Monday, February 28, 2011

Twitter Recap: Xavier v. Dayton

Ballers gotta eat too.
Were you too busy going to church or working to get on Twitter yesterday? Did you spend a day off with the family? Don't worry, we didn't! Here's the day that was in Twitter.

The night before the game, the lads headed to Benihana for some carbing up. Mark Lyons said he left "on a mission." While Dante Jackson went to review some game film and eat some Watermelon Juicy Twists. (Evidently it takes a lot to feed Dante). Jordan Crawford tweeted his support but was bummed to miss Heat-Knicks, he thought it would be ok though, as NBA games are back on at 3am.

Xavier v. Dayton: Recap

Too much Tu
What happened: The usual. Xavier 66-Dayton 62

There are generally two kinds of rivalries in sports. There are the media-generated hype fests where the game itself seems peripheral. Think Duke-UNC with a bunch of rabid fans screaming at two teams who evince no particular dislike for one another. The other kind of rivalry is one that may not draw as much attention but is genuinely contested between two groups that don't like one another. Think Chris Wright and Tom Archdeacon combining for 50% of talking and walking a good game.

That, then, brings us to today's game at a sold-out UD Arena. There were the usual plethora of shirts suggesting unkind things about the coeds at Xavier, a mass of "fans" that attend one game a year, and a pep band that seems to know only one tune. It was, in short, pretty typical Dayton.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Xavier v. Dayton: Box Score Breakdown

What happened: Xavier 66 - Dayton 62

How many was that shot worth?
In a game vastly different but no less hotly contested than the matchup earlier in the year, Tu Holloway led the Muskies past UD. Is there a more valuable late-game guard in the entire nation? With five and a half minutes left, UD had come to within five of Xavier and the arena was cacophonous. Tu then scored 12 of Xavier's last 14, didn't miss a field goal or free throw, and didn't turn the ball over. When he stuck the three with 42 seconds left to put X up five and ice the game, Byron Larkin proclaimed that Tu has shown "time and time again that he has the willingness to take the big shot and the confidence to knock it down." Holloway's final line was 26-5-5 with 2 steals on 8-17/2-7/8-9 shooting.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Xavier v. Dayton: Preview

"I really do despise them."
In that familiarity breeds contempt, it's no great surprise that there's little love lost between Xavier and Dayton. While the Flyers are down this year, XU and Dayton usually spend most of the A-10 season neck and neck at the top of the standings. With two games on the slate every year and the occasional high-leverage meeting in the conference tournament, these two teams have dealt each other enough resume damaging blows that neither is on the other's figurative Christmas card list.

Friday, February 25, 2011


I suppose someone has to
- It's a Dayton week, and Tom Archdeacon of Dayton Daily News is giving Chris Wright a chance to get his hypocrite on. Archdeacon's holier-than-thou thoughts on respect between opponents are amusing. Said Wright in another article that Archdeacon evidently didn't read, "Some of us really hate each other," and "But it’s part of that being between the lines deal. I don’t want to shake their hands." Good stuff, Chris.

- The Diamond Head Classic field is set and, according to ESPN,  Xavier is one of the "other teams" in a field that includes K. State, Clemson, and Auburn. This is another great December grab for Mario Mercurio.

- Last year the Musketeers got waxed at Dayton. Shannon Russell compiled some of the players' thoughts on that and what the key was to winning at UD Arena this year.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mark Lyons and the Value of Possession

When boiled down to its essence, the decision-making process of the player with the ball can be summed up in the question, "Do I give our team the best chance of getting something out of this possession where I am now?" The answer to this question dictates whether the player shoots, works himself into better position, or gives the ball up entirely. As the player implements his initial answer to that question, the situation around him continually changes. The player who can come up with - and act on - an answer to that question as quickly as the changing situation demands is going to give his team effective possessions on a regular basis; a player who can't is going to spend a lot of time on the bench.

