I didn’t want to write this. Every season in Xavier history has ended with a loss and now, this one has as well. The Musketeers put together the best season they have ever had with what is likely to be the best class they ever have and, in the span of ten cruel minutes. It’s over. Tre is gone, JP is gone, Sean O’Mara is gone, Kerem Kanter is gone, and the raving lunacy that is Twitter is already speculating on Coach Mack’s future before the corpse of this season has even stopped twitching.
JP Macura goes out a Xavier legend
If there was ever any doubt who the heart of this team was, JP cleared it up tonight. While JP was on the floor Xavier was the third best team in the nation and a squad that could rightfully look up and down the bracket and see nothing but teams it could beat. When he was down, and his protege was unable to fill in, the Musketeers lost their edge. Macura walked off the court wronged by the officials but with a line of 17/5/2 on 6-8 from the floor.
Stupidity cost Xavier this game
First off, Xavier’s own stupidity. The Musketeers turned the ball over 18 times tonight against a team that isn’t really that adept at causing turnovers. Far too many of the turnovers were of the completely asinine variety, with inbounds passes flying directly out of bounds, multiple halfcourt fumbles, and one extremely unfortunate slip in the lane. After Xavier took their 12 point lead, they turned the ball over six times in less than ten minutes. In that same span, they made three field goals and went 6-11 from the line. I absolutely hate to say it, but that’s choking.
Secondly, officiating stupidity. We’ve begged all year for someone to add some oversight to the officials. Tonight, being able to be a cavalier jackass at your job finally cost the Musketeers. (Let me be very clear on this, I am not blaming the officials for this loss.) JP Macura was clearly the best player on the floor tonight. His third and fourth fouls were both inexcusably bad calls. The third, if you don’t remember, was a clean block on a runout. Replays showed no body contact or hand contact, just a very athletic player making a very athletic play. Have a look.
It got worse though, or at least stayed just as bad. JP’s fourth foul came with Xavier up 11 and JP free and clear to make it 13 after a clean pick of a careless Mfiondu Kabengele. Once again, replays showed that there was, once again, no contact. As Macura stared in disbelief, the game turned on its head. The lead that should have been 13 shrank to nine, and Florida State’s game ending run started. Both Steve Lappas and Andrew Catalon expressed amazement at how poor the call was. That is the very coldest of comforts.
Trevon didn’t come up big
Trevon Bluiett has bailed Xavier out of messes of their own making and won games that Musketeers fought tooth and nail to scrap their way into. The first time he showed how incredibly nerveless he could be was his freshman year when he sealed the Shootout at the line. That lasted all the way through a senior year in which he drilled game winners and stoked late runs with equal aplomb. Until tonight. Tonight Trevon only got up eight shots and he only made two of them. For whatever reason, he didn’t shoot himself into the game like he usually does, maybe thinking that the Musketeers had it in hand until it was too late. With Xavier leading by two with 1:18 to play, he turned the ball over. With Xavier down one with 49 seconds to play, he slipped and fell and turned the ball over again.
That feels like a fitting ending to a game that contained such great promise and ended with devastating heartbreak. Xavier’s second leading scorer of all time on the floor, grasping for a ball that will forever be bouncing out of his reach.