Friday, April 29, 2011

Why Sim Bhullar is Perfect for X

This has nothing to do with basketball.
Anyone who has either (a) seen the film Miracle, (b) watched any meaningful sporting event brought to you by ABC/ESPN, or (c) watched any Winter Olympics coverage since 1980 while living outside of Russia and the former Soviet republics knows the story of the 1980 US hockey team. The parallels between that team (or at least the Disney-fied version that came out on film) and mid-major basketball schools could be drawn pretty easily; we may even do that here depending on how long/boring the summer turns out to be. My focus right now is a little more narrow.

In the early stages of the movie (again, I was negative five years old in 1980, so my reality is based on grainy footage and a Disney script), Herb Brooks is agonizing over which players are going to be invited to have the opportunity to play for the US team. An assistant - who probably exists only as a plot device - points out to Brooks that he hasn't selected the best American players. Brooks responds, "I'm not looking for the best players; I'm looking for the right ones."

Sim Bhullar to Xavier

Our little big guy
According to Alex Kline of The Recruit Scoop, Sim Bhullar has committed to Xavier for the 2012 season. Rumor had swirled around Xavier and Bhullar for quite some time but this is the first thing that indicates a real commitment, with Brian Snow of also confirming. Bhullar is, literally, a huge catch for Chris Mack and Xavier. Standing 7'4" and weighing nearly 340 pounds, Bhullar is one of a select few humans that make Kenny Frease seem light and agile. There is some tape on Bhullar, and we have a bit of breakdown of it after the jump.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wake Forest Suspends Prosser Classic

Or not
Fresh off the news of the addition of Purdue to the schedule comes a somewhat more disturbing announcement. The ten year series between Wake Forest and Xavier will suffer a one year hiatus this year. While these things always have two sides, it's clear that Coach Mack thinks the majority of the blame lies with Wake. Jeff Bzdelik of Wake said "neither team" could agree on a date for the game this year. From a strictly basketball standpoint, this won't hurt Xavier. Emotionally it is a bit of a disappointment that Coach Prosser won't be getting his due notoriety this year.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Xavier Adds Home-and-Home With Purdue

Xavier announced today that they are beginning a home-and-home series with Purdue. The series will open sometime this December at Cintas, which will be a great game for the Muskies. Purdue has been seeded 6th, 5th, 4th, and 3rd in the last four NCAA tournaments, a trend that statisticians tell me cannot continue for beyond the 2012-2013 season. Purdue has also finished the last four seasons no worse than 23rd in the Pomeroy rankings. Landing such a high-profile and tough opponent is great news for the Xavier basketball program; kudos to Mario Mercurio and his staff for getting this done.

Xavier and Purdue have some regular season history together; most recently in 2002 when X knocked off Purdue at Cintas. Xavier also played - and defeated - Purdue in the 2008 tourney. Thank Kyle for the fact that this is now more clear than it was. Xavier looks like adding one more non-conference game to the slate for next year, but this one may be it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Xavier Adds James Farr

Farr on his way to X.
Multiple sources have alleged that 6'9" forward James Farr has committed to play his college ball at Xavier, but Brian Snow seems to have pulled the scoop first. Farr is a lean lefty who came into high school on the wrong side of six feet tall. As he grew the better part of a foot, he continued to keep the small man skills that have now allowed him to be a big-time D-1 recruit. ESPN describes him as having a good enough jump shot to play pick-and-pop and a good face-up game on the block. Most sources agree that Farr needs to add bulk, but his skills, effort, and upside are universally praised.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Are you getting sucked into Spring? Working out for bathing suit season (it's too late)? Have you quit thinking about college basketball? Are you out shopping with Mike Leake? Don't worry, we've still got all the news and you don't even have to rip the tags off!

