Xavier is now 11-9 on the season, including 3-4 in conference play. They are 82nd in the KenPom, which would be the worst they've ended a season since those rankings came into being almost two decades ago. Plenty is in diubt, including the nation's longest streak of .500 or above finishes in conference play.
This is not the Xavier Musketeers basketball that we have come to expect from one of the nation's premier programs. It's frustrating.
What's embarrassing, however, is this:
There was a lot of vitriol directed at XU players after last night's loss. Asked Travis Steele how he addresses that. Steele: "We always talk about blocking out the noise. None of those people matter at the end of the day." Said XU controls its own destiny & writes its own story.— Shannon Russell (@slrussell) January 24, 2019
I flat-out don't understand that. Someone - multiple someones - were ripping into the Muskies after they couldn't complete a third straight incredible home comeback. You only need to go as far as Zach Hankins' Instagram story to see a portion of the profanity-laced invective these guys are subject to.
Hankins, by the way, is the team's second oldest player. He'll turn 23 a couple months after Kyle Castlin, the team's elder statesman.
Most of these guys are just old enough to buy smokes. Most of them aren't yet old enough to buy alcohol.
All of them are trying their best. All of them feel the weight of expectations, none heavier than their own. Watch Paul Scruggs shrink in on himself at the horn last night; he knows what just happened.
I get the frustration. I want to see the team do well. I watch them go 7 minutes without scoring when they were doing it at will moments before and wonder where the heck it went. I watch them eat up all or almost all of a double digit deficit after the last media timeout and wonder where the heck it has been.
I watch Naji continue to shoot threes and wonder why. I watch Q play so far below what I know he's capable of and wish like anything he'd get back on track. I watch Eli Harden's death and intermittent resurrection and can't even figure out what to wonder about him.
None of these faults and flaws are are black marks on these kids' character. We are happy here to offer substantive critique of their performance on the floor, often at the expense of their esteem of our little blog.
What we won't do, and what no fan should ever stray into, is making personal attacks on the players. They are out their doing their best and fulfilling their commitment to the school. It's not performance art with the individual fan as the object. Their failures - real or perceived - are not an affront to the fan. If you're tempted to lash out at the players because they had the temerity to lose right in front of you, grow up and stop being so selfish.
Most of you who read this blog and/or follow us on Twitter are good fans who genuinely get it. When garbage like this happens, keep letting the players know they have your support. Just as importantly, let the people who are doing it know it's not acceptable in this fan base. They're no different than so many internet Mick Cronins, forever yelling "A F***ING RETARD WOULD KNOW THAT" in the face of a young adult trying his hardest while also still having to pass classes, navigate young love, and figure out what to do with his life after college.
If this is how we're going to behave when things go a little bit bad - and let's be real, we're tied for 3rd in the Big East; life could be much worse - what right do we have to call ourselves fans when things go well?
This team doesn't owe us anything beyond a good faith effort every time out, which they're clearly giving. This cannot be who we are, not even a little bit, not even a few of us.