|Three the hard way|
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Saturday, January 29, 2011
So Tu Holloway went off, huh? His 33-7-5 on 7-15/2-3/17-17 shooting led Xavier over Richmond. Holloway has a penchant for getting to the line anyway, but grabbing more than half his points from the line against a team that has been notoriously stingy in allowing opponents to get there is incredibly impressive. Other feats he performed today that could be filed under that heading include not missing on any of his 17 FTA and somehow scoring five points in the last two seconds of the first half. That burst at the end of the half gave Xavier their first breathing room in a game that had been nip and tuck all the way.
Perhaps even more encouraging going forward than Holloway's dominance was the performance put up by Xavier's defense on one of the best shooting teams in the nation. The .356/.333/.625 shooting line put up by Richmond was well below their averages on the season. It's hard to say if this was because of great defense by Xavier or an off day by the Spiders, but those numbers went a long way towards allowing Xavier to stay in the game early and pull away late.
Friday, January 28, 2011
The first thing that jumps off the page about Richmond is that, as a team, they can flat out shoot the eyes out of the ball. Their effective FG% of .556 is 9th in the nation, their 2P% of .519 is 43rd, and their 3P% is a stunning .419, good for 3rd nationally. They have five players who have shot more than 25 threes and connected on at least 40% of them. Xavier, by contrast, has zero such players.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Xavier did manage to protect the ball and shoot effectively enough to outlast GW's zone. They were 9-23 (.391) from behind the arc, to continue the team-wide trend of hot shooting. Tu and Cheek were particularly effective, combining to go 7-14 from behind the arc. A tally of 17 assists to only 10 turnovers looks nice at the bottom of the page, too.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Monday, January 24, 2011
-ESPN's Joe Lunardi said in today's chat that X is probably in line for an at-large bid if they fail to win the A-10 tourny but avoid any "bad losses." Thanks to Mike in Ohio for asking Mr. Lunardi.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
|It was that kind of first half for Cheek|
Ramon Moore came in as Temple's leading scorer, but Mark Lyons did a brilliant defensive job on him all game. Temple's offense struggled to find a rhythm early, but Scootie Randall came to the Owls' rescue. His first four shots took him over his season average of 8.8 points, and he had Temple's first eleven points on his way to 17 in the first half and a game-high 28. Without Randall's hot start, X's 16-11 lead could have been 16-0.
Friday, January 21, 2011
The calling card of this Temple team is its defense. Temple's opponents effective FG% - a stat that shows what percentage a team would have to shoot to maintain its level of scoring without scoring from behind the arc or at the free throw line - is 43.8; only 19 defenses in the nation hold their opponents below that mark. Temple allows their opponents to connect at a respectable .331 clip from three-point territory, but their .416 rate inside the arc is tenth-best in the country. The percentages of opponents possessions Temple ends with a block or a steal are both in the top 60 (36 and 56, respectively). Finally, the Owls protect their glass, allowing offensive rebounds on only 26.5% of opponents' missed shots; that number is good for ninth in the nation.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
|Jeff Robinson, Meaningful Player|
In the preview Joel called this the classic trap game. The Bonnies mid 90s rankings in RPI and SOS seemed pretty meaningless compared to Dayton before them and Temple after. The key to this game was to bury the Bonnies early and not give them a chance to sneak into the game. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
They did. I have, at the very most, the same amount of access to the Xavier locker room as you do, so it's hard to know exactly what Coach Mack said at the half, but the results were definitely there. X outscored the Bonnies by 19 in the second half - perhaps in a belated attempt to show what the first half should have looked like - on their way to a 79-65 victory.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Monday, January 17, 2011
Saturday, January 15, 2011
When Dante Jackson stepped to the free throw line with 19 seconds left, the game was very much in the balance. Xavier was nursing a one-point lead, and the pride of Greenfield, OH was a less-than-sterling 1-10/1-8/0-0 shooting on the night. Much as his teammates had done all night, Dante executed from the line, and X hung on for an 81-76 victory in a hard-fought conference game.
