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Xavier 68-69 Marquette: Takeaways from a great effort or a blown opportunity

A depleted Xavier team had the game in hand but just couldn’t finish out a huge Q1 chance.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Marquette Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

How you go through life probably has a great impact on how you saw that game. Are you an optimistic person? If so, you watched a Xavier team down to five rotation players battle a legitimate Final Four contender right down to the wire on the road. X’s stars came to play and Marquette simply couldn’t put away a team that got heavy minutes from Kyky Tandy. If your cup is perpetually half empty, you see a game that Xavier led in the last minute and then just completely threw away after spending most of the second half trying to do just that. Whichever person you are, read on.

Xavier is game

The Musketeers played this game with five rotation players. Kyky Tandy has had perhaps the worst injury luck of any player in recent Musketeers history, and that has relegated him to a bit part. Tonight exposed him as a guy who just isn’t Big East level. (I say that with a soft spot in my hear for a kid who has just stuck with it despite bad break after bad break.) 24 minutes from Tandy and a very suspect five from Cesare Edwards were all Xavier got from the bench. Despite that, the Musketeers traded punches with one of the best teams in the nation and actually played mediocre defense. The effort here cannot be questioned.

All of the Musketeers flaws were on display

Depth: Xavier went seven deep before Zach Freemantle got hurt, with Kam Craft adding a depth option at eight. They are now down to five high major players. Defense: That the defense being mediocre was considered a plus tells you all you need to know. X just cannot get stops when they need them and tonight they threw in the fatal wrinkle of not being able to defensive rebound. At all. Marquette’s best offense was to get the ball on the rim and then go get it. X got obliterated on the glass at both ends. Turnovers: Back to back games now the Musketeers have posted 25% turnover rates. Souley Boum, especially, just could not hold on to the ball when it mattered. His two turnovers in the last minute killed Xavier’s chance for a miracle win.

Cheering positively is better for everyone

This isn’t 2022

The Swoon started last February 16th and ended March 9th when Butler relegated Xavier’s season to sideshow status. X had a good resume then, but not one this good. The Musketeers still have big Q1 wins banked and, more importantly and much different than last year, a reasonably easy road ahead. DePaul comes to Cintas on Saturday, and X still has Nova and Butler at home. Road trips to Providence and Seton Hall will be tough, but also present chances to ice a bid. Go 3-2 the rest of the way and everything is fine to the point even a first round Big East Tournament loss won’t matter. Yes, we said these same things last year, but the talent is here to keep lightning from striking twice.

Even Sean Miller can’t work miracles

For the last five minutes of tonight’s game there simply wasn’t much Coach Miller could do. Cesare Edwards was bad in his time on the floor, Adam Kunkel had fouled out when a soft call followed a really bad decision on his part, and there was literally no one left on the bench. Faced with that, even the best coach in Xavier history couldn’t do much but watch and hope. It’s ultimately the players that win and lose games. That was the case last year, it’s the case this year as well.

Take a deep breath

Creighton is going like a ball of fire right now, they lost five straight at one point. Baylor will be a two seed and they lost three in a row at the start of 2023. Kansas has had a three game loser, so has Auburn. Good teams hit hard times. Xavier’s last Elite Eight team lost six straight in February and March. There are mitigating circumstances at work here. Yes, Xavier should have won tonight and has no one but themselves (a fun change since Friday) to blame for not. That’s no reason to start looking over your shoulder. Calm down, Xavier Nation, it’s nowhere near time to panic.