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Xavier 66-81 SJU: Big East play starts with a comprehensive beating

Xavier is down to very little margin for error with 19 games still to go.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at St. John Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Rarely is a game over after three minutes, but it happens. In this one, Xavier trailed 8-0 early. That was the game. The Musketeers never wrestled back level, didn’t get back within one possession for nearly eight minutes, and never overcame the damage they had done themselves before most fans were even settled in their seats. The Musketeers needed to get a game like this in order to get their at large resume back in shape. This wasn’t anywhere close.

If I’d told you before the game that Xavier would win the overall rebounding and offensive rebounding battle, you’d likely have been encouraged. Unfortunately, there’s a way of doing it that is uniquely bad. If you miss a lot of shots, and I mean a lot of shots, you’ll get a lot more chances at offensive rebounds. That was the route Xavier took to their rebounding preeminence today. They ended up making 10 shots in the second half, but only four in the first ten minutes. On the whole they shot 29.4% in the second half. Do that and you can grab some boards. God knows there will be plenty.

For the game Xavier shot .349/.191/.818. That’s awful. Not content to sabotage themselves just by being dog dirt from the floor, they also turned the ball over 18 times. Some of them were genuinely clown level turnovers. Des Claude threw an in bounds pass directly out of bounds. X had another turnover come from dribbling off their own foot. Someone literally took the ball right out of a Xavier guard’s hands (I can’t remember which one because I keep beating my head on the floor) on the perimeter. The Musketeers were just crap. On to the takeaways.

At least they kept fighting

“Your passion is compelling, Jo; it’s also useless.” That legendary line from A Few Good Men was Joel’s response in our group chat when I mentioned that Trey Green was really working hard. Joel wasn’t wrong, Green’s effort was great, but the results weren’t. That was kind of the case for the entire team tonight. The Musketeers fought valiantly the entire game. There was no quitting, no head dropping, no woe is me. That all matters if you are good enough for the effort to pan out. Xavier isn’t right now.

Desmond Claude had a double-double

21/12/3 looks like a great stat line, but it came on 4-11 from the floor and was paired with five turnovers. We explored in our last podcast episode the idea that people were expecting too much from Claude coming into the season. While the 12-14 from the line was excellent and showed improvement, it didn’t balance out the general mediocrity everywhere else. Des is tough and aggressive, but until he can knock down a shot he is going to have to pray he keeps getting fouled.

If Joel Soriano always gets that whistle, he’ll be player of the year

This is not to say the refs were bad, they weren’t. What they did do was let Soriano throw his body around a lot. Xavier’s bigs looked utterly unprepared for that level of physical aggression. The European game may be based on finesse, Soriano’s is not. It’s hard not to think what would have happened had he been forced to try that against Jerome Hunter or Zach Freemantle. It’s hard to imagine either of them wilting like Sasa Ciani did.

It doesn’t get easier

Xavier can’t afford to drop another Q3 game. That’s exactly what their next one is. Their opponent? Seton Hall. What did the Hall just do? Pummel UConn all over the floor in a 15 point win. If Xavier drops that one, they can light their at-large resume on fire. No worries, then.