Sunday, January 30, 2011

Xavier v. Richmond: Recap

What happened: Xavier 85- Richmond 62

Three the hard way
Joel, and Thomas Carlyle, were correct in saying that Xavier needed to change up the pack line defense for this game against Richmond. What neither of them could have known was that Coach Chris Mack was having much the same thought. "I just say, if they’re going to shoot threes, I want to at least know where they are on the floor. So we went to a zone defense," Mack explained. 

Attacking zone defense requires a good deal of athleticism and a trust that your teammate is paying attention. Today, Xavier's zone was a tremendous example of what a well coached team can do with a 1-2-2.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Xavier v. Richmond: Box Score Breakdown

What happened: Xavier 85 - Richmond 62

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

Xavier v. Richmond: Preview

I don't think Duquesne has it in them to challenge for the A-10 regular season title this year, despite their hot start. I only mention that because it casts in an even more important light Xavier's game against Richmond, over whom they currently hold a one-game lead in the conference standings. Richmond is 51st on ESPN's InsideRPI today, their 16-5 record offset to some extent by the 107th most difficult schedule in the nation. Xavier is all the way up to 25th, gaining momentum with conference wins along with the 25th toughest schedule to this point.

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 v. George Washington: Box Score Breakdown

Given Xavier's recent emphasis on defense in practice, I can't imagine that this performance made Coach Mack very happy. For the third straight game - two of which have been against sub-par opponents - Xavier has played porous defense. George Washington came into the game as a poor shooting team, and then proceeded to post a .442/.556/.947 line against the Muskies. Once may be running into a hot shooting team, and twice may be a coincidence, but three of these defensive eggs laid in a row probably portends ill for Xavier.


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

Xavier v. George Washington: Preview

Xavier has a warm up for their road trip to Richmond on the weekend with their mid-week game against A-10 foe George Washington. Don't be confused by the Colonials' 3-2 conference record; all three of their wins (and one of thier losses) have come against the bottom five teams in the league. Their only true conference test has come against Richmond, where they lost by ten. This is a team whose wins have come over such luminaries as Towson (by six at home), Holy Cross (by one at home), and Marist (a twenty-point romp at a neutral site). Losses against Navy, Boston U, and UNC Wilmington aren't going to impress the selection committee and have contributed to GW's 209th ranking in the RPI. X is up to 27th after their win over Temple.

Despite their myriad flaws - which we'll get to in a minute - GW does some things right. It's also important to remember that this is an extremely young team, with their players averaging 1.23 years of experience. They are also rather deep, getting 35% of their minutes from the bench (96th in the country) and exceptionally tall - their effective height of +2.7" is 29th in the country. They take care of the ball well, with only about 19% of their possessions ending in turnovers. If things break the right way for this Colonials squad, they could be a legitimate conference contender in a couple of years.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Shootaround

Do you like how we've taken an "odds and ends" style column and given it a name that pertains to basketball? Our R&D team was up all night getting that one ready, and we're all pretty proud of it here at the Examiner.

-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

Xavier v. Temple: Recap

What happened: Xavier 88 - Temple 77

It was that kind of first half for Cheek
In a game that had all the pre-game markers of a defensive duel, A-10 fans were treated to an absolute barn-burner instead. Temple came into the game making barely 30% of their threes, then connected on 11 of their first 22 before airballing their last three (!) attempts from behind the arc. Xavier had also been struggling from distance but went 8-13 as a team, good for 61.5%.

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

Xavier v. Temple: Preview

Xavier hosts Temple tomorrow afternoon at 3 in a pivotal A-10 game. X leads the A-10 with a 4-0 conference record; Temple is 3-1 in A-10 play, with their only loss coming to conference co-leader Duquense. Xavier is the current conference leader in RPI at 32nd; Temple is hot on their heels in 37th. I don't have to tell you how important this game is for X. Brad has taken care of that.

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.

It's Never Too Early...

This is the big one. If you are a Xavier fan, this is the game that is going to tell you what you need to know about this team. Temple has been sliding recently and is no longer ranked in either major poll. That doesn't mean, however, that this game has lost its import in the grand scheme of this season.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dante Jackson and the Three-point Arc

It's no secret that Dante Jackson is struggling from behind the arc right now. His .286 3P% is by far the worst in his career and equals out to his making exactly 2 out of every 7 threes he attempts. It doesn't take a math wizard to figure out that he's getting six points for every seven shots he takes from behind the arc, and it doesn't take John Wooden to understand that that's not good.



Xavier v. St. Bonaventure: Recap

What happened: Xavier 79-65 over St. Bonaventure.
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

Xavier v. St. Bonaventure: Box Score Breakdown

In England (and probably in other parts of the world), they say that form is temporary, but class is permanent. This is only pertinent in that, for 20 minutes tonight, St. Bonaventure was unquestionably the on-form team in the contest. Everything they touched turned into gold, while Xavier shot poorly, wasted the basketball, and generally underperformed. For X to pull out a W, they were going to need to show that they had the higher class of talent in the gym.

