Brad: So... This week was fun. X really showed some fight twice this week. Down huge to Georgetown and then down 10 to a legitimately good Butler team in the second half and won them both. It’s awesome to see now, but where has this been?
Bryan: I think there have probably been a couple of factors. After losing so much shooting/scoring, it was pretty unclear who our focal point should be on offense. Now it is clear that getting the ball to Scruggs and making an opponent focus all their energy on him instead of the post is the way forward. The other is the job the role players have done in the past two games. Harden was huge against Georgetown, Castlin obviously was today. When those guys can knock down the open shots defenses give them to help on our drivers, it really changes the game for us.
Brad: Scruggs was enormous today. Frankly, I have no clue why Naji had the ball on that last possession instead of Paul. The assist rate was 73% today, and Scruggs dished out six of those. The dude can just flat play, and he’s a dog, too. It seems like he’s the one that keeps the role guys in the game vocally.
Bryan: I mean, Naji won us the game. That was the best possible outcome of having the ball in a tie game with 33 seconds left. I find that hard to complain about.
Brad: And I’m not, I just expected Scruggs to have it.
Bryan: So did Butler. The help was pretty nonexistent and let Naji get to the basket. My first instinct was to get the ball to Scruggs, but after seeing how it played out I see why they let Marshall take it.
Mary: I was thinking the same thing about Marshall having the ball on the last possession.. Yes, I know it worked out but Paul Scruggs is 100% more reliable with the ball in his hands and he has really shown that over the last 2 games. It was the same thing I was wondering during the Georgetown game though when the game was close down the line and on 2 consecutive possessions we tried to let Naji iso and get to the hole - which I don’t think he scored on either occasion. Paul makes much better decisions on a regular basis and he is so much more poised at the rim whether that be to score or to dish. That’s just my two cents, but glad to have two wins this week.
Donnie: I’ll add my take on the last play for X. I loved the call. The objective looked to be to get downhill and attack the basket and either get an easy basket or a foul, and Naji is one of the best players on the team at that. I know Scruggs had another great outing, but I have no critiques for the final, especially with the result
Joel: That 1-7 from deep obscures the fact that Naji is really good when he does what he’s really good at. He was 3-6 from inside the arc and 5-6 from the line. Nobody on Butler was stopping him for getting where he was going that last possession. I dare say we’re a better team when he plays like that rather than settling for 22-footers.
Brad: Good on him for getting downhill when it mattered. Abandon the arc until next year and just do that. It was amusing to me to no end to see Butler come in when we were clearly on a down year, take multiple big leads, get an absurd and one very late, and still lose. Magnificent.
Bryan: Twitter is a reactionary place anyway, but holy cow do Butler fans consider every game a complete commentary on their season.
It needs to be said that we survived Welly’s worst shooting performance to date by grinding out some really good possessions. As weird as it sounds, if he shoots like he normally does, that is a pretty comfortable win over a top 40 team. Our ball security the last two games has been much improved. If that trend holds, we give ourselves more wiggle room for things like our best shooter going 0-7.
Looking forward, it seems like this break is coming at a pretty good time for us honestly. Sure we may lose some steam, but this gives us a chance to get Q healthy and let Paul and Naji catch their breath after logging all 80 minutes this week. Am I wrong in thinking we’ve gotta beat Nova at least once to set ourselves up with a shot at being alive when we get to MSG? I realize it is a pretty tall ask, but so was winning a game where the win probability dropped to 2.2%.
Joel: If nothing else comes from this week, we’ve turned into a fun team to watch that can be a tough out. I agree we’re basically at the point in the season that we were in that game. These two huge comebacks have kept us on life support. More importantly, I think they’ll go a long way to silencing the voices that thought it was time to pass judgment on the Steele hire.
Now we just gotta get Q back and keep rolling. That Nova game is going to be huge. If we can somehow pull that off, the title defense is on. We’ve been right there against good teams; this is not an insurmountable matchup.
Bryan: I am trying to talk myself into thinking we can at least give Nova a game if DePaul can. Sometimes I just close my eyes and see them raining threes on us again and the fear creeps back in.
To the players’ and Coach Steele’s credit, they have kept their heads above water for another week, and whether this was something clicking or just the final thrashings before rigor mortis, it made for two very fun games. [ed. note: While bodies do move after death as rigor sets in, if you see someone you suppose to have been dead “thrashing,” please render aid.]
Joel: They still shoot a ton of threes, but they’re just okay at making them. They’ve got some dudes, but we’ve got some dudes, too. It’s all hands on deck, but it’s not too big a hill to climb. If we can pull that off, suddenly you can squint and see the start of a resume.
Donnie: Nova is only shooting 34.9% from three, which is 149th in the country. They’re also sixth in three point percentage in Big East. If Q is healthy and Castlin and Harden keep up their momentum from this week, Nova is a winnable game.