clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Should I still be hopeful?

Xavier is in a bad spot, but it’s not all over just yet.

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

I was listening to Dayton’s own Guided by Voices the other day when I heard Robert Pollard plaintively sing everybody’s got a hold on hope/ it’s the last thing that’s holding me. I don’t know whether Pollard is a Xavier fan or not (I certainly hope he doesn’t cheer for the Flyers), but the lyrics caught me in a way related to basketball. Is there any reason left for Musketeer fans to have a hold on hope this season?

Certainly the way the Musketeers have played recently doesn’t give much reason for hope. They staggered past Winthrop and applied all the gloss to the scoreline late. St. John’s was just awful. Xavier has also lost to Oakland and Delaware. None of those things are particularly hope inducing.

Xavier has also played Purdue tough, beaten Houston up for three quarters of a game, and nearly knocked off Washington. They’ve also beaten St. Mary’s and won the Shootout again. There is a good team lurking in there somewhere. So, in this season of hope and with GBV ringing in my ears, here are three reasons to still be hopeful.

Xavier’s defense can be good

In a fast paced game in which Xavier was only barely involved, SJU still only scored 1.09 points per possession. That’s not great, but it’s an indication that even in a game that got well away from Xavier, the defense wasn’t horrid. Where Xavier’s defense excels is making people miss shots. They are 57th in the nation in three point defense and 52nd in two point defense. Those numbers are great, if not elite, but they add up to 34th in the nation in effective field goal defense. That is borderline elite. X allows a few too many offensive rebounds, but their shooting defense can cause teams real problems.

The shooting (probably) can’t stay this bad

This Xavier team is 169th in the nation in two point shooting. No X team has finished a season that low since KenPom starting tracking that stat back when the years started with 19. Now, you can believe that this is the worst shooting team ever to take the court, or you can think that Lazar Djokovic will probably adjust to the game a bit more and not shoot 36% for the season. History suggests the team will improve.

The three point shooting calls to mind Travis Steele teams. Quincy Olivari is a threat, Trey Green thinks he is, Des Claude is shooting six percent worse this season. Des will probably get a bit better if he’s the player Xavier thinks he is and hopefully the same can be said of Trey Green. Beyond that, it’s incumbent on guys like Nemo and Djokovic knocking down the shots they get. The open looks are there, they just aren’t falling right now.

Sean Miller

Someone on Twitter was complaining that Coach Miller hadn’t put together a good roster this season. As mentioned in our podcast, that just isn’t true. Two months before the season started he was returning a guy who went for 15/8/2 last year and Xavier’s best player in the NCAA tournament. Losing one of them would have been devastating, losing them both meant Xavier was full on scrambling to put together a team.

But they did, and they put one together that has the pieces to compete. On some days it still looks like a bit of a mess, but the talent is at least there to make a couple runs. Thankfully, so is the coach. There was no more desired available coach than Sean Miller, and Xavier landed him. He’ll need to do the job of his life to get this team a bid, but if anyone can, it’s him.

So hold on to hope, Xavier fans. Things look bleak now, but the sun hasn’t fully set on this season just yet.