Cheek has loads of swagger.
Nowhere is this more evident than the guard position. Guards handle the ball more than any other player, and one who consistently makes bone-headed decisions is going to give his team a lot of wasted possessions. While classmate Tu Holloway was learning on the fly as a freshman, Musketeers guard Mark Lyons was sitting out his first season on the Xavier campus. When he finally got onto the floor the next year, "Cheekz" distinguished himself as a player with incredible athleticism and an unflinching estimation of his own abilities. He also frustrated the Xavier faithful with forced shot attempts, questionable decisions, and a general inability or unwillingness to recognize the difference between a game when he's on and one when he isn't. If players learn through mistakes, the lessons were coming in bunches early.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Xavier v. LaSalle: Twitter Recap

Here at the Examiner we left our press pass in our other jeans, so we like to use some alternative ways of getting "insider" access to the minds of the Xavier basketball family. One of the most fun ways is to follow the team, staff, and fans before, during, and after the game via Twitter. The tweets range from pertinent to frivolous and cover most points in between. We usually enjoy putting this recaps together, and we hope you enjoy reading them.

XU Director of Basketball Administration Mario Mercurio sent out the pretty self-explanatory "@ 0 it is! @ 1. @ 5. Uniform orders have to go in tomorrow," proving that there is no end of behind the scenes work that goes in to making X what it is. Jordan Latham was not really in the mood, posting "not really in the mood. But [redacted] it lets get this win Xu." Recruit Dezmine Wells mentioned that he was "bout to enter a world unlike anything I've seen before.." Dante threw out the brief but pointed "Homekill.." and we were ready to roll.

Xavier v. La Salle: Recap

XU is more than just Tu
What happened: Xavier 100- La Salle 62

Xavier needed a fast start last night. According to our preview "once X establishes a lead tomorrow, they need to pour it on until the game is well out of reach." Evidently, we weren't the only ones to have mentioned that. Byron Larkin said early in the game that the last two days of practice for the Musketeers had not been pleasant ones. It could hardly have showed any more.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Xavier v. LaSalle: Box Score Breakdown

What happened: Xavier 100 - LaSalle 62

Wow. After a Fordham game that left a bad taste in everyone's mouths, Xavier bounced back in convincing fashion ahead of a big showdown with Dayton this weekend. If anyone thought they were detecting chinks in Xavier's armor, that idea should be dispelled now. The Muskies will head into UD Arena Sunday with loads of confidence.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Xavier v. LaSalle: Preview

Coming off a less than convincing victory at home against a Fordham squad that hasn't won a conference game in coming up on two years, I can't imagine that XU's last couple of practices were very enjoyable for the players. Xavier has fallen out of the top 20 in the RPI thanks to the SOS depletion of the A-10 schedule, but they still found a way to sneak in at #25 in the AP poll. They were second of the "others receiving votes" in the coaches' poll, which means no number by their name on ESPN. None of this really matters, but Joe Lunardi's bracket shows X as a six seed, which is nice.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Xavier v. Fordham: Twitter Recap


Dante was the most active X player before the game, reminding us once again that you "Can't get tired of the process!!!!!!" He also let us know that "I feel like we haven't played at home in awhile.. Plus my guy @ is in the building... Showtime!!!! Championship game 3." If the Muskies has played as exuberantly as Dante tweeted, maybe Coach Mack would have had better things to say after the game. Tu cut time out of his day to report "My mom is going to be watching me live.. 1st time since the Virgin Islands and she haven't been to the Cintas Center since I was a frosh." She picked as good a day as any to attend.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Xavier v. Fordham: Box Score Breakdown

What happened: Xavier 79 - Fordham 72

Tu's shot chart on the night.
With former Xavier guard Jordan Crawford in town to check out the action, Tu Holloway posted a monster 26-11-10 on 8-11/1-3/9-11 shooting with no turnovers. Crawford saw the line developing, tweeting partway through the first half that Tu was on his way to a triple-double. Tu's shot chart shows he was having no trouble getting to the rim; that blob at the bucket is his 5-5 on layups and dunks. Other than a couple of threes and one 12-footer, Holloway was perfect on the night.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Xavier v. Fordham: Preview

