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Xavier has no margin for error

When you're as bad at three-point shooting as Xavier is, everything else has to click.

NCAA Basketball: St. John at Xavier Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

The modern game of basketball is built primarily pace and space. The Xavier roster is not currently capable of creating either of those things. Without them, everything else has to be perfect.

The Muskies are on an appalling streak of three-point shooting since conference play started. They've hit more than a third of their threes just twice in thirteen Big East games. It's almost impossible to win against a meaningful opponent if you can't spread the floor at least a little bit.

It hit what I sincerely hope is a season nadir on Wednesday against St. John's. About 30 minutes into the game, more than half of Xavier's shots came from either Zach Freemantle or Jack Nunge and the Muskies were just about holding their own against a team they should have been running away from. Then the wheels fell off as St. John's began leaving a free defender in the paint and daring X to shoot them out of it. They couldn't.

This has been a huge problem for Xavier this season, and it will continue to be. If Nate Johnson comes back and is effective, he gives Xavier the weapon they need to punish defenses that over help on the post. Without him hitting, you get what you saw against St. John's.

The Muskies still have the ability to win games without hitting, but the margin for error is incredibly thin. Everything else has to be executed at a high level or the team will lose. It really is that simple. Xavier didn't play especially badly against St. John's; they were just forced into a style of play they couldn't execute effectively. Empty possessions led to easy run outs, a larger deficit led to more threes, and the snowball built from there.

The solution isn't coming. Xavier can try to scheme themselves out of it, but the reality is that teams know they can drop off the arc and take away Xavier's most effective offensive players, and there's not a strategic adjustment that X can use to remedy that. "Make shots" is the instruction that changes the game; Xavier doesn't have the personnel to execute that.

This all seems fairly dire, and it is. Xavier followed the same pattern last year, as Nate Johnson's effectiveness trailed off down the stretch and the team's followed. Without a big adjustment or perfect execution, the Muskies will be hard pressed to keep themselves out of the same boat this year.