Since joining the Atlantic 10, the Niners have managed to beat Xavier twice. Both of those victories occurred in Halton and took place during losing seasons. Needless to say, it’s been strange. Beating Xavier seems to be an indication that we suck, and since we have done just that the past two games there’s a sense of confidence in the fan base going into this contest.
The bad news is that Henry is still sidelined with a sprained MCL (not his finger, “obviously”) and there appears to be some chemistry issues within the team. Maybe the newcomers have yet to mesh with the elder Hit Squad. Maybe there’s favoritism from the coaching staff for “their guys.” Maybe Judy Rose has stopped giving fashion tips to the seniors. Who knows? Either way, the team is going to need to come together this weekend or else it will be another embarrassment. We can count on Chris Braswell to bring his game to the court, but will Derrio and Deuce step up in Henry’s absence?
There is some good news. Xavier is beatable. Ever since The Brawl the Musketeers just haven’t had the same swagger they had to start out the season. A top ten team with Final Four potential has become a mid-pack Atlantic 10 squad and just suffered demoralizing losses at Dayton and to Saint Louis at home. For whatever reason, they seem as broken as we do.
GreenTintedGlasses: Xavier was tabbed early on as not only one of the favorites in the conference, but also a potential Final Four team. Now things are obviously not going as well. Would you agree that the Cincy game was the turning point? What has changed with this team since the brawl?
Golf: Clearly, everything points to the “brawl” with UC. But I don’t think the turning point was the fight or subsequent suspensions that followed. The vilification the players faced from everyone in the media who has a keyboard and/or a microphone for referring to themselves as “gangstas” has had a far more lasting impact on the mental make-up of this team. For better or worse, that’s how this team identified themselves. And frankly, I could have cared less. We live in a country where athletes are continually compared to “warriors” and everyone goes “to battle” every time they take the court/field. Hell, against Dayton last Saturday the play by play guy referred to Mark Lyons as an “assassin,” and Tu Holloway had been called a “killer” earlier in the year. I know I’m looking through this with Xavier colored glasses, but what the hell? I just don’t see the difference. And the team has clearly not been able to shake it. The defense has been especially alarming. If Charlotte can run a competent offense with lots of good screens they should see a lot of open looks Saturday night.
GTG: Tu Holloway is one of the best guards in the country and a threat to takeover the game at any time, what do you think makes him such a special player? Are you concerned that he has a tendency to shoot Xavier OUT of games at time as well?
Golf: What makes Tu special is his clutch play late in games. He hit multiple big time three pointers in come from behind wins against Vanderbilt and Purdue earlier this season. Last season, he had to take a lot of the shots because of an extreme lack of depth in the back court and if the shots weren’t falling (like last year at Halton), then our chances of winning reduced significantly. This year he has taken a measured approach to scoring, taking it to opponents only when the opportunity presents itself or late in games when points are needed.
Golf: Dezmine Wells has jump out of the gym athleticism. Once he refines his all-around game he could become one of the better players in the league down the line. Dee Davis is a pest defensively, but needs to improve his offensive game. The new front court additions, Andre Walker and Travis Taylor, have their moments but all too often have not shown the requisite toughness needed to be good consistent performers in the low post on both ends of the floor.
GTG: Sucker punches aside, what’s the best way for opponents to control the paint against big Kenny Frease?
Golf: Well, no one in the fan base is quite sure what to make of Kenny Frease this year. He’s been rather disappointing which is unfortunate. Last season was clearly his best in a Xavier uniform. But this year he tends to panic when faced with pressure. If I’m Alan Major I double Kenny right away each time he catches the ball in the low post until he consistently proves he can make the right play under pressure.
GTG: How do you see the Atlantic 10 shaking out in the end? Will Xavier be standing at the top mocking all the pretenders again? Biggest surprise?
Golf: What a mess this conference is right now. At 2-4 you all are only 2 games back of first at the moment. Dayton look like legit contenders against us Saturday, and then lost at St. Joe’s by 14 Wednesday night so who the hell knows what will happen. For Xavier, if things don’t improve on the defensive end in a hurry our run at a 6th straight regular season title will end sooner rather than later. At this point, almost nothing will surprise me.
Big thanks to golfitup and Dana and Victory. For those looking for pregame fun, the tailgate starts around 3 PM. Our predictions for the game are below. Leave yours in the comments.
J Felt: Stranger things have happened. Charlotte 71, Xavier 65.
NLP: Bet the house on Green. Niners 49, Xavier 45.
Chaz: Niners aren’t that good this year… which means Xavier is TOAST in Halton Arena. Charlotte 65, Xavier 60.
Mandill “Don’t Think For Yourself” Geep: Very well said Chaz, I agree Niners 68, Muskies 63.
2k: Niners play harder than they did vs Temple, same outcome. XU 80, Charlotte 62.
McFly: Niners may as well wear an X on their jerseys because the Muskies are going to put a shovel in them, they’re done. X 74, Charlotte 55.