A week ago Xavier embarked on their best win of the season, brushing aside Miami and looking, for a moment, like a Big East power playing mildly meaningless early season games. Then came Saturday and the Musketeers struggling against an Oakland team that is going absolutely nowhere this reason. For every up this season has come a corresponding down as Xavier and Travis Steele slowly feel out a season in which the geography has completely changed around them.
For Ohio the geography has not changed. They are still in the MAC, they still aren’t very good, and they still have to chase an auto bid that isn’t coming to make the tournament. They are, in other words, another in state buy game for Xavier. The Bobcats are 5-2 this year, but one of those wins came against Wilberforce (yes, that one just outside Xenia), and another came against Campbell. While Xavier tries to get their feet under them, Ohio just keeps treading the same stagnant water.
On offense the Bobcats are great at not having their shots blocked! I gave them an exclamation point for that, because everything else they do merits only the most perfunctory of punctuation. They speed with which the play offense suggests an overly hormonal teenager frantically changing the open tabs on the computer when a parent enters the room. One can debate whether being caught in flagrante delicto with oneself or playing in this Ohio offense is a more shameful offense.
Defensively, the Bobcats are much better. 87th in the nation isn’t elite, but it makes for a worthwhile challenge. There’s a warning here about the level of competition that Ohio has played, but they absolutely lock off the offensive glass and dare teams to beat them by making the first shot they take. This admirable goal is occasionally undermined by the frequency with which the Bobcats foul, but they won’t be beaten easily on the defensive end.
|Teyvion Kirk||Point Guard||Quentin Goodin|
|6'4", 185||Measurements||6'4", 194|
|Kirk is a rairity among mid-major point guards because of his size. He uses that to get to the rim for over half of his shots and takes 90% of them from inside the three point arc. Where he really excels is in turning the ball over, which is arguably not where you want your point guard to stand out. He has coughed up 4 or more turnovers in 5 of OU's 7 games this season and currently sports an average of nearly 5 per game. Basically, if he puts the ball on the floor and doesn't shoot, there is a good chance that he is throwing it to the other team.|
|Antonio Cowart Jr.||Shooting Guard||Paul Scruggs|
|6'2", 175||Measurements||6'3", 200|
|So far Cowart has really only added value for this team on the glass, where he is 4th on the team in rebounding average. On offense, he has barely shaded a positive A:TO, but his eFG% of 34.4 really tanks any hope he had of being a solid contributor. He shoots over 50% at the rim, but insists on shooting nearly half of his shots from three, where he shoots 18%.|
|Jason Preston||Small Forward||Kyle Castlin|
|6'3", 175||Measurements||6'4", 193|
|Preston has played over an hour of basketball since he last scored, hauling down 5 rebounds in the span to go with 8 assists, 4 turnovers, and a steal. Needless to say, he might come into this one with confidence issues, although his care for the ball over the last three games has drug his turnover rate all the way down to 32.6. Unlike Kirk, Preston is a bit undersized for his position and makes little to no impact on the boards.|
|Jason Carter||Power Forward||Naji Marshall|
|6'8", 220||Measurements||6'7", 222|
|Coming off a season wiped out by injuries, Carter is building on his promising freshman campaign of two years ago. He is option A in the Bobcats offense, residing almost exclusively in the lane and midrange to do his damage. He does not distribute all that much, but takes care of the ball when he has it, and gets himself to the line and opponents in foul trouble at a very high rate. He is not that active on the offensive glass, but holds his own defensively in that regard.|
|Doug Taylor||Center||Tyrique Jones|
|6'9", 248||Measurements||6'9", 235|
|Taylor is a consummate glue guy big man, grabbing boards on both ends, blocking shots, getting his hands into passing lanes, and not forcing his shot in the offense. He has trouble with the whistle at times, due likely to the fact that he tries to block any object flying in his general vicinity, but can be a player of great value for OU when he stays on the floor. He posted double-doubles against Campbell and Iona and went for 9 and 7 against Marshall in his last game.|
Ohio’s bench is basically two men deep, which puts them 269th in bench minutes. Gavin Block is the backup for Preston, which turns into more of a platoon situation when Block plays well. He is on an absolute tear over the last three games, going 11-18 from deep and averaging 14 PPG. The help for when Taylor gets in foul trouble is 6’8” freshman Ben Vander Plas. He is more of a stretch big man, shooting over half of his shots from deep, and is coming off of back to back 18 point performances. Both of these guys are major difference makers when they are playing well, but no one else on OU’s bench gets even 7 minutes a game.
- How ready is Q? We speculated that Quentin Goodin’s shoulder may be part of what was holding him back this season, and now he’s fallen ill (more on that in a moment). The Musketeers have seen their point guard take a serious step back this season. In exactly one more game, that’s going to matter.
- Who is good to go? Elias Harden was sick first, now Q is and may not play tonight, and rumor has it that Hanky McSpanky has taken ill as well. Naji Marshall is just now looking fully fit from his illness earlier in the year. Did someone forget the vitamins?
- Can Xavier win easy? The Musketeers are 5-3 this year and don’t have any significantly bad losses, but they’ve only won once with anything approaching some flair. Another Miamiesque victory would undoubtedly ease nerves before that game looming on Saturday.
- Make shots: X is excellent on the offensive glass, but the Bobcats are going to make them earn every single second chance point they garner. The best way to combat that would be to shoot something better than 33% behind the arc.
- Flex some muscle: Yes, Ohio is great on the defensive glass (only seven teams in the nation are better), but that kind of thing really shouldn’t matter against a legitimate Big East squad. If Tyrique tosses Doug Taylor aside early to grab a board, Xavier will demonstrate that even on something of a down, they are a class above the MAC.
- Don’t make fans hold their breath: Just bury someone, we beg of you.