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

Xavier v. St. Bonaventure: Preview

Currently on pace for an undefeated A-10 season, Xavier rolls into their matchup at St Bonaventure tomorrow night seeking to equal their longest winning streak of the year. Blowouts of URI and UMass preceded a tight win over perennial conference title challenger (and reigning NIT champ) Dayton. This Saturday, Xavier will host Temple, who has been ranked in both polls this year.
But with fewer mice.

Sandwiched between these two big games - in perfect position to be overlooked - sits the St Bonaventure game. The Bonnies come into the game with an RPI of 97th in the nation and the 92nd toughest schedule. Xavier continues to inch up the rankings, sitting at 40th on the back of the 23rd toughest schedule. St. Bonaventure is sporting a 1-2 conference record, having eked out victory against Charlotte before getting clobbered by Temple and falling by one at URI. This is a classic trap game for the Muskies.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Shootaround

Shootaround is a new feature that will take a look at Xavier news on what would otherwise be a down day. Shootaround will be focused mostly on links and will be augmented with quick thoughts about the team.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Xavier v. Dayton: Box Score Breakdown

The story:
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.

It's Never Too Early...

A week ago Dayton loomed large as a potential RPI building win for the Musketeers. Two complete hidings and a Dayton loss to UMass later and this came has changed a bit. UD is currently 53rd in the RPI and sporting a SOS of 94. Xavier's numbers of 44 and 24 respectively show that a win here won't be much of a resume boost. Top 50 RPI wins are huge come March, and Dayton is right on the cusp of potentially being one. 

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

Come Here Often?

Over there.
If you do, you've likely noticed that we're slowly starting to spruce the blog up a little bit to make it feel more like home. While we had our previous location all decked out, its functionality simply wasn't what we were looking for anymore. We've added some essential links over the the right that we hope will go a little ways towards giving a better idea of what our approach is. In the coming days, watch for us to begin to add side bar notes to track recruiting, vital information, and player performance as we test out the limits of our new host. We hope you enjoy stopping by and reading what we have as much as we enjoy generating the content. Go ahead and get comfortable, we plan to be here a while.

Xavier v. Dayton: Preview

While Rhode Island and Massachusetts aren't exactly the cream of the A-10 crop, Xavier fans should be encouraged by the fact that X rolled them by a combined 56 point this week. Next up for the Muskies is Dayton, who bounced back from a five point road loss against UMass by bouncing St. Joseph's at home. Dayton should be the first real conference test for Xavier, and the Muskies have the luxury of facing it at home.

UD ranks 58th in the RPI updated today by ESPN.com, their 14-4 record offset by a strength of schedule ranking of 151. Xavier has snuck up to 41st in the RPI behind the 30th toughest schedule to this point. Dayton has been inconsistent this year, with wins over good-but-not-great programs such as Mississippi, Seton Hall, George Mason, and New Mexico stacking up next to losses to UMass and East Tennessee State and a 34-point butt-kicking at the hands of UC.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Xavier v. UMass: Game Recap

Tu Holloway's outside shooting changed the game
What happened: Xavier 79- UMass 50

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

Xavier v. UMass: 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 cbssports.com, espn.com, 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:
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.

It's Never Too Early...

At-large: Tonight Xavier will take on a UMass team that is coming off an impressive win against Dayton. That win, for all it did for Massachusetts as a team, only raised their RPI to 92. Xavier currently sits at 44th after the big win over URI. In short, Xavier cannot afford to lose this game for their at-large chances.

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

Xavier v. UMass: Preview

Dante Jackson keeps the blue flag flying.
Xavier will host UMass tomorrow to kick off an important early ten-day stretch in A-10 play. The Muskies will follow up the game against Massachusetts by hosting Dayton Saturday, travelling to St. Bonaventure the 19th, then swinging back home to play conference title hopefuls Temple. In those ten days, Xavier will play three games they should win followed by one that they have to. I know it's too early to have an actual must-win game, but 5-0 in conference with a win over Temple in hand would be a nice start to January.

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

Xavier v. Rhode Island: Recap

19 and 12 would make me smile too
What happened: Xavier 72- URI 45

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

Xavier v. Rhode Island: 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 cbssports.com, espn.com, 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:
Apparently Coach Mack was no more pleased with Xavier's approach against UC that we here at the Examiner were, because X started the game at the post and built from there. Xavier got 11 of their first sixteen points on lay ups, dunks, or tips by forwards or Kenny. Jamel McLean in particular was unwilling to be denied; he got 19-12 on 7-12/0-0/5-6 shooting, with half his boards coming on the offensive end.

Tu Holloway bounced back nicely from his dissolution at UC with 21-7-4 on 6-11/2-5/7-8 shooting. His four turnovers were less than optimal, but - combined with Cheek's 8-4-3 on only 6 FGA - he provided the kind of guard play that Xavier is going to need to be a force in the conference season.  Dante, on the other hand, continued to be stone cold. His 3-3-3 came on 1-6/1-5/0-0 shooting. He did manage to augment that line with two steals and only one turnover.

