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Xavier was rusty against Butler; they can't be against Nova

After a 17-day break, Xavier has enough to hold the Bulldogs at bay. They'll need to be better if they want to take down Nova.

Syndication: The Enquirer Albert Cesare / The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

During the post-game press conference after Xavier buried Butler under an onslaught of offensive production, someone in the press corps asked Coach Steele if he was surprised the team didn't show any rust.

It's not hard to see where the question was coming from. The Muskies had just put together their most comprehensive offensive performance of the year in terms of both points per possession and adjusted offensive efficiency. X shot 27-49/10-22/23-27 and only turned the ball over 6 times. Everyone from Paul Scruggs to Jerome Hunter was cashing in buckets, and Adam Kunkel poured in a Xavier career high 25.

This was, of course, a joy to watch. Unfortunately, there are two ends of a basketball court, and Xavier's performance at the other end left a lot to be desired.

Butler came into the game 180th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency, which is a poor ranking for a team in a high-major conference. They couldn't score from inside or beyond the arc and had serious trouble with ball security. They then scored 1.13 points per possession against Xavier.

In terms of PPP, only KenPom #336 Central Arkansas and D2 Chaminade have allowed more to Butler, and both of those teams forced turnovers at a higher rate than Xavier's 9.4%. Butler came into the game shooting 48% from inside the arc and promptly hit almost two-thirds of their two-point attempts against X. Nobody has allowed as many made two-point baskets to Butler as X did on Friday.

Further darkening this cloud I'm building around the silver lining of a butt-kicking on the road in conference is the fact that Butler shot 5-21 from behind the arc, many on fairly clean looks. Xavier could not keep Butler out of the paint, could not keep them from getting open shots from deep, and could not force them to turn the ball over.

I think this is a not unexpected side effect of a 17-day pause. Defensive execution is a perishable skill, and without game pressure it is a difficult one to keep sharp. Xavier's offense was sensational against Butler; hopefully their defense shook off the rust enough to be on stride against Villanova.