Xavier is in a rough patch right now. They're 1-3 in their last 4 games, with the only win coming against the weakest opponent. In their last 288 possessions of defense, they've given up 323 points, which is not good. It's tough to win games when you're giving up almost 1.2 points per possession, and the results have borne that out.
Xavier is going well right now. In the past 2 weeks, they've played 3 games against teams you'd back to make the Sweet 16 and been right there in all of them. Despite playing crunch time against Duke and all of the Gonzaga game without one of their best players, Xavier cobbled together enough to have both of those teams on their heels at times. Florida - a prospective bubble team - was the only team outside the KenPom top 20 X played, and they never had a win probability of even 65% and weren't even at 50% anytime in the final 13 minutes.
I think we've belabored the difference between process and product enough in the last few days, but Xavier has a chance to bring them into alignment tonight. Southeastern Louisiana comes in with half of their four wins being against non-D1 teams. They've got a really good win at Wyoming that they backed up with a neutral site loss to Kennesaw State. Their two D1 wins are by a total of 5 points; they a couple of bounces from holding a goose egg in that department.
Let's start with the positives: they're top 50 in ball security. They also shoot 37.5% from deep and take a slightly above average percentage of their shots from three-point range. It's all bad news from there. They're absent on the offensive glass, don't get to the line, and shoot a miserable 43.2% from inside the arc. It's hard to compete when you're doing that.
The defense is somehow the weak link. They're about average at forcing turnovers and dreadful at everything else. They don't defend well inside or outside the arc, and they don't rebound to any meaningful extent. Fully half the field goal attempts against them have been threes; only a handful of teams are more permissive on the arc. This all adds up the 312th defense in the nation per KenPom.
The good news is there's a lot of depth. The Lions get 40% of their minutes from the bench, which puts them comfortably in the top 50 of the nation. The bad news is that their depth is made up of guys not good enough to start for the KenPom #306 team.
Freshman guard Sami Pissis is their best bench weapon, averaging 9.7/1.5/1.3 on solid shooting from all three levels and drawing a ton of fouls. He also commits a ton of fouls and is only familiar with rebounding as a concept, not an action. His brother Medhi is a couple of inches taller at 6'5" and is as one dimensional as a player can be. He has 35 D1 points and a shooting line of 10-22/10-20/5-6. Scholars will not that he basically isn't even trying to do anything but huck threes. He as an assist, two rebounds, and two steals. Total.
Alec Woodard and Matthew Strange are a pair of reserve guards who don't feature much in the offense. They're both shooting well from beyond the arc in low usage and have low ball distribution numbers; they combine to average just over 10 PPG in about 30 minutes of play.
Donte Houston and Nick Caldwell are basically the same, just forwards. Caldwell is a slightly better rebounder and Houston is a little more present on offense, but neither of them are lighting the world on fire with their numbers. They combine for just under 30 minutes per game and average 10.7 and 6.1 together.
-Is Adam Kunkel ready to go? Kunk took a knock in the Duke game and missed winning time there and the whole of the battle with Gonzaga. You know it killed a guy as competitive as he is to sit out, and Coach Miller said he's making steady progress towards full health. There's a case to be made for sitting him this game so he's full go for West Virginia; we'll know at pre-game what Miller decided to do.
-Will any depth step up? Jerome Hunter has been excellent but plagued by foul trouble. Dieonte Miles has turned offense into a game of 4-on-5. Kyky has shown glimpses but is 3-15 from three outside his explosion against Montana. Kam Craft and Des Claude have looked like freshmen, and Cesare Edwards hasn't looked like anything at all. Xavier needs someone to make a jump before Big East play arrives.
-Can we learn anything from this game? Only if it goes badly. This is a home game against a team outside the top 300 in KenPom. It should be a perfunctory demolition.
-Rebound. The Lions aren't a good rebounding team, especially not compared to what Xavier faced in Portland, and Coach Miller said in the pregame presser that the boards need to be a point of improvement. Against the team that ranks 327th in the nation in average height, Xavier should grab just about everything that comes off the rim in this game.
-Work inside out. This is overtly silly since Xavier is 2nd in the nation in 3P% and Southeastern Louisiana is one of the worst three-point defenses in D1, but Xavier's success has always come by working from the paint back out to the arc. Southeastern is absurdly permissive from behind the arc, but Xavier can't allow that to lull them into chucking complacently.
-Bury it and move on. This is not a good team. In a home game with an opponent of this caliber, sandwiches between big games, Xavier can't really prove anything just by winning. They can make a statement by making this look like every bit the buy game it is and having it dead and buried by halftime. The longer SeLa hangs around, the worse it portends for tougher contests ahead.