Either Xavier was playing smothering defense or URI was on a horrible shooting night. Chances are that it was a combination of both factors, but the Rams shot 14-57/3-27/14-20. A little quick math should tell you that this is horrible. Some more should tell you that they shot .247 from the floor, .111 from behind the arc, and a very respectable .700 from the line. It's probably a little unrealistic to expect Xavier to keep that level of defensive results, but having a team built around post presence and smothering defense should serve the Muskies well going forward.

Odds and ends:
-Xavier out rebounded Rhode Island 38-28. Delroy James had half of the Rams' boards.

-Xavier got 44 minutes off the bench, enough time for the reserves to score 12 points on 5-7/2-2/0-0 shooting with seven boards and only one turnover. Johnny Mazza led the charge with 3 points on 1-1 from behind the arc. Jeff Robinson contrived to foul out in 13 minutes.

-Kenny was outrebounded by Tu and outblocked by Cheek. This isn't particularly instructive, but it's mildly interesting.

-For the first time since the Albany game, Xavier had more assists than their opponents.

-Stay tuned for Brad's full recap, coming shortly.

Next game: v. UMass, 7pm Wednesday.

A10 Preview

With Xavier already sitting at 8-5 after the non conference schedule and some teams having already played their first conference game, it seems the perfect time to shed some light on the Musketeers chances in the Atlantic 10 (14?) this year. Unlike other previews you may have read back in November, we can now draw on results and thus far better analyze the situation.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Xavier v. Rhode Island: Preview

"There’s two seasons: There’s your non-conference season and then your conference season. And I think our non-conference season has really prepared us for our conference season. We took a tough loss but we’ve got to turn our thoughts to Rhode Island." -Jamel McLean

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.

Winnability factor:
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.

It's Never Too Early...

After Thursday's debacle it almost seems absurd to be talking NCAA tournament hopes, but here we are again. Both Xavier and URI come into this game off of losses. While the Shootout loss was undeniably large, Rhode Island's loss at Florida will also factor into Xavier's tournament chances.

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

Crosstown Countdown: Recap

What happened:
"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.

Crosstown Countdown: Game Day odds and ends

Xavier plays UC at 7pm on ESPN2. If you live in the upper Midwest and dont 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 Enquirers Xavier page for more of her reporting and follow her blog updates during the games action. Finally, stop back by here for analysis postgame.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Crosstown Countdown: Game Preview

In right about 24 hours, college basketball's best rivalry will be played out for the 78th time. UC has won 47 of the previous 77 engagements, but Xavier has won the last three, 7 of the last 10, and 10 of the last 15. Xavier is chasing a fourth consecutive Shootout win for the first time ever, which means Dante Jackson comes into the game with a chance to be the first Muskie to go 4-4 against UC. The Crosstown Shootout gives national announcers a chance to trot out the clich├ęs about throwing out the records when these two teams face off; generally speaking, the game is always tightly contested, entertaining, and at least mildly chippy.

Cincinnati is a tough team to get a handle on. On the one hand, their 14-0 record speaks for itself. On the other, the best team that they've played to this point is probably either Dayton or Seton Hall. They mopped the floor with a Dayton team whose resume to this point (narrow win over Seton Hall, narrow loss to Old Dominion) stacks up in some ways that are troublingly similar to Xavier. That game against Dayton was played six weeks ago though, and Dayton seems to have found a different stride since then. It's unlikely that too much can be read into that result, nor should we fear that the Bearcats are going to come out and double up X like they did the Flyers.


Crosstown Countdown: It's Never Too Early...

Today we'll be having a look at how the Crosstown Shootout will affect Xavier's tournament chances come March.

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.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Kenny Frease and the Free Throw Line

Kenny Frease first showed up on Xavier fans' radar as a nationally pursued 4-star recruit. When he landed with the Muskies, he became Xavier's first legit seven-footer in recent memory. His averages of 5 points and 4 rebounds in his first two years were something less than dynamic, and the big man often frustrated fans with stretches of play where his contributions fell somewhere between negligible and negative. He also showed flashes of serious potential, like tallying 13 and 8 against Virginia as a freshman or totaling 27 and 17 in back-to-back conference games last year.

After Jason Love's departure, Big Kenny has shown real signs of coming into his own this season. Western Michigan wanted no part of the big man in the season opener, and he has since (discounting the 0 and 0 he posted at Gonzaga) been consistently solid and sometimes spectacular for X. He pulled down 18 rebounds in a four-point victory over Wofford and had probably his best collegiate game against Wake, scoring 22 and grabbing 14 boards.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Crosstown Countdown: Top Five Crosstown Shootouts

It's that time of year again, actually, it's past that time of year. For the first time since 2006, Xavier meets UC in the Crosstown Shootout in January. For many Xavier fans, this game is the climax of the season. The teams have meant 77 times before, with UC leading the rivalry matchup 47-30. While other, far more hyped, rivalries are played twice a year and seem to mean much more to the fans than the players, the Shootout is a once yearly occasion that often brings out the ugly side of basketball. Here then, are the top five most memorable Crosstown Shootouts.