This has been a frustrating week to be a Cleveland sports fan. The alleged World Series contender Indians have been watching their vaunted bullpen implode time and time again and are now under .500. Just as vexing are the Cavaliers. Despite having the best player of all time on the roster (don’t bother with your arguments otherwise, they’re wrong), the Cavs are down 0-2 on a Boston Celtics roster full of nice pieces but no stars at all. What does any of this have to do with Xavier? To solve that, you need only look at the confused man standing by the Cleveland bench.
Ty Lue got the Cavaliers job by dint of not being David Blatt. You may recognize this as not exactly being a top of the resume level qualification. Still, Lue rode LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving to Cleveland’s first sports championship since 1964. This season, however, things are different. Lue no longer has Irving and is increasingly being exposed as someone with very little idea how to game plan or manage his roster. As a result, watching Cavs games has become an exercise in impotent waving and yelling at the television.
Enter Travis Steele (no, not as coach of the Cavs). When Chris Mack left the Musketeers for Louisville, it left Xavier in the position of having a good roster, but no one to lead. What Brad Stevens has spent this week demonstrating, is that a great basketball mind can turn even a good roster into one that can go places no reasonable observer predicted they would. Against a subpar coach, a talented coach can get wins.
This matters in the Big East because Steele has shown he has talent. Chris Mack and others around the team have stated on multiple occasions that the offense that Xavier runs is essentially Steele’s. The defense that Xavier runs is Sean Miller’s, and has been in place for well over a decade. There is no need for tweaking there. In Big East games, Coach Steele will be putting that prowess up against coaches running the gamut from Chris Mullin to Jay Wright. While Wright and even Greg McDermott will present a stiff challenge, there’s already reason to believe that the players here and Steele’s ability to read and react will give him the same kind of advantage over, say, Ed Cooley that Brad Stevens enjoys over Ty Lue. While Xavier’s roster talent won’t quite be where it was last year, there’s reason for hope standing on the sideline.