It’s Christmas week, so let’s start happy. Xavier’s offense is very good. Very, very good. The Musketeers offense is top 10 in the nation, they make three pointers better than everyone other than Utah St, (yes, the team that shot 32.2% last year is second in the nation now), only four teams in the nation have a higher effective field goal percentage. Throw in a tempo that ranks 22nd and you get a fun and very good offense.
Which is good, because the defense sucks. With the preseason washed out, and the impact of those numbers becomes less each day, Xavier isn’t even a top 100 defense. Georgetown has a terrible offense (and team, and coach), but still scored 1.16 points per possession against the loosely assembled five guys Xavier had on the defense end of the floor.
So, what does this mean going forward? For that, we’re going to use Bart Torvik’s efficiency profiles to compare teams that have played the same way Xavier does to see how they have done in March.
With everything (offense, defense, and tempo) weighted evenly, the team that comes closest to Xavier in terms of overall profile is the 2014 Iowa squad. That team finished very high in Torvik’s rankings, but only managed an #11 seed. It was led by Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White, who took the Hawkeyes all the way to a play in game loss. That team led by double digits over Tennessee early, but threw it away by allowing 78 points in just 65 possessions. That’s 1.2 points per possession. That’s bad.
And the news doesn’t get a lot better from there. Of the ten most comparable teams, including some who are ludicrously good on offense, only one made the Sweet 16. One team, 2016 Florida State, didn’t make the tournament at all. Those ten teams averaged 0.6 wins in the NCAA tournament. While just making the tournament would feel nice after the last four years, that feeling likely wouldn’t last past losing to UAB in an 8/9 game.
Teams that play great offense can go deep in the tournament, but not when saddled with this bad of a defense. Teams with comparably efficient offenses, like Kansas in 2011 and 2016, have made Elite 8 runs. Both of those teams were backed by a defense that at least kept them in games. Xavier’s defense is a road loss to DePaul begging to happen.
Of course, it’s December. Like I said, it’s Christmas week, so we’ll be happy. Sean Miller is on the case and he is well aware, based on some of his more vehement vocalization, that his defense needs some work. If anyone can turn that around, it’s the best coach in Xavier history. This offense couple with even a mediocre defense? Well that could be something special.