Saturday’s loss to Marquette probably ends Xavier’s chances at an at-large bid even if they can win the rest of their Big East slate, with only Villanova representing a chance at a truly resume anchoring win. Bearing that in mind, this weekend’s conversation is something of a wondering what could have been if the season and this week’s games could have gotten well and truly on track for X.
Even I have to concede at this point that the at-large bid is gone. We would need an 8-2 finish and some help to be in the conversation. That’s not happening.
I had visions of this being the win that sparked an 04 like run when things were going so well early in the second half, but it all fell apart in the end. The only consolation is that Marquette had to make some really tough shots to win, but it is a scant one.
I’m not sure 10-0 does it, and that’s equally not happening. Tonight was a microcosm of the season. Effort is there, but something trips the team up. This time the outside shooting and turnovers weren’t the issue, but the inside shooting wasn’t great and the three point defense was awful. The main problem is, though, that this team just isn’t talented enough.
I think inconsistency is the red flag of a team not having enough talent. Last year Tre could have a bad game at the same time JP had a bad game and some combination of Kerem, Kaiser, Big Sean, Q, Scruggernuts, and Naj could drop 50 and save the day. Now if we need to get 75 or 80, we need every big guy to come through or we’re in trouble. The depth to absorb a bad game at the top is gone.
And it doesn’t take much at the top. Today Scruggs and Tyrique were excellent, Q was... not bad, but Naji was poor. When you get nothing from Welage, Hankins doesn’t get the ball enough, and Elias Harden is back on a milk carton, you can’t survive even one guy being off. Marquette knew that if it came down to it they could keep scoring and we couldn’t.
Seriously, though what is going on with Harden? Welage has taken six shots since his 0-7 against Butler, and he’s not adding value elsewhere. Keonte Kennedy brings zero to the table, and Kyle Castlin, God bless him, isn’t a threat. We’ve seen Harden shoot reasonably well, and we know he defends as well as any other option in his spot, why is he not out there? I told you before the season I thought he should have transferred, I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t now. There is no reason for him to stay.
Watching yesterday, I didn’t think Naji had a bad game, but I guess the turnovers really cost him. As for Harden, I really can’t figure it out. Marshall and Goodin are dinged up, Castlin and Welage both look to be struggling with their confidence at times, and he has logged 4 minutes a game since he played really well against Georgetown.
And that lack of depth or willingness to use it hurts down the stretch. Joe Sunderman used the word “jaded” to describe how the Musketeers looked as Marquette made their run. Do you know how many minutes Xavier got outside of their top seven yesterday? 0. Not a one. On the season only 31% of our minutes come from the bench. That’s the same as the Tu/Cheeks team Tu’s senior year, just without that level of talent.