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Xavier played like trash in a game they had to have: Three takeaways

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Xavier needed a win over Providence to stay on the right side of the bubble. Instead, they turned in a horrible performance.

NCAA Basketball: Butler at Xavier Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

There are no kind ways to describe the way Xavier played on Wednesday night against the Providence Friars. If you stayed up to watch all of that, I feel genuinely sorry for you. If you are still awake to read this I can only assume it is the rage preventing you from sleeping. The team looked clueless, hapless, and borderline apathetic. At no point did they seriously challenge the Friars. The Covid excuse that was reasonably accepted recently no longer holds water. There is no denying that this team, frankly speaking, sucks right now.

They sucked in every aspect of the game and for the whole game tonight. The offense was bad, the defense was bad, the coaching was bad. You can bet that if there were special teams in basketball, Xavier would have been bad at that, too. The Musketeers saw their two stars combine for 46. Dwon Odom chipped in 11. Everyone else combined for 11 more.

Providence’s offense came into the game eighth best in the conference and moribund when it came to shooting the ball. Xavier spent most of the night making the Friars look like a cloned collection of Steph Currys. Joel said of the 41.5% three point shooting Noah Horchler before the game, “He’s the kind of Jimmie Binnie/Ricky Kreklow sort of dude who always seems to pop up to drop like 14 on 6 shots in a game Xavier needs to have.” Xavier’s coaching staff apparently didn’t read the preview (or bother to watch any tape), because Xavier walked away from Horchler literally from the game’s first possession. He responded with 20/9/0. Xavier challenged him once behind the arc, but then only to commit an obvious foul on a three point jump shooter.

Fear not though, that’s not the only place the coaching battled with execution to see which could be worse. Xavier never even looked like having an answer for Nate Watson. Perhaps the best summation of the Musketeers interior defense came on successive second half possessions when first Jason Carter and then Zach Freemantle fled the scene to allow a Providence big an easy dunk. This butter soft defensive approach could possibly have been remedied by Bryan Griffin, but he remained anchored to the bench after a brief second half cameo. When Jason Carter is going for 2/2/2 and adding nothing defensively, though, it’s easy to see why he had to get 33 minutes.

That isn’t a typo. Jason Carter accrued those numbers in a frankly shocking 33 minutes. If you assume by looking that surely there was some other reason he was out there, I implore to find a replay of that game and find out what that reason was. I’m sure Jason was trying his hardest, but it wasn’t good enough today. He was hardly the only odd personnel choice. Colby Jones was, at best, peripheral on his way to 4/1/3 in 35 minutes. He left the game in the second half only because he was bleeding profusely after a play that should have gotten Nate Watson ejected. Xavier’s bench players must have wondered what would have to happen for them to get in as Jones finished the game essentially wearing an eye patch.

Well, most of Xavier’s bench players. Adam Kunkel logged 16 minutes. That’s two more than every other bench player combined. Kunkel rewarded the coaching staff for their faith by going 1-4 from the floor and committing four fouls. As he was doing that neither CJ Wilcher nor Kyky Tandy played a single second half minute. While Xavier scored .97 points per possession, Travis Steele left his best chance at a pure scorer in warmups. As the Musketeers allowed 1.19 points per possession, Xavier’s best rebounder and interior defender played seven minutes. If it weren’t so painful, it would have been comical.

This isn’t to say that just coaching lost Xavier this game. Paul Scruggs 22 came on 8-21 from the floor and featured three missed layups. When Kyky Tandy did get in he inexplicably dribbled the ball into four defenders and turned it over. CJ Wilcher took a 20 foot jumper one trip down and compounded that error with a three only four seconds into the shot clock the next time. If you want to play more, being completely daft is likely not the way to do it. That said, Kyky Tandy should quit the team when they return to campus. At this point he’s risking injury in practice and his eligibility wherever he transfers for no apparent reason.

There’s not a lot more to say about this. Xavier was awful in a game they needed to win. They played poorly, coached poorly, and apparently scouted poorly. Hopefully the transit professionals are not hired by the team. The Musketeers now sit squarely on the bubble, and likely the wrong side of it, with a resume consisting of a win over Oklahoma and precious little else. Xavier’s season hangs in the balance. On the evidence shown tonight, there’s no reason to think they can rescue it.