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Sunday Conversation: Xavier is Big East champ, Trevon Bluiett is a Big East legend

Xavier has hung a banner this year, but there’s still work to do for this team.

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

Brad

Outright Big East champions. If you had told me 15 years ago this would happen, I’d have been absolutely shocked. Today, it feels more like a logical conclusion to the last five years.

Joel

Try this one on for size, sport: if Louisville could hold a four-point lead for nine-tenths of a second, Xavier would be looking at potentially being the #1 team in the polls on Monday. Friggin’ Louisville; I hope that’s the worst thing they do to us in the near to medium term future.

X won ugly against DePaul, but we’re now in the portion of the schedule where style points are worth exactly nothing. Win and advance, lose and go home (except we’ll still get an at-large bid if we lose in the BET). Aside from that little caveat, this is basketball distilled to just the results, which is kind of awesome.

Brad

I love college ball from the moment it starts in November, but this is where it really gets fun. Watching some of these teams that aren’t going unless they win their tournament (and, of course, the Big Ten) is a blast. Last night Murray State crushed Belmont down the stretch and the last two minutes for the Racers were just an exercise in self-control until they could actually celebrate. That’s awesome.

Bryan

I was actually kind of glad to see the defense step up and win us a game. Yes DePaul is bang average on offense, but we kept them to .89 PPP on a day when our offense was out of sorts and that is not nothing. We will play at least one team worse than the Blue Demons in the NCAAs and I was kind of reassured in a weird way that we found a way to win in spite of a horrid offensive performance.

Brad

That’s a good point. That effort boosted us to 73rd in the nation with an exactly 100 defensive efficiency. Part of it is down to DePaul being miserable, but we looked better as well. How much of that do you think is down to Paul Scruggs getting 17 minutes of playing time? We’re a much better defensive team with him on the floor.

He was causing DePaul problems at both ends of the court. Naj was a little off on offense but did an excellent job on Strus. Next year those guys are going to be big assets on defense for us.

Joel

I honestly think there’s a good defensive lineup on this roster that can lock down an opponent. I’d say probably something like Q, Scruggernuts, Naj, Kaiser, and O’Mara is going to give us a plus defensive lineup. I know that leaves our two best offensive players out, but it also gives me hope that we can do something other than win six straight shootouts in the tournament. Parts of this team can defend.

Brad

What’s interesting about that is that Tyrique Jones isn’t in that defensive team. He has all the tools but, as Byron Larkin said yesterday, “he’s just lazy on defense.” Tyrique has improved this year, but you kind of wouldn’t know it. He scored in double figures in eight of our first 17 games, but has only done it once since. More than that, he’s only played 20 minutes twice in Big East games, not at all since the OT game against Georgetown over a month ago.

Joel

I think some of that is probably on Tyrique, but he has also been battling shoulder and knee problems. Coach Mack said in a recent presser that Tyrique hasn’t been able to stay fully fit because of his injuries. That’s necessarily hampering both his explosiveness and his ability to play for long stretches. We’re going to need him during single elimination play; I hope he can get tuned up for it.

Today, Tre became just the 13th player in the history of the Big East to be first-team all-conference three years in a row. He joins Luke Harangody and Troy Bell from the last 20 years and a host of older players - including one of my favorites from the NBA Live 95-99 era, Kerry Kittles. What a dang legend.

Bryan

I think a combination of mental errors, injuries, and the other guys effectiveness have given Tyrique a really short leash for the past two months. I am not overly concerned about him and still believe he is going to be a handful next year.

Joel

I think so too. In the meantime, I’m hoping he goes boss hog for the next month and we’ve got a three-headed monster in the post. This is a depth-oriented team, and he’s a valuable ninth dude to have.