What if he had stretched defenses all year?
- Eamon Brennan has a remarkably interesting story in the what if scenarios in college ball this year. For Xavier we have to wonder, what if Brad Redford hadn't gotten injured? We probably would have missed the Rundown, but a shooter to spread defenses would have been massive all year.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I Blame Derrick Brown

Derrick Brown, with his head at the rim
With the deadline for declaration to the NBA draft quickly approaching, Tu Holloway's future at Xavier is still up in the air. While it seems obvious to the fan base that Tu should return for his senior year, it's never easy to get into the mind of a player in Holloway's situation. The lure of NBA fame and fortune - or even a six-figure salary for playing ball overseas - is sometimes overwhelming to the sensiblities of a young man. In a situation like this, I am forced to do what any logical person would: blame Derrick Brown.

Brown came onto the scene at Xavier as a super-efficient dunk machine of a freshman. That season he averaged almost two points per shot attempt, due in large part to the fact that most of his shots were attempted from within the cylinder. As he matured, Brown added an effective (if not especially pretty) jump shot to go with his sensational athletic ability. He averaged almost 14 points per game as a junior and connected on 39 of 90 threes. With highly touted Indiana transfer Jordan Crawford eligible to play the next season, Brown appeared set to help lead Xavier deep into the tourney as a senior. Then he left.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dumbing down the NBA

Real fans
The NBA playoffs have begun and it has become impossible to turn on any sports media outlet without hearing about Andrew Bynum's knee, Amare's big game, or whatever seems to be on Kobe's mind recently. As fans of the sport as it was intended to be played, we don't care all that much about the NBA. The constant media deluge has, however, turned up one interesting nugget.

It has long been the contention of college basketball fans that the product produced by the NCAA is far superior than that of the NBA. Whether it is the four weeks of madness in March, fans that actually care, or the fact that regular season games actually matter, it's not hard to find reasons to agree. Now, however, an unexpected contingent is beginning to see the light.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tu Holloway, Transfers, and Outliers

David West was no stranger to hard work
ESPN the Magazine's most recent issue focused primarily on the upcoming NFL draft (apparently it's soon). While most of the information presented there was of little to no interest in Xavier-related terms, there was one article that got me to thinking a little bit about the Muskies. The article was about how players are assessed for the NFL Draft and how that process continues to evolve.

The crux of the issue is that the testing at the combine - everything from the 40-yard (or is it meter?) sprint to the famed Wonderlic evaluation - focuses on measuring the player's peak performance when properly motivated. While this kind of assessment has value, the players' performance in a one-time assessment with a high level of motivation does not always translate to an accurate measure of their career. The margin of talent between the top guy in the league and the worst one is so thin that the ability to persist in improving himself over a long course of time when motivation is low is often the secret to success.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tu declares for draft

"Please don't leave me."
Shannon Russell is reporting that Tu Holloway will enter the NBA draft this year. A tweet from the man himself shed little light on the situation, "Just finished working on my game.. What I did tonight might help 6 years from now.. Its all a process.." but certainly showed he's been listening to Dante Jackson. General consensus seems to be that Holloway will return to XU next year barring something outlandishly unforseen. Both Holloway and Coach Mack have stated that Tu is just doing his due diligence. There will, of course, be further bulletins as events warrant.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


The A-10 Player of the Year
The weather is finally taking a turn for the better and looks to be staying there. The Indians and Reds have combined for 16 wins approximately a month earlier than it usually happens. The next meaningful college basketball game is at least seven months away. These are all excuses you may be using to get off the computer and go outside. Here's a taste of what you might have missed.

The season is well beyond wrapped up at this point, but there are still a few mop-up links popping up around the web. College Hoops Net has a few thoughts on what will come next for the teams of the East Region. They are one of a growing number of media outlets jumping on the Xavier bandwagon early. XU has almost always been in a position of national obscurity to begin the season; it will be interesting to see how the team responds if they're ranked at the start of next year.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Host of Preseason Rankings

"Please let this one count"
The weather is warming, the birds are chirping, and John Calipari's latest trip to the Final Four is still in the NCAA record books. These are all signs that it is no later than April, which has other implications for the fine world of NCAA basketball. Coach Mack and the staff, for instance, are out on the recruiting trail planning violation-free additions to Xavier's future rosters. People who write about college basketball for a living are struggling to remain relevant until the next recruiting scandal triples the traffic on their sites, which makes this the "meaningless preseason top 25" time of year.

