Who was your pick to win the Big East this season? If you were/are a Big East coach, it was Creighton. If you were a media member it was Creighton. If you were a fan of the up and comers you may have gone with UConn. If consistent excellence is your thing, Villanova was probably your pick. Total lunatic? Marquette.
Now who is your pick? There is no reason for Xavier fans to not tip their own team to bring this thing home. There is a very long way to go before someone is hoisting a banner, but Xavier has taken the lead at the quarter post and has put some of the favorites to the sword already. The Big East is there for the taking.
Zach Freemantle is more than back
29/11/4 with no turnovers is quite good. More than just the rather obvious fact that that is an incredible line was the efficiency with Freemantle achieved it. It only took Zach 17 shots to score those points, he was perfect behind the arc, and he would have gone over 30 if he could make a free throw. There was no dumb posturing and no drama, just pure domination.
Adam Kunkel is back
Xavier’s little dynamo was back with 15/5/3 and looked much more his aggressive self. When Kunk gets going, it opens things up for the entire time. He was catching and shooting his threes last night, and they were dropping. He was also active, if a little loose, with the ball and his scoring got Xavier through a first half where Souley Boum didn’t get rolling.
The team is a still, very much, a work in progress
Xavier could have won this game by 20 if they hadn’t done things like allow a 13-2 run and go five minutes in which they only scored six points. That comes down to defense and turnovers, one of which Xavier does very well. X struggled to contain Cam Whitmore and chucked the ball all over the joint. Colby Jones was especially bad, turning the ball over five times. Really good teams make you pay for that.
There is no depth here
Kyky Tandy played two minutes. Beyond that, it was the seven Musketeers. Teams can win with seven man rotations, but it takes everyone clicking and playing smart. Jerome Hunter continues to battle his fouling demons and keeps making winning plays. If he can do that and Des Claude can just not be a negative contributor, the team will be fine. When Tandy or Cesare Edwards come on, the level drops. Near as I can tell those nine are the only ones on the team.
But what depth is there is excellent
Claude was Xavier’s worst rotation player yesterday with an offensive rating of 49. That came because he was 1-2 from the floor and had a turnover. That’s just fine for 18 minutes from that young man, especially given what he brings on defense. Souley Boum apparently noted that Jack Nunge was in a battle on the glass, so he chipped in ten boards on his own and was utter nails at the line. Colby Jones was stricken with color blindness, apparently, but he still did his lot of bit of everything with 11/4/6 with two blocks and a steal. Hunter was relentless, Jack Nunge did enough. It’s a great top seven.
What can you even say at this point? Miller was not overawed by the Finneran or Villanova. He exudes a frenetic calm if that’s possible. In his coaching and cajoling there is an underlying sense that he has a plan and knows that if he can get his guys to do it, Xavier will be fine. I liked Travis Steele as a person and still think he’ll be a good coach somewhere. There’s no argument to be made that Xavier hasn’t taken an enormous step up in coaching ability this season.