The at-large dream is dead. The only way that Xavier can now accumulate enough good wins to earn a bid to the big dance would be winning out all the way through the Big East tournament. Do that and you’re in anyway. This isn’t a familiar place for Xavier Nation. Not since Sean Miller’s first team dipped to 3-4 in conference with a loss to St. Joe’s has Xavier been done for so early.
That team featured a freshman named Stanley Burrell who played a lot, and another by the name of Josh Duncan who played about as much as Keonte Kennedy does now. While that season was lost, the memory of celebrating in a dorm room when Stan knocked down the winner against George Washington remains. Games like that, an unexpected win over an tier A KenPom team that eventually wen to the tournament, are why Xavier fans kept watching that year and should this year. Who knows if a Saturday in January is the day Paul Scruggs sticks a dagger for the win. That it won’t ultimately lead to a bid come March won’t make the moment any less sweet.
Marquette is good, just maybe not solely for the reasons that come to mind. Yes, Markus Howard is amazing, and yes, four players shoot over 36% behind the arc, but the Golden Eagles also get to the line well and finish well once they get there. Marquette can be prone to throwing the ball around a bit (19.6% turnover rate) and they aren’t excellent inside the arc, but they ultimately have the 37th best offense in the nation.
What might be more of a surprise is the fact Marquette is 40th in the nation in defensive efficiency. They stifle the glass to the tune of collecting 76% of opponent’s misses. They allow just a 44.4% mark from inside the arc, good for 17th in the nation, only 32% behind the arc. Add in rejecting 12% of shot attempts and you have an extremely effective defense.
|Markus Howard||Point Guard||Quentin Goodin|
|5'11" 175||Measurements||6'4", 194|
|If you haven't heard about the year Howard is having, we are very glad you are out of your coma and came to our blog to catch up on college basketball. Howard is the front runner for Big East POTY, due largely to the fact that he seems to score anytime, from any range. Beyond that, he is also a good distributor, rarely gets himself in foul trouble, and draws the most fouls in the Big East. In other words, he is good.|
|Sacar Anim||Shooting Guard||Paul Scruggs|
|6'5" 210||Measurements||6'3", 200|
|Good news: Anim has only scored 20 points once this season. Bad news: it was against Xavier. Anim is primarily on the floor for is defense, I would guess from his offensive numbers. He is a very streaky scorer, does not garner many assists despite being surrounded by elite shooters, and is not a great rebounder.|
|Sam Hauser||Small Forward||Kyle Castlin|
|6'8" 225||Measurements||6'4", 193|
|Hauser is not shooting the three nearly as well as he did last season, but can still go off from time to time. He is burdened with a bit more of the offensive load these days, and has done enough of the other things really well, which has kept his numbers from falling off a cliff. He still scores primarily from spotting up, but has been turning the ball over less and getting to the line more than he did as a Sophomore.|
|Joey Hauser||Power Forward||Naji Marshall|
|6'9" 230||Measurements||6'7", 222|
|Joey is picking up the slack for Sam's slight dip in shooting by jarring exactly half of his three point attempts in conference play. He has been in double digits in 6 of the 7 games since league play began, and currently exists as a capable third option on offense behind Howard and Sam.|
|Theo John||Center||Zach Hankins|
|6'9" 240||Measurements||6'11", 245|
|John is the reason Marquette can afford to play both Hausers in a league that trends toward four guard sets. The man crushes the glass, rarely ranges outside the lane on offense, and is an eraser in the paint, leading the Big East in block rate. All of this means he hacks a ton, but that is the trade off Marquette makes to not give up 85 points a night.|
Marquette is not a deep team. Outside the starting five Joseph Chartouny and Brendan Bailey have appeared in every game. Chartouny is a guard who can shoot it a bit from behind the arc (36.4%), but turns it over 34% of the time he uses a possession. Bailey is a big who blocks shots well but doesn’t immediately grab the eye as a guy who does much else. Ed Morrow is a big who is Marquette’s best offensive rebounder and who can do some real work inside the arc. Jamal Cain may also bring his 77 offensive rating off the bench as a guard/forward. Matt Heldt, who played 21 minutes per game last year and was the second most efficient player in the nation, is playing seven minutes per game this season and hasn’t played since the 15th of January.
- How will this team bounce back? After their longest string of good play of the season, Xavier laid an egg against Providence. The team hasn’t demonstrated a great deal of fortitude when dealing with adversity this year, and playing Marquette certainly qualifies. Hopefully, Coach Steele has refocused the troops.
- What of Quentin Goodin? Avid Banners reader Q has his three point shooting mark back up above 30% (30.1% to be exact), but he’s unlikely to be satisfied with the six turnovers in 24 minutes he produced against Providence. Xavier’s offense is troubled enough as it is, having the primary ballhandler post a 46% turnover rate for a game doesn’t help.
- Is any of the youth worth anything? Q, Paul Scruggs, Tyrique Jones, and Naji Marshall are all large parts of Xavier’s team next year. Elias Harden, Keonte Kennedy, and Dontarius James all have an 11 game chance to demonstrate they have a part to play next year.
- Enjoy watching Markus Howard: This is for the fans, not the team. Howard has the highest usage and shots rate in the Big East, yet he still manages a 114 offensive efficiency. If a basketball illiterate friend tells you he shoots to much, point out that his season 30.8% assist rate is up to over 33% in Big East play.
- Don’t get destroyed by Markus Howard: Creighton held Marquette’s entire roster save one guy to 53 points. That guy, Howard, went for 53 on his own. Xavier will have to make someone else beat them if they are to have a chance in this game.
- Get something inside: Marquette defends inside at an elite level, but if this game turns into a three point shooting contest, Xavier will lose by 20. Zach Hankins and Tyrique Jones have to get theirs in the paint for Xavier to have a puncher’s chance.