Do you live in Ohio? Are you a football fan of one of the home teams? Congrats, your season is over. Up here in Cleveland a season of great promise goes out with the ultimate whimper in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and Freddie Kitchens goes the way of so many other fired coaches. Those same Bengals never really got anything going at all and went 2-14 in yet another year of abject futility. Somewhere, Marvin Lewis hides a smile.
If your football leanings are more collegiate, you were likely let down by the Ohio State Buckeyes and their inability to score touchdowns or play defense when it matters. (If you are like 95% of Buckeyes fans, you are now preparing to have the gall to complain about a call you don’t like.) A great game for the neutral unfortunately left no Ohio teams playing in a game that matters come January. Again.
All of that means that the distraction of football is behind us. Whether you are a diehard wondering what happened to Baker Mayfield or a more casual fan salivating over Joe Burrow throwing to AJ Green, your football dreams are deferred for another year. As if to remind you with a jolt, Xavier takes on Villanova tonight to kick off the Big East season. The best sport in the world has been rolling for quite some time now. We’re excited, and we’re excited that (hopefully) your full attention is back on the Musketeers. Here’s what you may have missed.
The raw numbers since UConn are those of an above average point guard. (It’s worth noting here that it has been seven games, more than half the season, of this). Q is averaging 10.9/3.6/4.9 on an excellent shooting line of .443/.423/.688. Turnovers are basically the same despite an increase in minutes and his defensive rating has held firm. There’s more in the link, but Q is rolling.
In that time, now the time that Xavier is starting to get the offense going, Naji has been excellent. There’s no question that a large part of that has come from having more space to operate. In that span, Naji is shooting .495/.351/.615 and is making 59.3% of his two point shots. At the rim Naji is finishing at a 71.7% rate, the same as Jalen Reynolds in his final season for the Musketeers. The turnaround in the last seven games has been dramatic. With Naji and Q both clicking, Xavier’s offense is an entirely different proposition.
This team doesn’t shoot well, but they aren’t the first team to. The 2000-01 Musketeers were playing a slightly different game from today’s Xavier squad. For starters, that team was shooting from a three point that had yet to move back twice and was still the same one that a high schooler would shoot from now. That team shot 30.3%, just 1% better than this year’s squad, against an Atlantic 10 schedule as well.
You can read how in the link, but here’s the punchline: “That gets Xavier to 13 conference wins which, I’ll remind you, has been enough for a share of the league title just once since X joined. There’s no doubt Xavier is one of the top three or four teams in the league; it’s up to them in the next three months to scrap their way to the top of the pile.”
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