Xavier Midseason Report
The turnover at Xavier was tremendous with three 1,000-point scorers graduating. The school’s all-time winningest player, B.J. Raymond left, and winningest NCAA coach Sean Miller also departed.
A modest step back would have been understood, but in the words of DMX, X gonna give it to ya.
Xavier has a lot of unselfish players. And then there is Jordan Crawford.
Crawford has a touch of the Kobe syndrome going for him. He shoots all the time. When the ball touches his hands you can be assured the next person that gets their hands on it will be digging it out of the bottom of the net or hauling in the rebound.
Crawford has top0tier athletic skills, so the shot-hoarding can work. The Indiana transfer just has to be careful not to cross that point of no return.
The Xavier coaching staff and players wisely do not reign in Crawford’s shooting, though.
“There is a healthy balance I have to find as a coach where he doesn’t have to wait for 15 passes before he takes a shot or take shots that are ill-advised,” said XU head coach Chris Mack. “He is going to take a couple. I just have to make sure he doesn’t get carried away with it.”
When hitting, the phenom Crawford scores like few players in America. The guy owns an exciting combination of athleticism and creativity. Hosting Rhode Island, Crawford single-handedly erased a lead URI held for an hour real-time. In just 80 seconds
“He is a really good player, a really aggressive player,” viewed URI coach Jim Baron.
Xavier runs a dual point guard offense when Mark Lyons and Terrell Holloway share the court. Holloway has a sneaky athleticism along with tremendous court vision. Lyons completes the transition from 2008 Xavier, the team without a point guard.
The tremendous defensive center Jason Love thrives in unexpected ways. Tracking back in transition, Love still comes up with other-worldly blocks. Unlike the centers of old, Mutombo and Zo, J-Love affects the play regardless of his positioning.
To see him stifle layup after layup against Dayton despite being out of position numerous times was impressive. Love does not even have freakishly long arms. His skill truly comes from knowing where the shot release will take place. Meeting that release point with his powerful paws Love defends the rim like a prideful goaltender.
When immense talent meets hard work great things happen. Jason Love embodies the maxim everyday by watching video on opponents outside of practice time.
The post defenders are typically Love, Jamel McLean, and Kenny Frease, with the two most fresh on that floor. Unfortunately Frease struggles with both foul problems and occasional bouts of fatigue.
When Rhode Island came to town, Frease committed three fouls all 25 from the basket, all on hedges around screens. The final two occurred within ten seconds of each other.
Junior Andrew Taylor, playing his first injury-free season for the X, has seen his minutes increase lately. With Frease a question mark, a third emerging front-court player would help. At this point in his career Frease is replaceable, but in the words of the Beatles, “All You Need is Love.”
The guards keep their feet well. Regardless of how quick and explosive their man is, the Xavier guards manage to stay in front of them and not bite on the shot fakes. It’s a well-disciplined, principled defensive team.
The Musketeers started the year with a few stumbles to Marquette and Baylor. There was actually a streak from Thanksgiving to Christmas where XU lost every other game it played. Perhaps the guys spent too much time shopping.
Though the team once held a 6-4 record, its last 10 games are very manageable. Only twice, road games at Dayton and Florida, will XU step onto the hardcourt as underdogs. The trio of games in late February (@Charlotte, @SLU, vs. Richmond) presents a unique set of challenges, but nothing Chris Mack and his followers can’t handle.
The Musketeers really should finish the regular season with a record resembling 21-9. With its difficult schedule and the elevated national respect of the Atlantic 10, XU should return to the NCAA Tournament.