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Let’s look on the bright side

An inexplicable wave of online negativity has followed Xavier’s 6-1 start. Here’s why it shouldn’t.

Central Michigan v Xavier Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Look, we’re all mad. Everyone is mad all the time right now. Grocery shopping? Everyone is mad. Trying to park? All mad. Online? So mad, all the time. We live in an angry America where everyone is just waiting for their moment to say their piece. And by say I mean scream, and preferably in your face or multiple times into your mentions.

That has leaked into Xavier’s season so far. After the last win there were online complaints that the bloody walk-ons weren’t getting enough playing time. Yes, you read that correctly and yes, we keep receipts. You might recognize this as dredging the bottom of the barrel of reasons to be mad, but Coach Steele brings out the angry in people and that must be sated. If that means we rant for more playing time for Ramon Singh well then so be it.

This is obviously stupid. Coach Steele is doing an above average job this year, Ramon Singh has good TikTok content, and sometimes walk-ons don’t get to play. Besides just wanting to expose themselves for not understanding the game, there’s really no reason for people to complain. (See, I’m mad too.) To that end, here are some reasons to put away the online and real life vitriol and be happy about Xavier.

Xavier is 6-1

Things got off to a rocky start with a win over Niagara that was so moribund it felt a bit like a loss. X then handled Kent State, led Ohio State wire to wire, and hammered Norfolk State before losing a game and all of their respective lunches against Iowa State. The team bounced back incredibly well against Va Tech and then swatted aside a really bad Central Michigan team. 6-1 is good. There are (as of writing) 14 undefeated teams. Xavier is not one of them because they lost a game to a team in the top 25 with everyone sick. That’s not bad.

Zach Freemantle is back

Not only is Xavier 6-1, they got there without their best player. Freemantle came back last night and looked like his usual self. He was pesky around the ball, had a questionable mustache, yelled at the refs, yelled after a dunk, and was aggressive in looking for his shot. Last season he led the team in scoring and rebounding and now he comes back to a team that has played seven games without him and won six of those. If he’s a full go for the Shootout, Xavier is a different kind of proposition.

Xavier’s coach doesn’t dress like this

Central Michigan v Xavier Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

What am I even looking at here? Tony Barbee apparently gets his fashion tips from late career Bob Huggins.

Xavier can still improve

Freemantle being back is just one part of that equation. Paul Scruggs and Dwon Odom have both been below what we know they can be. Scruggs damaged his season numbers greatly by playing through the flu, Odom by not taking care of the ball as well as he can. Once those two primary ballhandlers get things back in sync, the team will get better.

Xavier’s defense is approaching elite

The Musketeers defense is 22nd in efficiency in games so far this season. The last time out, X held Central Michigan to .63 points per possession. X is ninth in the nation in two point field goal percentage and 25th in the nation in effective field goal percentage. They don’t force turnovers, but they are top 60 in defensive rebounding and top 30 in block rate. That’s all very good.

Xavier is very deep

This is straying into dangerous “why isn’t player x playing more?” territory, but Xavier has a set rotation that is as deep as they’ve had. With Zach Freemantle back it’s clear that there are nine players that will be in the rotation. Paul Scruggs, Nate Johnson, Adam Kunkel, and Dwon Odom hold down the guard spots. Colby Jones and Jerome Hunter will play as sing forwads. Zach Freemantle, Dieonte Miles, and Jack Nunge will man the post.

Xavier gets good offense and defense from all three of their position groups and has the depth to keep anyone from getting overused. It’s difficult for a successful team to go more than nine deep. Ben Stanley, Cesare Edwards, and Kyky Tandy will have to feed off scraps and be ready to step in should someone falter.

There are more reasons to be optimistic about the Musketeers this year. Nate Johnson is getting hot, the non-conference resume already looks good, Dieonte Miles is starting to put it together, and X has been excellent in the paint, just to name a few. Right now, far more reasons exist to happy than to be mad. Lean into that and enjoy some college basketball.