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Xavier’s problems start at the top of the usage chart

Without star production from guys taking star possessions, the Muskies are going to have a hard time making headway in Big East play.

NCAA Basketball: Seton Hall at Xavier Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

With 12:16 to go last night, Xavier led by 10 and had a 89.6% chance of winning the game, Zach Hankins was playing the game of his D1 life, and the Musketeers looked like a team that had finally figured things out. It took just those 12 minutes to disabuse anyone of that notion. Seton Hall finished on a 34-14 run from that point and put paid to the notion that Xavier is much more than bottom third Big East team this year.

This game didn’t fall apart like others have, though. In the second half Xavier hoisted eight threes, just one more than they did in a wildly successful first half. Three of those, two from Paul Scruggs, actually went in. X took 21 shots in the half from inside the arc, a ratio that both fans and coaches must be happier with. Unfortunately, Xavier’s two alleged stars couldn’t come with the goods when it mattered.

I’ve been critical of Travis Steele at times, but, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, he got his team at least shooting better shots last night. That he couldn’t get the ball to Hankins in the second half comes down to the 10 turnovers Xavier racked up in the decisive frame, seven from the two guys who have used most of the team’s possessions this year. Quentin Goodin threw the ball to the wrong team a mildly shocking five times and Naji Marshall joined him with two more. That is just scraping the surface of a half of incompetence, though.

The Musketeers need their stars to fire on all cylinders to win this year. There is no Kerem Kanter or JP Macura to fill in if the leading scorer can’t get it going. Last night, Goodin and Marshall went 5-20/1-6/7-11 shooting, turned the ball over 9 times, and could not effectively relieve the pressure on a blistering Paul Scruggs or a starved for service Hankins. As the players expected to be Xavier’s stars wilted, so did Xavier’s chances of winning the game.

There’s a lot of season left, but there’s only one likely result for a team that blows 10 point second half leads at home, who can’t stop taking bad shots, and who can’t get production from its stars. For the Musketeers it has gotten late early. Unless Goodin and Marshall reverse a season of mediocrity, nothing much can be expected to change.