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Creeping closer to the red button

With the Musketeers struggling the temptation to press the panic alarm grows each day.

NCAA Basketball: Creighton at Xavier
There's a theory that says this is a better look than a contested three.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Xavier lost to Creighton yesterday, and we're going to talk about that. No holds barred, no pulling punches, a real discussion of what is wrong. But first, a word to the angry Twitter guys out there. If that's not you, welcome, and skip the italics.

I see you out there @ing the players, criticizing the coach, and generally bemoaning the fate that a bunch of 18-22 year olds didn't provide the entertainment you wanted in the way you wanted. And sure, that can be frustrating. Granted, you last played in high school, but you know what your coach/science teacher used to tell you. And boy, for a dude who worked for $30k a year in the same town he grew up in, he knew the game. You weren't pansies like these guys either. He made you play the game like men.

And no, you don't know a flex cut from a UCLA, you couldn't identify a post pin down if one happened to you, and you haven't the foggiest clue what the difference between horns and a chop is, but you know, YOU KNOW, that this team isn't being coached right. No, you don't know how to break down tape, but you watch at least three games a week. Well, before you doze off. From the bottom of your 2-3 zone loving, "pound it in the paint" screaming heart, you know Travis Steele is doing it wrong. This team needs better coaching.

And sure, you're a mid 40s white guy who would literally die if he tried to run a 5k in under 30 minutes, let alone a reasonable time, and yeah, that resolution to get in the gym was mostly brought on because anything below that stomach you can't see over is mostly a rumor to you, (and man, how hard is it to get to the gym three times a week? Crazy!) but you have some real advice for these college athletes.

But here's the thing. You don't. You don't know the game, you didn't play in college, you didn't coach, you don't know. So shut up. Your eyes don't tell you anything, because your eyes don't have a bloody clue what they are looking at. Shut up. Get out of Q's mentions, stop tagging Naji, don't mention the athletics department. Shut up. But keep reading us. Hate clicks work too.

Alright, that guy should be gone after that. Yesterday was one of the most frustrating losses of Xavier's time in the Big East. Reasonable people took to Twitter in reasonable ways (and @ing us or aggravated yelling is definitely reasonable. Don't kick a dog or anything) to express that.

The main focus of Xavier fan expression this season has been Quentin Goodin. Xavier's senior guard has had free reign for the year but yesterday, after an 0-7 from the floor, Travis Steele had finally seen enough. Q sat the bench most of the final 15 minutes while KyKy Tandy and Bryce Moore played the guard spots. Q is now averaging 7.6/2.6/4.1 on 36% shooting. His ORtg is down to 90. While Xavier players have to keep shooting open shots, Coach Steele seems to have wearied of watching Q miss them. Even his excellent play in the other facets of the game was not enough to save him.

Bryce Moore, who came on for Q, had a 17 minute trillion. Zach Freemantle played 16 minutes and managed an ORtg of 65. For Tandy it was 13 and 63. Xavier's bench was once again a complete non-factor. Dontarius James didn't play and Dah Bishop is gone. For the second straight game, Xavier was functionally a five man team.

Four of those starting five were actually pretty good. Every starter other than Goodin had an efficiency rating over 100. Starters not named Goodin were also 4-11 behind the arc. In fact Xavier's top lineup was good enough to keep the rest of the team in a game it had almost no businesses being in.

Offensively, at least. For the second straight game Xavier's defense was shredded. On Zegarowski and Ballock found the range, the Musketeers were chasing shadows. When they tried to adjust, Greg McDermott threw another wrinkle at them. That meant late in the game it was Christian Bishop twisting the knife. An elite defense can overcome an offense that scores .96 points per possession. The defense Xavier is suddenly playing cannot.

All this leaves Xavier on the outside looking in. Were the NCAA tournament to start today, the Musketeers would not be in it. They're off the bottom of the bubble, 1-3 in conference, and swooning at exactly the wrong time. There is time left in this season, but the way this team is playing now, that just means more nights spent in silent frustration or venting to friendly strangers on Twitter. Make no mistake, Xavier is in trouble. The Musketeers have entered the times that try men's souls. Again.