Xavier lost by six at Villanova last night in a game that Ken Pomeroy thought they would lose by five. The final score was 68-62. Xavier scored .9 points per possession, Villanova scored .99 points per possession. These are the facts of the case and they are undisputed.
Beyond that it likely depends on your personal outlook on life. Either Xavier battled hard against Villanova and nearly pulled out a vital win, or they shot horribly and were never actually in the game, despite what the scoreline suggests. Here’s the argument both ways.
Save allowing a 17-0 run, Xavier’s defense shut down one of the best offenses in the nation. Nova got those .99 PPP, but only .86 outside one six minute stretch. Villanova only shot 28% outside the arc despite it seeming like the usual barrage and kept Wildcats under 50% inside the arc. Even with that incredible run, Xavier’s defense was borderline elite.
And, even given that run, the Musketeers were in this game late. Multiple times Xavier was within six and even once had the lead down to four. A stop here, a made shot there, a good call on a block and Xavier is shooting for a chance to lead. This was not just “our annual [butt] kicking at Villanova.” The Musketeers genuinely put a scare into Villanova behind 19 from their star and 12 each from the other of the three leading Musketeers. X shot 55.3% inside the arc and had their way in the paint.
Xavier was spirited, fighting, and never willing to just concede. This was a warning that, even if Nova remains the champ, X is a legitimate contender.
Xavier was never actually in this game. After that 17-0 run, which, news flash, you can’t just write out of history, Xavier’s chance of winning was 12.3%. It never came back up above 24%. A million statistical analysis run over a million simulations basically says that the Musketeers lost this game with 10:03 left when Jermaine Samuels laid the ball in to cap the 17-0 run when Xavier could neither score the ball nor stop Nova. After that, everything that happened was window dressing. The Musketeers were done, and everyone in the building knew it. “Our annual [butt] kicking” came earlier than usual, but that doesn’t mean the hammer blow didn’t fall.
It fell because Xavier shot only 11 three pointers, not nearly enough to keep Nova honest, and only made one of them. Naji Marshall was 0-5 behind the arc. The only other Musketeer who even tried multiple threes was KyKy Tandy, and he was also the only one to make one. Persistent shooting woes aside, Xavier also got absolutely crushed on the offensive glass. An ostensibly good rebounding team allowed themselves to get dominated. Villanova grabbed 30% of their own misses and turned those into 11 extra chance points and 28 points in the paint. You can paint it however you like, but Xavier played badly and lost because of that.
So it depends on how you look at it. Either Xavier was thisclose to knocking off Nova at Nova, or they got rolled in a game that they were never really in. How you see this game depends on how you see the glass: half empty or half full.