Friday, December 31, 2010

Xavier v. Florida: Recap

What happened:
This game served to expose some of the weak points of Xavier's squad. Against a Florida team whose strengths mirrored those of the Muskies coming into the game, X played just poorly enough to lose and end a 30-game home winning streak in the process.

Tu Holloway came to play early, scoring seven of Xavier's first eleven points. Dante chipped in five of the first thirteen, but Lyons started extremely slowly. In a pattern that would play out for most of the game, Florida would look to extend the lead, only to have Holloway and/or Frease do most of the heavy lifting to keep X in it.

It's Never Too Early...

It's Never Too Early... will be a repeating feature intended to cast Xavier's upcoming opponent in the light of how they will affect tournament chances. RPI cited will be from Jerry Palm.

Florida- A BCS team almost always represents a chance to boost the resume for March. While Wake Forest earlier this season was a glaring exception to that, Florida is not. Florida is currently 28th in the RPI with the 24th most difficult schedule to date. Florida is also ranked in both national polls (20th in the AP, 19th in ESPN/USA Today). The Gators are also likely to maintain their value going forward if they play passingly well in a very highly ranked SEC. Look for Florida's SOS and RPI numbers to steadily increase as we head toward March.

What this all means to Xavier is a very good chance for a marquee win. A loss to Old Dominion (#12 RPI) already represents a very good chance that has gone begging. While the win over Butler (RPI #6) looks good, the comparative weakness of the pre-conference schedule leavees X needing one more big win. Knocking off a Florida team that the media affords a good deal more respect than either of those nationally unranked programs would be a tremendous boost come Selection Sunday.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Canty Injured

As most of you probably know by now, Xavier freshman Jay Canty will be out 4-6 weeks with a stress fracture in his right foot. Canty has played sparingly (9.5 minutes per game) so far but has appeared in every game. Canty's most notable role has been to provide decent defense while giving Dante Jackson and Jeff Robinson some time to breathe. Canty was averaging 1.3 rpg and 1 ppg at the time of his injury. While that was surely not  the output that Coach Mack was hoping for from Jay, Canty had been making progress defensively and had began to speed a shot release that was laborious at the start of the season.

Xavier v. Florida: Preview

Florida's RPI is 28th, and they sport the 24th toughest schedule in the nation (both according to Jerry Palm's They are definitely one of Xavier's toughest opponents of the year, and a win over them would certainly look good for the Muskies at the end of the year. I haven't seen Florida play this year, so I'll be using garden variety season stats for them to try to get a feel for who they are as a team. I will also be using the somewhat more advanced statistics available from Ken Pomeroy at for further analysis.

Florida's top two scorers are their guards, 6'2" Kenny Boynton and 5'8" Erving Walker. Boynton is a volume shooter who scores 12.3 per game despite shooting .380 from the floor and .263 from behind the arc. Walker is considerably more efficient in getting his 13.6 PPG, shooting .470 from the floor and a Redfordian .448 from behind the arc. Both players shoot better than 70% from the line.
Florida's 6'10" center Vernon Macklin is a force to reckoned with inside, getting 10.6 points and 6.3 rebounds in just over 21 minutes per game. Six-nine Chandler Parsons and 6'8" Alex Tyus combine for 19 and 11 to round out Florida's front court. Parsons makes only half his free throws, and Macklin sports a horrendous .393 mark from the stripe. Tyus, however, leads the team with a .774 clip.

Florida plays big, with only one reserve under 6'6" getting more than 3.5 minutes per game. Their top ten players in minutes include seven players 6'6" or over, their two starting guards, and one bench guard getting two points per game. They rank 12th in the nation in effective height, a statistic that measures how many of a team's minutes go to big/small players, with more weight given to players farther away from average height. Almost a third of their minutes come off the bench, which is right around national average.

Perhaps owing to their height, Florida plays a slow-paced game that focuses on getting the ball inside. Thirty percent of their field goal attempts are from outside the arc, good for 228th in the nation (they shoot .315 from outside, good for 250th in the nation). They score 59% of their points inside the arc and pull down an offensive rebound on 42.5% of their missed shots, a clip eclipsed by only five teams.

What I see in Florida is a team very much similar to Xavier. Both teams count on one efficient guard and one volume shooter from the outside. Both teams play big, with Xavier being 6th in the nation in effective height. Players getting more than five minutes off of Xavier's bench measure 6'9", 6'8", 6'6", and 6'8". Florida is a little looser with the ball, ranking 229th in turnovers per possession to Xavier's 72nd. Xavier's bench is less productive, providing only 18.5% of the team's minutes.

We don't like to predict a result to any particular contest around here because of the myriad of unpredictable factors that go into a basketball game. Instead, we'll outline a few things that X needs to do to win the game, and then rate its winnability on a scale of 1-5. A rating of 1 indicates that X just needs to show up with Johnny Mazza ready to take the game, a 3 is a basically even match, and a rating of 5 says that we're going to need to play really well and get a little lucky to come out on top.

Keys to the game:
-Control the glass: Florida is a dominant offensive rebounding team with meaningful height. Xavier is going to need all five guys in good defensive rebounding position to make sure that Florida doesn't get extra possessions. Big Kenny and McLean both need to show up and bring their man games with them.

