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Sunday Conversation: Maybe it’s Villanova who runs the city.

Xavier hit their highest ever position in the polls, but a familiar foe ruined the party.

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

Joel: What do you take from that? We lost to Nova the same way we always do by the same magnitude we always do. I’m just inclined to write it off and move on.

Bryan: I don’t know that we have the exact same takeaways here as the usual Nova loss. We were within single digits for much of the second half and couldn’t quite get ourselves over the hump. I’ll grant that it is semantics at this point since we are still left bemoaning our inability to keep them quiet from three, but this was not a boat race.

Joel: Wasn’t it? They pretty much shot us out of the game on our own court in the first half. Did we ever have the ball with a chance to tie? I’m not sure we did. I think we just did to them what Seton Hall did to us, which was make a one-sided decimation seem exciting for a bit.

Bryan: We had the ball with a chance to tie. Tyrique missed, it all popped off, and they went on a 9-2 run. We held them to 11 points in the first 8 minutes of the second half to make it a game. I agree the same issues sank is, but it wasn’t like the game in Philly when the last 15 minutes were about not getting hurt, we were in this game with 12 minutes left.

Brad: At that point Xavier’s win probability peaked at 32.2%. It wasn’t exactly roaring back into the game. It was almost getting the game back level.

Joel: I think an underrated reason Nova owns us is that our defense is built around shutting down the glass and not giving up free throws. This is simplifying it a bit, but Coach Mack’s defensive strategy comes down to forcing teams to be Xavier with their first field goal attempt of a possession, because they’re likely not getting a second or a trip to the line.

Nova is, of course, obscenely good on their first shot. Their team EFG% of 60.2% would put them in the top 100 players. As a team, they shoot like a top 100 shooter. They don’t need to gather their misses or head to the line to win because they’re just a dang shot-making machine. Xavier isn’t built to stop that, and I’m not sure it’s worth completely flipping the defensive strategy to adjust for two games a year.

Brad: I’m with Joel here, we got waxed in a game that we briefly flattered to deceive. We essentially made one run to pull back the usual lead that Nova builds on us, then fell back into the hole.

What semi-concerns me is the way we approach Villanova games. It’s not a lack of effort or desire or anything like that, we just seem to have a serious mental block when it comes to the Wildcats. We committed three fouls in the first 27 seconds, and none of them were close calls. We then went 12-30 from the floor in the first half and got absolutely shredded by Nova’s offensive actions.

That to say I’m not terribly worried about this game. We don’t back down from anyone else or look so obviously cowed in other games, so unless we run into Nova in the tournament, we should be mentally alright. Unless there’s another idiotic double technical. Our appalling defense allowed 1.36 ppp, but that call didn’t help at all.

Joel: An underrated aspect of that whole exchange is how it gave Scruggernuts his third and fourth fouls. His line was fairly uninspiring, but I felt like we were more dangerous with him on the floor. This game was a step back for him statistically, but I think it was part of an encouraging arc of development. I don’t think Nova was getting 1.36 PPP with him on the floor.

Brad: I agree. Scruggs was playing well defensively and keeping the ball moving well. While his line may not have been inspiring, it wasn’t bad either. Our defense, on the other hand, was wretched without him. 70th in the nation now and allowing 53 points per half in the last three halves we’ve played.