ESPN's Andy Katz has XU at 15 going into next season. He notes that "Chris Mack was a hot coaching-carousel candidate" but figures his (Mack's, not Katz's) Cinci ties will keep the coach at X for the forseeable future. Katz also believes that Tu Holloway will be the top player in the A-10 again next season and opines that "the Musketeers return enough to make one believe they will once again take the A-10." It's as much what the Muskies are bringing in as what they're returning that excites most fans, but I guess Mr Katz is really looking forward to Griffin McKenzie's sophomore year.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Analyzing a transfer

When it was officially announced today that Jordan Latham and Jay Canty were transferring I had mixed emotions. Don't get me wrong, neither of these guys had done a whole lot to endear themselves to fans but the loss of a scholarship athlete always means something went wrong.

Hey, it's Dante!
So what went wrong with Latham and Canty? Rumors had abounded that Latham was homesick, or maybe just disengaged, all year, and Coach Mack's answers never really cleared much up. Canty got injured early in the year and was never able to play himself back into basketball shape. Some people even blame the coach for not getting the players the time they needed. It's the Latham situation that takes a bit more looking into to really decipher.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Latham and Canty Transfer: Twitter Recap

Help the healing begin, Mr. Fresh.
As most people who care and have the internet know by now, Jordan Latham and Jay Canty have each transferred out of Xavier University. Future content will no doubt clarify why the two freshmen left the program, where each will end up, and how Coach Mack and the staff will replace them, the question on everyone's mind right now is this: what did Twitter think about the news?

 The news started off much like one would expect: Shannon Russell, Tom Eiser, and Lance McAlister all tweeted almost simultaneous, functionally identical messages announcing the move. Not content to follow the crowd, Chris DiSano (who?) repeated the news and added that Providence was a possible destination for Jay Canty. Despite the fact that you'd think he'd have insider information, Jordan Latham announced the news two hours after everyone else did. He did add that he "will miss Xavier." Draw from that what you will.

Canty and Latham Transferring

UPDATE: Only the finest in Twitter reporting for our readers. The best way to stay abreast of the action is to stay on top of the tweets. Since you all have lives, we'll take care of it for you.

UPDATE: Latham leaving over a lack of playing time. He is quoted as saying that he's sad that half of his incoming class is leaving, saying that they had "built a bond" in their time at Xavier.

According to a release from, Xavier freshman Jordan Latham and Jay Canty are going to pursue their college careers elsewhere in the coming basketball season. Coach Mack thanked both players for their efforts on and off the court and wished them luck in the future. Jordan Latham will leave behind a frontcourt that is long on athleticism and talent but short on the bulk that he provides. There was always some unrest around Jordan throughout the year, and there were also rumors that he was homesick in Cincinnati. While we wish Jordan the best, it is doubtful that his absence will create an intense impact on the program

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Confirmed Xavier fan Shin-Soo Choo
Were you watching every basket of the national championship on DVR? Do you have so much free time that you are watching grown men hit a motionless ball with a skinny stick? Maybe baseball season has dragged you away from your internet. Regardless, you don't have to worry, we've already seen the national championship game and don't watch golf, (we do love the Cleveland Indians though) so we've been basking in the pale glow of the computer all week. Here's all the news that's news.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ugly Basketball?

Brad Stevens hadn't even inhaled to make his classy post-game statements last night before people all over the internet were calling UConn's victory over Butler the worst championship game in NCAA history. Setting aside the knee-jerk historical hyperbole (and the fact that "low-scoring" doesn't necessarily mean "bad"), I wanted to look into what factors went into making the game what it was.