Santa brought Fordham at 13-game losing streak.
On Wednesday, December 22nd, Fordham was a respectable 6-4 and only 11 days removed from a victory over a solid St. John's team. That same day, X had just fallen to 7-3 thanks to a road loss to Gonzaga and the Muskies were still smarting from a somewhat embarrassing loss at Miami (OH). Since that date, the Rams have gone 0-13 and 0-11 in conference play; if you're reading this site, I'm going to assume that you know what Xavier has done. The respective post-Yuletide performances of these teams have put Xavier 19th in the RPI and Fordham 248th.

Twitter Recap and Shootaround: Xavier v. St. Joe's

Don't have time to follow your favorite players and personalities on Twitter? Can't chisel out the time in your day to sift the internet for borderline interesting news? Don't worry, we do! Here's what the Musketeers were up to as the prepared for St. Joseph's.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Xavier v. St. Joe's: Recap

What happened: Xavier 74 -St Joseph's 54

McLean launched himself off a lunch table
Let's start this out by my admitting that I despise St. Joseph's. I hate the stupid hawk, I can't stand Phil Martelli (the poor man's Jim Boeheim), Pat Calathes, Jameer Nelson, and the cafeteria they use for a gym. Needless to say, I was quite excited when I finally got around to watching this game this afternoon.

The game started with St. Joseph's playing as if they were sitting on a lead late. With the Hawks content to play anti-basketball, the Musketeers would have to be patient to get the win.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Xavier v. St. Joseph's: Box Score Breakdown

What happened: Xavier 74 - St Joseph's 54

Xavier came out of the gates cold against St. Joe's and let the Hawks stay in the game way too long. With 3:39 left in the first half, XU trailed 25-21. The Muskies took over from there, outscoring St. Joseph's 17-2 over the next seven minutes to effectively take control of the game. From there X never looked back, finally transforming a game against a second-tier foe into a yawner for their fans.

Cheek Lyons was a hero for the Muskies, posting 24-6-3 on 10-14/2-4/2-2 shooting with only one turnover. After averaging almost 18 points per game in a seven-game stretch, Lyons had been less than superb against Duquesne before foul trouble put him out of his misery. His 24 tonight were his biggest output since he posted 25 on Wofford in November, and it took three overtimes for him to put that performance together.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Xavier v. St. Joseph's: Preview

I'll use any excuse to hail 2004.
If you start from the bottom of the A-10 standings and work your way up, you'll run into all of Xavier's remaining conference opponents before you get to any teams not remaining on the schedule. Xavier has made its name in recent years by playing a difficult out-of-conference schedule to bolster its tournament resume and prepare for A-10 play; now all that remains of the Muskies' schedule is the six weakest teams in the ninth toughest conference in the nation. Joe Lunardi pointed out yesterday that it's pretty late in the season to be able to influence your tournament seed for the better; that is doubly true of a team with no tough games left on the docket. From here until Selection Sunday, X's number one goal is to avoid the bad loss.

Xavier's upcoming opponent - in Championship Game 2 of 7 by Dante's reckoning - is A-10 laggard St. Joseph's. The Hawks are 7-17 overall and 2-8 in conference; their ranking of 203 in the RPI is bolstered by a 74th ranked SOS. They are far removed from their glory days, when X had to knock them off in the 2004 A-10 tournament to end their undefeated run and earn the Muskies a ticket to the big dance. St. Joe made the Sweet 16 that year (X did them one better by embarking on a magical run to the Elite 8) but have only made it back to the NCAA tournament once since then.

Monday, February 14, 2011


-Brad Redford is shooting again. We take for granted that, come next year, he'll be back to stretching defenses and punishing those who give him an inch of space. It's nice to see early signs that such wishes will come true.

