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Sunday Conversation is watching a tired team

Fatigue, bad defense, and a stagnant offense add up to losing to DePaul.

NCAA Basketball: DePaul at Xavier
“It’s you or Griffin McKenzie.”
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Our weekly talk about the Musketeers starts out pessimistic and heads downhill from there. In that regard, it closely mirrors Xavier’s season.

Brad: Grim. From here on out there are no games that Xavier should win. Last night, the team just collapsed, again, got basically nothing from non-rotation players, again, and turned the ball over way too much, again. It’s the same old things over and over and they aren’t getting better. This is a bad team.

Joel: It’s sadly predictable. The top end talent is there to punch with the rest of the league, but the depth to run for 40 minutes isn’t. Last night was a sad example of that; in 40 bench minutes, we got 2 points. The people trying to pin this on Steele are trying to wring blood from a stone. He’s not going to make Welage more athletic or have a quicker release, he’s not going to make Castlin hunt his shot, he’s not going to make Kennedy and James high major players. Maybe he could have handled Eli Harden better, but that isn’t the difference between 11-13 and 19-5.

Brad: No, someone suggested that this team was four or five games over .500 with Mack. That’s just ludicrous. The talent isn’t there, there wasn’t time to get more, and even the guys at the top aren’t setting the world alight. I’ll admit though, I was expecting more than this.

Bryan: The loss of so much talent, specifically scoring talent, was always going to be the big issue for this team, but this can not all be explained away by a talent deficit. This team just cannot get out of its own way. The late game turnovers aren’t because of talent, it is because of focus. Not being able to keep teams off the offensive glass is not a talent issue, it is a focus issue. This team makes mental mistakes they don’t have the raw ability to make up for and it is frustrating to watch.

That being said, it is still correctable, although I think the fatigue issue is really starting to tell as well in my opinion.

Joel: This team would be much better if Mack had stayed, but that’s because more talent would have come in. Top guys aren’t going to sign into an unsure coaching situation. Steele is raking on the recruiting trail right now; I’m confident the program will bounce back. In the meantime, this is going to be an empty year. Unless, of course, you think the team that can’t hold together 40 minutes is somehow going to rip off 4 wins in 4 days.

Bryan: Hard to argue with any of that, although I doubt Mack’s presence would have in any way affected the Jake Walter situation. That still would have been an empty scholarship.

Brad: Yeesh. That’s all bad. Bry is right, it’s not just a talent deficit, it’s that the guys we have tend to make the same mistakes repeatedly. That is, to some extent, a coaching problem.

[Ed. note: Jake Walter was convicted of a sex crime as a juvenile and currently awaits trial on new rape charges.]

Mary: Maybe I’ve harped on this too much but the turnovers make this team damn near unwatchable. And not only that, it’s the different ways in which we manage to lose the ball. How many times in the last 4 or so games has Q just dribbled the ball into 2 defenders and had it stripped away? How many times has Naji tried to make a show stopping play and either dribbled it off of his foot or had it blocked/stolen? Not to mention all of the times we just throw a ridiculously casual pass and have a defender in the passing lane for an easy steal. The ball security is a head scratcher.. Is that coaching? Is that just bad basketball IQ? Or is that lack of focus? I really can’t figure it out.

Unfortunately my bias for Paul Scruggs gets in the way of my objective analysis because he had 6 of his own TOs last night, not to mention the crucial one late in the game. It’s just baffling all together.

Brad: Baffling is the perfect word for a lot of what we are seeing this year.

Joel: My bias towards Q would like to point out that he only had 3 turnovers. Sadly, he only had 1 assist and shot 2-9 from the floor, including an inexplicable 1-5 from deep. Why is a career 29.5% three-point shooter taking more than half his shot attempts from behind the arc?

Hey, side note, how would you describe our offensive scheme? I just ask, because I’ve been watching for the entire Steele Era, and I’m not sure we have one. That one play we run where like three guys off the ball run in huge circles and take turns doing dribble handoffs at the top of the key is the only action we run with any frequency, and it’s frankly not super effective.

Brad: No, and that worries me. There isn’t a lot of really intricate action or motion that the team has used in the recent past. Think of the shot that Kerem Kanter got to beat whoever that also ran we spotted 20 points last year was. Have we seen anything like that, or close to that, this year?

Bryan: I thought we actually had a couple of good looks off of pick and rolls out of timeouts last night. Part of the issue with us not running looks like we did for Kerem against that imminently forgettable opponent last year is that they had a lot to worry about and Kerem was an excellent shooter. This year, there are fewer weapons who defenses need to worry about beating someone one on one and Scruggs is about the only guy we have to catch and shoot at this point.