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Can Quentin Goodin help Paul Scruggs save Xavier’s season?

Xavier’s best offensive player is struggling and the answer might come from an unexpected place.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Seton Hall
I know this isn’t Q. Work with me here.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Quentin Goodin is the worst basketball player ever to suit up for a NCAA team. I know that because Twitter said so. (And it isn’t true). He may also be the key to getting Xavier to the NCAA tournament.

Paul Scruggs is Xavier’s most effective offensive weapon. He’s a capable outside shooter, excellent for a guard in the post, and able to get his own offense off the dribble. He’s even occasionally capable of taking over a game on his own. Recently though, he’s not playing well.

That is in large part because he is playing out of position. Contrary to what the Twitterati may have you believe, you cannot simply plug and play guys in and out of any position. The skill set that makes a good shooting guard, like Scruggs, is different than that of a point guard. Just because a player can dribble and pass the ball doesn’t mean he can initiate an offense. Just because a player can initiate an offense doesn’t mean he can do that and keep himself in sync. Increasingly, it appears as though Scruggs can’t.

Since Quentin Goodin was injured Xavier has been running a massive starting lineup that features Scruggs at the point and on the ball. The first game was a win over Georgetown and Scruggs was largely ineffective, going 2-15 from the floor. He got the team into the offense well, but never found his own rhythm. That has largely been the case in the three games since. In the next three games Paul is just 1-4 behind the arc and 9-21 inside it. That 9-21 mark is a significant dip from before the game against the Hoyas which Scurggs entered shooting 63% from two point range. In those games he also has nine assists against 11 turnovers.

Xavier can’t win with Scruggs playing like that. The miracle in South Orange excepted, the Musketeers have played poorly in the second half of January as Scruggs form has dipped. This is where Quentin Goodin comes in. Against Marquette Q played significant minutes and allowed Scruggs to move off the ball. The 1.04 points per possession that Xavier scored in that game were the most they had since Western Carolina back before Christmas.

In that game Paul Scruggs had an offensive efficiency of 96, his best since moving to the point. Relieved of ball handling responsibility, Paul was free to drop into the post and go 6-10 inside the arc. When he does that, the offense opens up more for Naji Marshall and lets guards free for open shots. It’s no coincidence that Xavier posted their best three point shooting performance of the year with Scruggs working effectively as a demi-big, something he can’t do when he runs the point.

At Seton Hall Q was ineffective and Paul had to move back on to the ball. He was also ineffective and only a superhuman effort from Tyrique Jones and Seton Hall forgetting how to play basketball for the first ten minutes saved Xavier. The Musketeers are a much better team when Paul Scruggs is free to play how he wants and not burdened with starting the offense. When he has to do that, the team runs the risk that their best offensive weapon is blunted. For that to happen, Q has to at least be effective. If he can do that, Xavier’s backcourt can supplement their frontcourt and save a season left for dead.