawford, and two veteran bigs in Love and McLean. He hit a bare cupboard year a couple season later and went 17-14. Steele has a transition and a bare cupboard at the same time.

What I’m saying is, let’s hold off on filling our diapers just yet. We knew it was going to suck, and now it’s sucking. Quelle surprise.

Brad: We did, but did you expect it to suck to the point of not making the tournament? Because as it stands now, this team isn’t going to the NCAAs. There are no good non-conference wins (though only SDSU looks bad) and the Big East isn’t as good as it was last year. It’s going to take a 10 or 11 win conference season to get in. That really looks unlikely at this point. So yes, we knew it was going to be rough, but I wasn’t expecting Naji and Q to have offensive efficiency under 100 or the team to be 125th in the nation in defense.

Joel: ...kind of? After starting the year 53rd in the KenPom, we are currently 59th. I think the realistic spread of outcomes for this team was somewhere between maybe a 9 seed and somewhere in the NIT. Right now we’re trending towards the low end of that. If you had told me at the start of the year that we would enter the BET with the 17-14 record Pomeroy currently projects, I would have been disappointed, not disbelieving.

Naj and Q have both taken steps back instead of forward, and that is a bummer. A huge part of that is that (a) they’re awful from three and (b) they shoot a ton of them. Between the two of them and accounting for the fact that Q has missed two games, they’re combining to shoot an average of 2-10 from deep every game. The rest of the team is shooting 38.5% from deep, but two dudes shooting a hair over 20% are taking 40% of our attempts from beyond the arc. That has to stop.

Brad: Someone in a position of authority should tell them that. You’re right, this was a real possibility for this season from the very start. It says a lot about how far this program has come that we have a full on freak out at the thought of the NIT. I remember being excited for the NIT final four Darnell Williams senior year. Now I wouldn’t even want to watch.

Joel: Speaking of Darnell, he was pretty frickin unimpressed on Twitter after yesterday’s game. A lot of people were questioning this team’s will, but I think it’s just a case of UC being geared to take away the only thing we do well on offense. Their goal is to ugly up the game and push it away from the basket. That was fine when we had anyone who could get his own shot from outside 8 feet or a guy who could hit a three without giving up a guaranteed two on the other end. Tre, JP, and Kaiser are all cashing checks now and the next set of dudes to fill those holes is still a year out, so this is what we got.

Bryan: I think there was a combination of factors contributing to our offensive struggles. Yeah, UC tried to take away the lane, but I don’t think we really fought them that hard to try and get in there after it was obvious that they were ok with us shooting threes. Our willingness to settle for what they gave us played a pretty major role, just like it did when SDSU put that huge run on us.

I was impressed with the hustle plays Scruggs was making in the second half, well after it seemed like most of our team had resigned themselves to defeat. He stood out for his willingness to keep getting after it, which hopefully bodes well for him filling the vocal leadership gap we seem to have right now.

Joel: Is the Young Stan mantle too heavy to hang on Scruggernuts?

Bryan: There are flashes that he can be that dude who just makes whatever play we need him to make like Stan did, but what Stan also did so well was pull the team together when they needed it and grabbed jerseys and got in faces when it was called for. Also he did that one rant about the A10 which is honestly better than the Gettysburg Address.

Brad: We’re talking a Xavier Hall of Famer here. I love how much of a dog Scruggs is, but he’s not knocked down a game winner or locked down someone like, say, Jarron Cumberland.