Xavier is tough. Zip em up tough, one might say. The Musketeers, with an assist from an idiotic Ed Cooley tech, blew out to a huge lead tonight and then had to hang on in a battle with Bryce Hopkins, Ed Croswell, and their uncles officiating the game to walk out of whatever it is they call the Dunk now with a win. This time there was no indoor rain delay to help a Friars team that got close but never all the way back in it. Xavier improved to 14-5, added a Q1 win, and beat their rival for the two seed in the BET on the road. Sounds like a successful business trip.
Colby Jones and Souley Boum put on a clinic
62 points on 21-30 shooting for Xavier’s two guards tonight barely even begins to tell the story. They also combined for 16 rebounds and eight assists. Souley Boum looked like a gliding menace all game and demonstrated that his shooting woes are well in the rearview. Colby never looks like he is working hard and casually dropped 22 in the second half, showcasing both his newfound stroke from deep and a refreshing ability to finish at the line. There is no team that Xavier can draw in any postseason tournament that will want to face these two in this form.
Sean Miller had a masterclass
Xavier played seven guys this game and had two of them foul out. You would think for a team who is limited to those seven and Elijah Tucker right now, that would be a significant problem. You can thank the apparently tireless Boum for solving part of that problem, but Sean Miller chopped, changed, tweaked, and caressed his lineup until he was getting 15 minutes from Cesare Edwards and 27 from Des Claude. Somehow (and more on this later) Xavier was the more fresh team coming down the stretch. That this guy can get this play out of this team is just incredible.
Des Claude is a revelation
Prior to conference play Des Claude had one good offensive game, a tilt against Montana in which he scored seven and played 20 minutes. Other than that, he looked like a freshman trying to adjust. In conference play he took his time, then missed two games being ill. In his last seven, though, he’s been aggressive and efficient. In those games his line of 5.6/3.4/2.4 has come on .533/.545/.833 shooting. Tonight, Des set a career high with 12 points and played 27 minutes against Providence pressure and only turned the ball over once.
Is Ed Cooley a good coach?
First came the nonsense technical in the first half. Cooley was incensed that one of his players had been called for a foul, a clear violation of the Dunkin Accord of 2011 that requires shooting fouls only be called on Providence’s opponents. While Bill Raftery rambled some equal nonsense about firing the Friars up, Souley Boum took two free points. Two points, by the way, is the closest Providence would ever get. Bet they wish they had been tied.
Xavier also struggled mightily against the zone Providence used to get back in the game. That zone made its last appearance somewhere around the seven or eight minute mark. Xavier scored 19 from that point on, Providence never got closer than seven when it mattered, and the Friars never made another defensively spurred run. Maybe things are harder to see at court level, but the decision to change out of a successful defense back into one that was getting torched was odd.
The officiating full on sucked
Devin Carter got called for a foul on Colby Jones where he very clearly never made contact as Colby faded away. Watching both of them be confused was almost as amusing as listening to the announcers try to figure out how Adam Kunkel’s fifth foul was on him or how Jack Nunge got called for a foul for grabbing a rebound. The refs also missed Bryce Hopkins fall into the lane but somehow saw Adam Kunkel and Jack Nunge get pulled in by him, and they missed the garish pink and white shoe of Ed Croswell come up to about hip height to kick the ball.
It’s one thing to be trash, which both Jeff Anderson and Roger Ayres are. Trash, actually, in an embarrass your family and every demographic your represent kind of way. But being inconsistent trash is even worse. A scrum in the paint would go uncalled one moment, an attempted poke 40 feet from the basket would be a foul the next. No one knows how to play in those games and it’s incredibly frustrating. These guys just suck. They gave Providence the whistle they so desperately rely on, but did it so ham-handedly as to anger the Providence fanbase as well. Next year should be a return to call your own. It cannot possibly be worse.
Xavier will be the two seed
By our calculations here, Xavier will be the two seed in the Big East tournament no matter what due to the fact they hold the tiebreak (a win over Marquette) over Creighton. Providence could still conceivably slide into that 4/5 matchup and UConn could still end up the three seed in some permutations. There’s a lot to play for over the weekend, but Xavier is home and hosed. The train is back on the tracks.