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The case for going super big

Xavier has a chance to run a gimmick lineup that might just give them a leg up on the top of the league.

NCAA Basketball: Seton Hall at Xavier
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Ken Pomeroy has added a fun little feature on his site. Just underneath the team's name and basic information like coach and conference affiliation is a small line noting the length of the teams current win streak and where in the nation that ranks. I haven't checked every team's page, but I assume it's only for impressive win streaks. Xavier's stands at 8, the 8th longest in the nation right now.

That might seem like an indication that now is not the time to change things up. I'm about to suggest changing things up.

Xavier is coming off their best win of the season, having just knocked off UConn at home. One of the key players in that game was Jerome Hunter, who gave X 20 vital minutes off the bench and posted 15 and 5.

After a slow start to the year, Hunter is averaging 5 and 3.5 in total and has taken off in conference play, averaging 9.5 and 5. He's posting an ORtg of 132.4 and an OReb% of 23.7% in Big East games. He has been one of the team's best players during that time.

On the flip side, Adam Kunkel is slumping. Of his 35 Big East points this year, 15 came against a hapless Georgetown squad that would allow you (yes, you!) to drop 10 on 3-4 shooting. Outside of that game, Kunk has scored 20 points in 3 games and is shooting just 2-13 from deep. His ORtg in league games is just 94.5, which is below average and well down from his season mark of 105.2.

It's statistically indisputable that Hunter has been more effective in Big East games than Kunkel; the real question is whether or not Xavier can make him an effective lineup replacement for Kunk.

The answer is maybe. Xavier has played 5 possessions this year with a lineup of Boum, Jones, Hunter, Freemantle, and Nunge. That lineup has an adjusted offensive efficiency of 91.8, which is not good. What is somewhere beyond good is their adjusted defensive efficiency of 0.0. In the admittedly miniscule sample size, they allowed 0 points, which really takes a lot of pressure off of the offense.

Obviously I'm not suggesting that Xavier replace Kunkel with Hunter in the starting lineup. What I am suggesting is that, on current form and maybe in general, Hunter has earned more playing time. When it comes time to find that, Xavier could do worse than running a massive lineup with Hunter, Freemantle, and Nunge across the front and Boum and Jones handling the ball. In a Big East full of high-octane offenses, playing bully ball in the space and pace era might be just the curveball Sean Miller needs to allow the Muskies to get enough stops.