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From Bad to Worse

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As the season progresses, Xavier’s offense regresses.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Marquette
Don’t blame this guy
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

This hasn’t been a good season for Xavier. The signs were there early as the Musketeers struggled to get past teams like IUPUI and Evansville, got thumped at home by Wisconsin, and completely folded against Auburn. Recently, beating Detroit Mercy took a late rally and X made a meal of beating DePaul. In the macro it all adds up to a year destined to end at Madison Square Garden, but in the micro it looks even worse, largely because of an offense that has been consistently getting worse.

Xavier’s offense was supposed to be it’s comparative strength this year and, thanks to a mind bendingly bad defense, it has been, What it hasn’t been is actually good. Unlike most Xavier teams though, this one isn’t improving as the season goes. Four of the Musketeers worst five offensive games (Seton Hall, Missouri, UC, and Marquette) have come in the last month. Yesterday’s 71.2 offensive efficiency against Marquette was their worst since the 60-45 loss in the Crosstown Shootout over six years ago. Only one Xavier player, Paul Scruggs, had an efficiency over 100 as the team averaged an appalling .71 points per possession.

That’s just scratching the surface of the bad offense, though. Kyle Castlin is averaging more than 20 minutes per game but hasn’t scored since before Christmas. Naji Marshall has posted an offensive efficiency over 100 just once in the last seven games and that against the fearsome defense of DePaul. Quentin Goodin is absolutely elite with his ball distribution, but has an efficiency of 99 because his shooting essentially constitutes a turnover at this point. Elias Harden doesn’t play, Zach Hankins and Tyrique Jones don’t get the ball enough, and Ryan Welage can’t stay on the court. The offense in whole is worse than any other in Xavier’s KenPom history, save that 12-13 squad, and it’s trending downward.

This was borne out in a microcosm yesterday. Xavier’s defense, the struggles of which were broken down last week, turned in a solid effort, limiting Marquette to .96 points per possession. Against a team that loves the three and employs Markus Howard, that’s a win for the Musketeers. Except Xavier’s offense was utterly incompetent.

Right now Xavier is 231st in the nation in three point shooting. Yesterday the Musketeers made exactly one three pointer but still attempted 14. That wouldn’t have been so bad, 14 isn’t an inordinate amount of attempts, but in order to generate those elite live looks, Xavier mostly just stood around. Of the 17 field goals the Musketeers made, four were assisted. That 23.5% mark is, obviously, awful. Lest you think that was because of great ball security, Xavier also committed turnovers at a nearly 20% rate. For the icing on the cake, X was just 17-26 from the line.

The one exception to all of this abject sucking is Paul Scruggs. For the year his efficiency is 112 (up from 96 last year), and in three Big East games it is 121.7. While the two alleged stars of the team have struggled to live up to expectations, Scruggs has put up a line of 12.8/4.9/2.9 and shot .517/.447/.791. Those numbers are excellent, especially on a team struggling like this one. As this offense takes the season into the tank with it, Scruggs is something of a light on the rim of the water.