Brad Stevens got the pace, but not the production
The first of these was the pace of the game. Butler, as pretty much every American media outlet may have mentioned before the game, was a team well-suited to playing an ugly, grinding style of basketball. Conventional wisdom was that a slower pace and a more physical game would benefit them. While it is true that Butler was 277th in the nation in adjusted tempo this season, it somehow escaped mention that UConn was 240th in the country - having played about a possession per game faster than Butler on the year. The Huskies were at the end of a grueling stretch of games (the national title game was their 11th in 27 days) and hadn't had their best player off the floor since the first round. Neither team was looking to turn this game into a track meet, especially not early.

Monday, April 4, 2011

How Good is Matt Howard?

Greatness, flopping
This article got me to thinking about Butler and Matt Howard. It should be stated right up front that I am not a Butler fan, nor do I particularly care for young Mr. Howard. All that said, I decided to head to kenpom and Statsheet and give him a fair shake. The premise of the aforementioned article was that it was hard to define what made Howard a "great" player. Teammates debated the merits of his offense, his defense, and his work rate. I've seen a lot of Butler recently, and nothing about Howard really jumped out at me, so it was time to crunch some numbers.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

2011-2012 Look Ahead

The dust has settled on the 2010-2011 season, as Brad has so eloquently recapped. With the past now behind us - which the past technically always is - it's time for our annual glimpse well into the future as we preview next season. Post-season look-aheads are tricky because there is so much that can happen between now and November that can have a serious impact on how the year develops. As always, there are concerns for next year as well as reasons to hope. To keep you from getting too high or too low, I've had the courtesy to alternate them below.

Concern: A lack of proven big men.
Somebody get this guy a meal plan.
Jamel McLean (gone) led the team in rebounding this year, and Kenny Frease was second. After him was Tu Holloway (a guard), then Dante Jackson (gone), and Mark Lyons (a guard). Sixth on the team was Jeff Robinson, at 3.1 rebounds per game. While there's nothing wrong with guards that can rebound and a big man has more responsibilities that grabbing boards, this is just illustrative of Xavier's potential question marks up front. On top of that, Robinson, incoming freshman Jalen Reynolds, and newly-eligible transfer Travis Taylor combine to average 6'8", 214 lbs. That's a lot of skinny right there.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Gyan for Africa! (or, Why I'm Cheering for UConn)

Many of you know that there was a World Cup contested just last year. The tournament was played in South Africa, and a lot of the media types - especially on ESPN - were playing up that fact. For any game in which at least one African team was playing, the supposition that the entire continent was supporting the team in question. This peaked when Ghana's Asamoah Gyan had a penalty kick to win a knock-out game against Uruguay. As he ran up to shoot, the radio announcer - whose name has slipped my mind - yelled, "Gyan for Africa!" He missed, and they ended up losing.

We're not here to talk about soccer though. In this tournament, Butler and VCU are carrying the "mid-major" banner into the Final Four. What bothers me is that the assumption among the media at large that a win for either of those teams is a win for non-Big Six teams everywhere. I've gotta tell you, to me, it doesn't really prove anything for X if Butler or VCU wins the championship. It doesn't give me more hope as a fan that Xavier can do the same, and it certainly doesn't make it any more likely. If either of those teams wins, it really is a great story, but that story has nothing to do with Xavier or any other mid-major team.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Postseason Awards

Not this one, but you get the idea
It's the time of the year where the fans of all but four teams have been relegated to postseason awards and cheering vehemently against Kentucky. We've already written a recap of both how the season started and the masterful run that ended all too soon. Now comes the time to hand out some (imaginary) hardware. We'll go from the mundane to the whimsical in our attempt to to put one final cap on the 2010-2011 Xavier basketball season.

Season In Review: Part Two

This is a rejection and, possibly, a foul
We left off part one of the season recap with the team responding to the Crosstown Shootout mauling by playing some of their best ball of the year. With the early season injuries out of the way, the guard play coming together nicely, and Coach Mack doing a brilliant job with seven players, things were looking up.

In part two of the recap we'll cover the end of the season and later today we'll give out some (undoubtedly) coveted awards. More than that, we'll try to put a pretty little bow on a season that defies simple explanation.