The Lord of the Rings was a massive movie franchise as the rest of the editors and I came up. The movies based on the books were everywhere, transcending the game between nerds and normal people. In them, a king who has watched his kingdom crumble faces one last insurmountable fight and asks a loyal ally “how did it come to this?” That king didn’t know at the time, but help was on the way. Travis Steele will need something resembling a white wizard if he is to save this season for Xavier.
You already know how Xavier lost this game. They shot horribly from behind the arc (5-30), missed 13 layups, and played almost criminally bad defense. Once again they rallied in the second half to get close, and once again they did something stupid and almost immediately threw the game away. St. John’s went on a 16-6 run to bury this game, Seton Hall had gone 18-7 the game before, and when Xavier had closed to withing six of UConn, the Huskies responded with seven straight. Xavier lost this game the same way they’ve lost 11 in the Big East this season.
Xavier has been horrible since Zach Freemantle returned to regular play, going a shocking 5-9 and playing very nearly the worst defense in the conference (and 108th in the nation) since the big man first played 30 minutes. In their last 12, Xavier is 3-9. There is no way in which the Musketeers have improved since their preseason all Big East forward reclaimed his rotation spot.
Freemantle has hardly been the only problem, though. Paul Scruggs super senior season has been one to forget. He was 3-9 from the floor with four turnovers today and watched Dwon Odom supplant him in the moments when the game was still in doubt. Xavier’s best defensive player, Dieonte Miles, didn’t play as the Red Storm averaged 1.08 points per possession. Unless he is hurt, his disappearance from the rotation is down to nothing more than coaching misfeasance.
Nate Johnson returned tonight. He scored 11 and made three of Xavier’s five three pointers. Jack Nunge was excellent, but looks exhausted. Colby Jones was finally aggressive but has completely lost his shot. His breakout season will have to wait a year, Cesare Edwards grabbed three rebounds in the two minutes he played while he watched Jerome Hunter use possessions at the highest rate on the team and post an ORtg of 81 in Edwards spot.
There is so much more that could be said about this game. This team did not rage against the dying of the light. Jerome Hunter took a very quick ill advised three when X could have capped a run to bring the game back within one. Travis Steele couldn’t find a lineup that worked and gave Adam Kunkel 28 minutes to go 0-10. Tareq Coburn has now scored 33 points against Xavier and 82 in the other 22 he has played all year.
People will blame the coach, and they should. He’s had no answers to stop the slide at all. What he has tried, and from the outside it doesn’t appear to be a great deal, hasn’t worked at all. His trust in his players hasn’t been repaid at all. He’s leaned on the players who have been him him almost slavishly, and they’ve responded by folding.
People will blame the players, and they should. What the coach has done well is scheme them into positions to make shots. They’ve responded by being hilariously bad at shooting. In conference play they are 29.4% from deep, they are somehow only shooting 60.9% on shots at the rim. That would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetic. The defense has somehow been worse than that.
Xavier now has to win against Georgetown and get at least one more in the Big East tournament. A month ago they were 6-4 in the Big East, hunting for a protected seed, and riding high in both the metrics and the AP poll. How did it come to this?