Basketball is back. The days are shorter now, and that sucks. The Astros won the World Series, and that also sucks. It’s going to snow here soon, and that sucks. For 40 beautiful minutes though, it was possible to focus on the positive of impending fall and winter: college basketball. The Musketeers ran through Morgan State after a bit of a jittery start to give Sean Miller a first win in his second stint at Xavier.
Point guard is an issue
Xavier’s ball security in the first half was absolutely appalling. Desmond Claude turned the ball over three times early, Souley Boum had two, and Jack Nunge was uncharacteristically profligate with the ball. That led to a span where the Musketeers just, to quote the youths, “yeeted” the ball all over the court. It was terrible. In that first half Xavier turned the ball over 13 times before they finally get their feet under them.
A lot of that came from the press that Morgan St. ran. The Musketeers couldn’t break it effectively and ended up in a lot of broken play sets where they looked hesitant. Without a primary ball handler coming to get the ball and break pressure, things got ugly. Teams better than the Bears are coming. Xavier needs to get that sorted.
Souley Boum is a player
23/2/2 with five steals seems a good way to endear yourself to the Cintas faithful. Fans creatively yelled “Booooom” on his four made threes, but it was his defense that made a big difference for the Musketeers. Boum was not a good defender last season, but he won’t play this season unless he can defend. Well, that’s what the coaches will say anyway. His electric driving and confident stroke will probably paper over any defensive cracks. “Souley calmed us down... he played with a lot of confidence,” said Sean Miller of his new grad transfer. He wasn’t the only one happy with with #0
It’s hard to tell how deep Xavier is
Adam Kunkel was intentionally limited, but he looked like a weapon off the bench. He will be a contributor. Jerome Hunter (11/9/2) looked like an entirely different person than he was last year. Only his penchant for slapping the other team revealed he was the same person. Kyky Tandy even played solid minutes even if the return wasn’t great. Desmond Claude played a lot early, but was shaky. Beyond that, well, Sean Miller said “our depth has to grow.” He’s not wrong. Kam Craft’s (6/6/0) was high energy even if he was a little freshmanish at times.
75% isn’t a world beating number, but Xavier somehow only managed it nine times last season. They were in attack mode from the off today and got to the line early and often. Doing that, and converting, can change things immensely for a team. Easy points are the best points.
Onward from here
The jitters were evident early, but this team settled in and got the win. The story of this season won’t be written in early November. Getting this win was nice. It’s awesome to see basketball back. This game, though, ultimately won’t matter. If it is a harbinger of joy to come though, it was a welcome one.