Modified Recap: Xavier v. Duquesne

Due to the vagaries of television coverage and carrier battles over stations, neither of us was able to see Xavier last night. While this is unfortunate in the extreme, it gives a chance to do something a little different with the recap of the game.

Twitter Recap

10:00 AM- Joe Hughes promises a big performance from the Musketeers. While his "we will be ready!!!!!" was a bit over exuberant, it was certainly an indication of the mood of the team. Dante Jackson also chipped in by proclaiming it "road kill" time.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Xavier v. Duquesne: Box Score Breakdown

I loves me some Dante.
Xavier basketball games this year have settled into a familiar ebb and flow. It goes something like this: Xavier races out to an early 8-10 point lead, usually thanks in large part to a hot start from Big Kenny. Then the foot comes off the gas, and the other team creeps back into the game. By halftime, the game is within on possession either way. Tu has usually shot about four times and scored about five points. Most of the backcourt production has come from Mark Lyons at this point.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Xavier v. Duquesne: Preview

(N.B.: see yesterday's post entitled Paper Tigers for more on Xavier's opponent.)

Duquesne gets the job done with a defense that is exceptional at forcing the opposing team into empty possessions and an offense that feeds off of it. The Dukes force turnovers on 28.5% of their defensive possessions, a mark that leads the nation. Their steal percentage of 13.7% is good for fifth in the country. Their adjusted tempo (a metric that measures how many possessions a team gets per 40 minutes and then factors in opponents' playing styles and other... factors) in 18th fastest in the country, and they average right about 73 possessions per game. Clearly, this is a team that likes to get out and go and force that pace upon their opponents.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Paper Tigers

I have gone on record stating that current A-10 co-leader Duquesne is, in effect, a paper tiger. I think their hot start and impressive record are somewhat illusory and not a great reflection of the quality of the team, and I've been very honest about that. But, as Xavier was bidding farewell to a modest seven-game winning streak by playing their worst game in almost a month, Duquense was methodically putting away another one of the weak sisters of the A-10 (more on that later). Like the small child I resemble emotionally, I responded to uncomfortable circumstances by seeking comfort in the familiar: we're still the best team in the A-10. Right?

Thursday, February 10, 2011


- Andy Katz also had a few thoughts on the Tu Holloway snub. Katz too had a look at the numbers and realized something didn't add up. As per the norm, the comments section on ESPN is a wasteland.

- On his Insider page, Joe Lunardi now has Xavier as one of this teams with a better than 75% chance of making the tournament. The Georgia win will just keep getting better thanks to the strength of the SEC. The Musketeers are 21st in InsideRPI and projected as a #9 seed in Tulsa right now.

- Your odds of seeing Xavier in the tournament this year also improved in another way today. NCAA announced that it would be staggering start times and airing games on three additional channels  (TBS, TNT, truTV) in order to allow all first weekend games to be seen in their entirety. If you haven't already asked for those days off, do so now.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tu Holloway and the Cousy snub

Tu is head and shoulders above the competition
Back near the beginning of the season, the 70-player list of Cousy Award finalists was announced with minimal fanfare. For those of you who don't know, the Cousy Award goes to the best point guard in the NCAA, regardless of in which division he plays. Obviously, the best players tend to gravitate towards D-1, so when the list was pared to 20 in January and it consisted of only D-1 players, nobody was that surprised. The A-10 had two players on that list: Richmond's Kevin Anderson and XU's own Tu Holloway.

On February 7th, the list was again trimmed, this time to 10. While nobody (that I spoke to) was surprised to see Anderson dropped, we here at the Examiner were somewhat stunned to see Tu had also be culled from the herd. Since I had planned to handicap Tu's chances of winning the award at this point (SPOILER ALERT: they're not very good now), I decided to take a deep breath, wipe the tears of indignation and rage from my eyes, and try to evaluate on an objective basis whether or not Tu's numbers are good enough to merit inclusion in such honored company.

