Bryan: We will find out who we are playing at some point during this conversation [ed. note: as you all know by now, it’s Creighton], but that was another battling display from the group today. It seemed like everybody had at least one big shot in him and Welly and Scruggs had the bullets to put the Johnnies down for good. To come off a disappointing loss, lose Naji, and regroup to bury a very talented (on the court, at least) St. John’s says a ton about this crew. How we feeling looking forward to MSG? Does anything but 3 in 3 get it done?
Donnie: If they can beat Nova in the semis and keep the finals close I think it may be enough, but there’s a lot of other things that have to go right too. But the way this team is playing right now, winning three in three feels very possible.
Joel: A lot of bubble teams won today, which wasn’t delightful. I think we need 3 in 3. Am I off in thinking I’d rather see us face Creighton than Georgetown even though Creighton ran us off the floor and we played a couple close ones with Georgetown? McClung and Akinjo scare me.
Bryan: We beat Georgetown without McClung, we beat Creighton without Zegarowski. Either way, we will need to keep our defensive intensity at the level it was against Nova to slow them down. I think I like our bigs against Creighton’s better because Govan and LeBlanc are so long, but I don’t know that it comes down to matchups as much as it comes down to how we perform.
Joel: Hey, do you think this Welly has existed the whole time? Concomitant to that, do you think we can get Best Welly on the floor with Best Paul and Best Naj? If we can get the best versions of all our guys together, I think we can run away with the conference tournament. I’m really excited and nervous for MSG, much like I’ve been for the past three weeks or so.
Bryan: What I think we saw from the role players today can probably be traced back to the game Q had. It has to be tempting to throw the ball to Naji and watch him get a bucket when he is going well, but today I thought our guys, especially Q, were making the extra pass to find the best shot on a given possession. Against a swarming, physical backcourt, he got us into basically whatever we wanted to run in the half court and kept the ball moving for the most part. I think when you know a dude is in the process of going off for 25+, the ball can get a bit sticky, but the movement was excellent tonight.
Brad: So it is Creighton. We squeaked past them once, and they crushed us once. There are no easy games this time of year, though, so the draw wasn’t ever going to be simple. KenPom has us as a three point underdog to a team that has won five straight and just hung 91 on DePaul.
Bryan: And Mitch Ballock stuck an 11-12 from three on them for good measure. I have faith that Coach Steele and his staff will have our guys ready to try and run Creighton’s shooters off the arc, but when a guy gets that hot, there can sometimes be no stopping him. Hopefully the rest has Naj’s ankle ready to hound Alexander for 40 minutes.
Joel: Looking at the bubble, I’m skeptical of a way in other than the auto bid. The OVC championship game kind of pushed me over the edge there. I think X has a better resume than Murray State, but they took the auto bid and pushed Belmont to the waiting room. I just think Belmont’s resume is better than Xavier’s, and I don’t think 2-1 next week changes that. If we lose before the final, forget it. If we lose in the final, man... I don’t see it. I’m seeing X popping up in first four out/next four out things though, so maybe I’m wrong.
Bryan: Some of of it will come down to the carnage we see in other major conferences. If teams like Clemson, TCU, Ohio State, Alabama, or Arizona State drop early in their conference tournaments and Xavier can add wins over Creighton and Nova, it may be enough to push us over another major conference team who craps the bed this week. 2-1 would not fill me with hope, but I think it depends on what happens elsewhere whether it leaves us dead in the water or not.
Brad: I said two months ago that the at large was gone, and I hold to that. X needs three in three or it’s the NIT. The resume just isn’t there to justify getting in over other bubble teams.