It was a combination of little things that made the difference for Xavier tonight. They were excellent from the line as a team, going 25-29. Big Kenny went 6-8, McLean was 7-8, and Tu Holloway topped them both with an 8-8 night. They protected the ball, posting 15 assists and only 5 turnovers; Tu led the line in both categories here, as well, with 6 assists and 4 turnovers.
In conference this game gives X a chance to go to the top for the first time all year. Temple is already leading the conference at 3-0 (tied with a mildly surprising George Washington) and Xavier would keep pace with them with a win today. In the extremely unlikely event that Temple loses to Duquesne, Xavier would go top with a win. After the debacle of nine days ago, that sounds pretty impressive.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Thursday, January 13, 2011
|Tu Holloway's outside shooting changed the game|
I said before the game that these were the kind of games that competitive teams need to win. UMass had started the season hot but, aside from a fluke win over Dayton, had not played well coming into last night's game. Xavier had to capitalize on that by killing the game off early, and after taking a quick 10-4 lead, they surely had hopes of doing just that.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
This was a game where Xavier needed to take care of business against a weaker opponent, and they did. This time it was Xavier's veteran guards who stepped up and led the run that put the game away. After UMass's Gary Correia hit a three to tie the game with just under ten minutes left, Tu and Dante combined for 16 of the points (and 3 assists) on the 21-4 Xavier tear that ended the half and functionally did the same for the game.
Conference: Again, it's a must win. I wish I had some deep insight, but this is the kind of game competitive teams have to win.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
|Dante Jackson keeps the blue flag flying.|
Massachusetts has played the 46th toughest schedule in the nation to this point, and their 8-5 record is good to place them 92nd in the RPI. Xavier, for what it's worth, is sitting at 44th in the RPI thanks in part to the 24th most difficult schedule. Like most teams X will play this year, UMass is shorter (86th nationally in effective height) and deeper than the Muskies. They get 39% of their minutes off the bench, a mark bettered by only 30 teams. On a side note, only two teams get fewer bench minutes than Xavier, but one of those is conference for St. Bonaventure. Fordham comes in 340th in the nation in this category, just three places above X and five above the Bonnies. There will be some A-10 games this year with fewer substitutions than a soccer match.
Monday, January 10, 2011
|19 and 12 would make me smile too|
Xavier came out with an intent that was missing from the Shootout. Tu Holloway warmed up with a chip on his shoulder that left ESPNU's mediocre announcers talking about the attitude he was playing with until far into the second half. Kenny Frease and Jamel McLean were both active early and even Jeff Robinson looked like he might contribute. It was a contribution from a most unexpected source though, that turned the tide of the game.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Xavier opens the second season with a road test against URI. The Rams are unranked and sit at 9-5 on the season. Because Jerry Palm hasn't updated his RPI since Monday, I'm using ESPN's rankings when I say that URI is 54th, one spot above the Muskies. Their strength of schedule is good for 80th in the country, while XU sits at 27th. It also bears mentioning that URI just played Florida on Monday and lost by 25.
Rhode Island has a balanced scoring attack, featuring four regulars in double figures per game. Senior forward Delroy James leads the charge at 19.4 per; he has hit 22 threes this year and shoots them at a .328 clip. Nikola Malesevic measures 6' 7" and gives URI another tall player who can shot from outside. He has connected on 25 of his 45 attempts this year for a stunning .556 percentage. Guards Marquis Jones and Akeem Richmond each add 10.4 points per game and both make more than a third of their attempts from beyond the arc; Jones also adds 3.5 assists per game with an A/TO of almost 2. Orion Outerbridge, just back from an ankle injury that delayed the start of his season by a dozen games, is averaging 10 PPG.
While Rhode Island isn't as deep as UC, they still get more than a quarter of their minutes off the bench. Not counting Outerbridge's contributions in his two games, they have eight players getting at least 14 minutes per game; Xavier features only six who get that much time. Despite an effective height of 35th in the nation, Rhode Island isn't an especially good rebounding team. They pull down offensive boards on 32.1% of their shots; their opponents have gotten them at a 35.4% clip against the Rams.