Xavier v. Georgia: Recap

What Happened: Xavier 65-Georgia 57

Georgia's Student Section
Xavier probably needed one more marquee non-conference win to really look good come Selection Sunday. This, then, was their final chance to go on the road and grab a win that would impress the committee. None of the first half collapse antics would have done tonight, a complete game was needed.

Early on it was the same old story. Kenny Frease was getting easy buckets, Tu Holloway was making sure everyone was involved, and Jamel McLean was efforting all over the place. Unfortunately for Xavier, Georgia wasn't inclined to simply roll over.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Xavier v. Georgia: Box Score Breakdown

What happened: Xavier 65 - Georgia 57

Tu Holloway closes games. At the half, the Muskies' point guard was shooting 0-5/0-2/0-0 and had 0-3-4 with 3 steals and no turnovers. In the second half, he scored 18 on 3-8/1-4/11-11, added 3 rebounds and another assist, and only turned the ball over once. He was particularly instrumental in 8-2 mini-run that gave X the 43-39 lead they would never relinquish. He started the run with a three-ball at the 13:34 mark, added a bucket and a free throw the next trip down, and wrapped it up two minutes after it began with an assist to Big Kenny that sent Georgia to the bench for a full timeout.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Xavier v. Georgia: Preview

Coming off a weekend win over St. Louis - and the news that Duquesne finally stumbled - Xavier has a last chance to shore up the non-conference resume before tournament time. The Muskies were underwhelming in victory at home Saturday, and they're going to have to improve on that showing if they want to pick up a win at Georgia. The Bulldogs are 35th in the RPI and sport the 43rd most difficult schedule, but their 16-6 record has been marred by near misses. Their first loss was in double-OT to Notre Dame; they lost by two to Tennessee and in double-OT to Florida in January, both at home. They dropped a road game @UK by six, and their two least hotly contested losses came away from home to Temple and Vandy, both by seven.

On the flip side, Georgia has beaten Mississippi Valley State by two, St. Louis by two, Manhattan by three, UAB by three, Georgia Tech by one, Mercer by three, Arkansas by one, and Auburn in OT. That's eight wins that could have swung on a single possession, and not all of them came against the highest level of competition. With an 8-3 record in games decided by such a margin, Georgia could be 19-3 just as easily as 8-14. It's not easy to tell going in which Georgia team Xavier is going to face.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Xavier v. St. Louis: Recap

What happened: Xavier 76 - St. Louis 68

That seven foot guy that occasionally gets the ball
I guess winning ugly is better than not winning at all. Xavier jumped ever so slightly to 25th on ESPN's InsideRPI with the win and kept pace with Duquesne in the A10, but this was another subpar effort from a team that had looked to be finding its stride.

Kenny Frease again started the game well, making his first four shots. Xavier also jumped out fast and looked to be riding the home crowd to the easy win that eluded them on Tuesday. Once again, though, the Musketeers faded almost right away.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Xavier v. St. Louis: Box Score Breakdown

What happened: Xavier 76 - St. Louis 68

From the beginning of the game, it looked like Xavier was going to be able to leverage Kenny Frease's height into offensive domination, and he had eight points on 4-4 shooting in the first five minutes. From that point forward though, it became clear that St. Louis was focusing on taking the big man out of Xavier's offense. Kenny went another six minutes before his next shot attempt and ended the half 6-9 from the floor. He only had 3 shot attempts in the second half and ended the game with 12-8-2 on 6-12/0-0/0-3 shooting.

With Frease being choked out of the equation, the Xavier offense sputtered while looking for answers. With 16:49 left in the game, Xavier had ten turnovers; ten seconds later, the Billikens led 37-34 and the situation was looking very vexing indeed. The Xavier guards found their stride from that point forward, and the team followed. XU didn't turn the ball over from that point forward and outscored St. Louis 42-31 the rest of the way to wrest control of the game.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Xavier v. St. Louis: Preview

Xavier has a huge week coming up, going to Georgia next Tuesday in the last non-conference matchup of the year before heading to Duquesne over the weekend to try to knock off the A-10 leaders. Before those two big matchups though, they take on the Billikens of St. Louis. At Cintas against one of the lesser teams in the league, the outcome of this game should be a foregone conclusion for X. Of course, one would have said that about the Charlotte game too, and I think we all recall how that turned out.