-Stay out of foul trouble: Florida's big men can come at you in waves; Xavier's just don't. If Frease and McLean have to spend significant amounts of time on the bench early, this one could get ugly. Lyons, Holloway, and Jackson need to avoid silly fouls so they can help out on the post and keep the guards out of the paint. We'll let Kenny Boynton and his .263 3PT% lift from outside all day.

-Protect the basketball: With the Gators figuring to get a few free possessions from the offensive glass, the last thing we want to do is gift them even more chances by being loose with the ball. Winning the turnover battle would be a huge bump for X in this game.

-Push the pace: Florida wins by getting five guys involved on both ends of the court. Cheek and Tu are capable of getting the ball out and running, McLean is obviously athletic enough to keep up, and even Big Kenny is sneaky-adept in the full court situation. Against a team that has turnover troubles and relies on its bigs making hay on the glass, an up-tempo game can be beneficial.

Winnability factor:
Florida is a tough opponent with a couple of good wins to go with the surprising egg they laid at home against Jacksonville, but X is at home and has shown signs of finding an offensive stride. I give this one a 3.

Xavier v Albany: Box Score Breakdown

Because my current living situation doesn't afford me the luxury of cable, there is a certain amount of games that I'm not able to see played. Thanks to the miracle of the internet, however, I can still access the box score and provide some less nuanced analysis of the game. The live gamecasts of and the Enquirer's Shannon Russell, as well as Ms. Russell's blog and post-game recaps, are invaluable resources in this kind of game reconstruction.

The story:
It was apparent from the outset that Albany was going to dare a Xavier team that was making fewer than 30% of its threes to win the game from the outside. With Tu Holloway deferring - probably due to the fatigue of his trip back to Cinci - and the post either cut off or quickly shut down, it was going to fall to Dante and/or Cheek to step up and set the tone. Lyons' line of 18-1-5 on 6-11 shooting including 6-9 from behind the arc jumps off the page; just as importantly, he had 15 of his points in the first half when Albany was making overtures at staying in the game.

Dante's 14-4-4 didn't hurt either, but his 4-12 from behind the arc belies the fact that he hit 4 of his first 5 threes. At some point during an 0-7 run from behind the arc, you'd like to see the senior realize that the hot hand has passed him by. Tu warmed up to the game in the second half and once again proved he can influence the game without volume shooting by posting 11-3-9 on only 6 FGA. He only turned the ball over once in the game and "only" played 32 minutes, down about 7 from his average.

The difference between Kenny and McLean's lines illustrates their respective games. McLean went for 15-11-1 on 5-7 from the floor and 5-9 from the line. Six of his eleven rebounds were offensive, and he only turned the ball over once. Big Kenny got 17-9-3 on 7-8 and 3-3; he had two offensive boards and four turnovers. This would seem to indicate that Kenny's involvement comes from having the ball thrown in to him on the post, where he spends time with the ball in his hands while he goes to work or looks for an open man off the double team. McLean got more from scramble situations, where his athleticism allows him to beat opponents to the ball and then the rim.

Odds and ends:
-Xavier's tally of 24 assists on 33 buckets to only 13 turnovers is nice to see. Without a Crawford-like scorer to take over the game, the extra pass is important to this team.

-After the cluster at Gonzaga, Kenny and McLean combined for a single foul last night. I wonder if they were coached to make an adjustment, or if the officiating was just that much better.

-Lyons' three-point percentage jumped from .285 to .353 last night. He is still only shooting .368 from the floor, which hasn't stopped him taking more shots than anyone but Tu.

-Xavier out-rebounded Albany 37-21 last night; this can probably be traced directly to Kenny and McLean staying out of foul trouble.

-Other than Kenny and Cheek each having four, no Xavier player turned the ball over more than once.

-Xavier managed 13 bench points from 42 bench minutes. The reserves also chipped in nine boards and two assists.

Next game: v. Florida, 4pm Friday.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Note of Introduction

We are a pair of brothers who have been supporting X since a move to SW Ohio in the early 1980s forced our dad to make the choice between Xavier and Cincinnati. He chose Pete Gillen over Bob Huggins, and we followed suit. Almost two decades on, it has become clear dear ol' Dad's decision making was in peak form when he settled on the Muskies over the Bearcats.

Our dad coached and officiated basketball all through our formative years, steeping us in knowledge of and passion for the game. We were high school basketball teammates, and Brad went on to a semi-illustrious college basketball career. Having put the glory days of active participation behind us, we have both traded the uniform and the floor for shirt and tie and the bench, hopefully instilling a love of the game into another generation of young Americans.

As we have grown on, we've both moved north on 71 and away from the Muskies home turf (and each other). Despite - and sometimes because of - this, we have continued to be fervent fans of the boys in blue. TFG - our former site - gave us a great way to communicate with each other about the games but extremely limited exposure. We have moved here for the new year in an attempt to remedy that problem.

Xavier has a massive and passionate fan base - one need only tune in to a game or visit Cintas to see the truth of that statement. We're hoping to tap into those numbers and create an online community right here where we can follow the joys and sorrows of the best mid-major program in the land. In return, we hope to provide a unique angle of analysis that taps into our backgrounds in following X and coaching and playing basketball. If nothing else, this gives us another place to take turns patting each other on the back in regards to our brilliance.