What they can do is shoot; .366 from three, .487 from inside the arc, and .710 from the line, all marks that put them above average in the country. Their offensive efficiency is blunted by an inability to get to the line though, with 255 trips in 14 games. In terms of FT attempted for every FG attempted, 297 teams are better at getting to the charity stripe that Rhode Island.
Overall, Rhode Island is a big team that doesn't do the things associated with height. They shoot well from outside and play a slightly up-tempo game, but don't protect their own glass or get to the other team's particularly well. This could be the matchup Xavier needs to get back on track.
Keys to the game:
-Force the post: Xavier's offense last year was extremely guard oriented, with Jason Love getting his points through efficiency and work rate more than being the focus of the offense. With Holloway and Lyons each one link further up the scoring food chain and Crawford out of the picture, this team needs to look inside early and often. The UC game only got out of hand when McLean and Frease stopped getting touches; X needs to avoid a similar mistake here.
-Check the shooters: Rhode Island gets more than a third of its points from behind the arc (good for 56th in the nation) and less than half of them inside it (248th). They rank 292nd in the nation in percentage of points from the free throw stripe. Holloway, Lyons, and Jackson are going to have to force URI out of its offensive comfort zone and - paradoxically - closer to the basket.
-Grind: Fast breaks and quick shots early in possessions are signs that a team is guard-oriented. With McLean having been a viable post option of late and Kenny coming into his own, Xavier should take time to allow post options to develop, even if this means kicking the ball out and trying the post more than once in a given possession. If the numbers aren't there on the fastbreak, Tu and Cheek have better options than to drive into traffic.
-Start fresh: Last game's train wreck is behind us; the only thing that matters now is the conference season. Coach Mack should have the Muskies focused on that and ready to go tomorrow night.
A Florida team that Xavier played tough beat URI like a rented mule, and Xavier is itching to put the Crosstown Shootout in the rear view. I give this one a 2.
Xavier's RPI and SOS will not be updated until next week, but you can rest assured the RPI number will drop again. The only way for Xavier to bolster what is now a slim at-large chance will be to start winning, and start winning soon. Rhode Island will be the first chance to right the ship.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
"All [Xavier's] Achilles heels are ailing them tonight."
-Shannon Russell, with 8:37 left in the game
Xavier came out of the locker room looking to establish the post - and particularly Kenny Frease - early. That was successful, as Kenny had the first four Xavier points of the game, and he and McLean combined to score 15 of Xavier's 20 first half points. Frease also had our only assist of the first half, hitting Mark Lyons for the final Xavier bucket of the period.
Xavier plays UC at 7pm on ESPN2. If you live in the upper Midwest and don’t have the game on cable, treat yourself to the inimitable Byron Larkin and Joe Sunderman on 700 WLW or 55(0) KRC. The always excellent Shannon Russell has her keys to the game posted on her blog, as well as nice little note about the tone of the game among the team members . Swing by the Enquirer’s Xavier page for more of her reporting and follow her blog updates during the game’s action. Finally, stop back by here for analysis postgame.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
As has already been mentioned, UC has not played the most challenging of schedules so far this year (324th, to be exact). The soft schedule combined with a current RPI of 65 means Cincinnati doesn't represent good value for a win at this point. Ignore the AP and USA Today rankings, it seems the national media is currently in love with paper tigers. Thankfully, the season doesn't end here.
As per the norm, the Big East is loaded. Georgetown, Syracuse, Pitt, St. John's, UConn, Notre Dame, and Villanova all hold RPI top 20 spots as of right now. UC will eventually meet this murderer's row of opponents and see a corresponding spike in SOS and RPI. When UC's numbers jump, so will Xavier's, albeit to a lesser degree.
What all this means is that X is in a unique position now to pick up a win against a mediocre team that could end up looking like a win against a very good team. If the Musketeers are able to beat the Bearcats you can almost guarantee seeing that count as a quality win come March. This is one of the last opportunities on the schedule to do major damage. With Joe Lunardi currently not having X anywhere on his radar, it cannot afford to be missed.