Despite that little hiccup in North Carolina, Xavier ranks 26th on's InsideRPI, thanks to their strength of schedule ranking of 24th. St. Louis has played a similarly difficult schedule (27th), but ranks 158th in the RPI. Of their eleven games against the RPI Top 100, St. Louis has tallied a single win. The Billikens are 3-5 in conference, with their wins coming over St. Joseph's, Fordham, and UMass. They also played Temple tough on the road before falling by four, but Duquesne pounded them by 22.

Xavier v. Charlotte: Recap

What happened: Charlotte 66 - Xavier 62

Dante is, assuredly, just behind Green
If you ever laid awake at night, counting sheep and wondering what would happen to Xavier if Tu Holloway had a bad game, you don't need to anymore. Now you know the answer to that question, and it isn't a good one.

Xavier seemed lost late in the game without their leader. Mark Lyons made an admirable effort but even he deferred to Holloway with a minute to play and the game still in the balance. The team will need to learn how to play on nights when Tu isn't scoring.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Xavier v. Charlotte: Box Score Breakdown

What happened: Charlotte 66 - Xavier 62

In a game Xavier never should have lost, they somehow contrived to do just that. Leading 16-5 at one point, the Muskies let this one get away against a sub-par opponent. Tu Holloway, normally Xavier's steadiest player, laid an egg the likes of which we haven't seen from him in some time. His 12-6-3 came with 6 turnovers and a gory 3-17/0-8/6-6 shooting line. Tu didn't have it tonight and didn't realize it soon enough.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It's Never Too Early...

As the Charlotte 49ers are not really worth a mention (193rd on collegerpi, 190th on ESPN Inside RPI) we'll have a look at how Xavier stacks up right now. For starters, the RPI numbers are currently skyrocketing. X is 18th on collegerpi and 20th on ESPN. Against the RPI top 100, the Musketeers are 7-4. In their last 12, they are 9-3. Ken Pomeroy shows Xavier with only one negative number in every component he measures. As always at this time of year, the Muskies are on a tear.

Bracket expert Joe Lunardi currently shows Xavier as a 10 seed, facing Arizona in the first round. If you are reading on this site, I don't need to tell you why this is significant. Surprisingly, it's offense carrying XU right now. Both Lunardi (5.7 OFFQ) and Pomeroy (113.7 Adj. Efficiency) show Xavier as being well above average on the offensive end and right around average on the defensive end.

Charlotte won't factor into much unless the Musketeers let them. A win here merely maintains the status quo, a loss won't look good with Selection Sunday barely six weeks away.

Xavier v. Charlotte: Preview

In the middle of January, Xavier sat at a crossroads of sorts of the season. Coming off an embarrassing loss to cross-town rival Cincinnati (you may have heard about it), they had rallied to trounce two of the weaker teams in the A-10. On Saturday, January 15, X was staring down the barrel of a five-game stretch that included three games against the cream of recent A-10 crops. The Muskies grew stronger with each test, edging Dayton, and beating Temple more comfortably before trouncing Richmond last Saturday. Now XU stands at the doors of February - a month in which they've gone 24-4 over the past four seasons - ready to emphatically establish their position at the top of the A-10 and in the thick of the NCAA tournament conversation.

Xavier's first February for is conference door mat Charlotte, whose lone victory in seven A-10 games this year was over Fordham at home. Charlotte's 2-4 start to the season got even rougher when leading scorer Shamari Spears tweeted that he was thinking about quitting the team after being benched for the second half of their 11/24 loss to Oregon State. Coach Alan Major beat Spears to the punch, suspending and then dismissing the 6'6" senior before he could play (or sit) another minute. On a team that is 319th in the nation in bench minutes, dismissing a starter is a pretty bold move.