clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Travis Steele has to stop fighting who he is

Xavier's head man can carve out an identity if he'll allow himself to do so.

St John’s v Xavier Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

That headline - before you skip right to my mentions and point out that I'm a basement-dwelling nerd and he's the actual head coach - isn't my idea. It's Travis Steele's, in his own words.

Well, not exactly. His exact quote was, "We have to stop fighting who we are. We have to play towards our identity... When we've had success this year, we've really defended in the half court. We've gotta be able to dominate the glass... That'll give us a chance to win the game."

Steele opened the press conference after Xavier's win over Georgetown by making that point before he even took any questions. It's clear that he wants Xavier to be the kind of physical, bullying team that the Big East is known for, and they showed against Georgetown that they can be.

He's not exactly splitting the atom here. Last year, the sixth starting lineup Steele tried was Quentin Goodin, Paul Scruggs, Naji Marshall, Tyrique Jones, and Zach Hankins. That lineup made its debut in a February 9th loss against DePaul, but Xavier went 8-4 down the stretch behind that big frontcourt.

This year, Steele finally went to a big lineup against Georgetown and it paid immediate dividends. Jason Carter has maybe his best game as a Muskie thanks to the mismatches the lineup provided. Omer Yurtseven had his worst game as a Hoya against waves of Xavier height in the paint at both ends.

More importantly than individual numbers is the team's performance, as Xavier held Georgetown's offense to it's second-worst showing of the season, controlled the glass, and came away with a vital win.

However you see the backcourt lining up - is Quentin Goodin a starter? Should anyone but Kyky Tandy ever be allowed to shoot? Can Naji play the two? - it's clear that lining up two true big men gives Travis Steele exactly what he wants: a dominant defensive team that can kill possessions on the glass. Whatever else shakes out, I think this team has the potential to play to the exact identity Coach Steele wants to see. The only question is whether or not he'll unleash it.