Wednesday, February 29, 2012

It's Not Over Yet, But What Has Happened To Xavier?

The record for Xavier since the Shootout is now 10 wins, 11 losses. Since the trip to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic, the Musketeers are 3-6 in true road games. Starting with the Diamond Head Classic, Xavier is 4-8 in games away from the Cintas Center. The numbers are bad for a team considered by some to be a dark horse to make the Final Four. When a season goes this awry it has to be more than one thing. It has to go beyond losing "mojo" and "swagger" after the embarrassing fight with U.C. The overtime win at Vanderbilt gave the impression this team could win on the road. Next came the feat of wiping out a 19 point deficit against Purdue. It appeared nothing could stop the Musketeers after a double digit win at Butler and a total dismantling of U.C. The aftermath of the Shootout fight may have started the downward spiral, but I cannot buy that is the sole cause of Xavier's issues. Jeff Goodman of talks about a lack of leadership and the appearance of the Musketeers "clearly" not enjoying playing with one another in this article. The most disturbing thing about this? Goodman is close with Xavier head coach Chris Mack, so I don't think there is any way Goodman is reading too much into this. I feel those issues would have eventually eaten away at the Musketeers, it was just a matter of when. You can mask those issues for a while, especially while winning, but the first sign of adversity brings those issues to the surface of a team. But it is even more than that. Xavier appeared to be back on track while reeling of four straight wins, three by double-digits, to start the Atlantic 10 portion of the schedule. Then came more losses, and more reason to wonder what was happening to the Musketeers. A part of it has to be lack of scoring from the front court. Wednesday night St. Louis kept Tu Holloway from getting to the rim, and getting to the free throw line. Holloway had just 6 shots the entire game, and made just one. If your top guard is going to have a night like that, you are in big trouble. Part of it may have been Tu, and part of it was the Billikens strategy. St. Louis cut down the drives and made the forwards do the work. Frease came through with 8 points in the second half but the rest of the front court went 0-6 after the break. That's not exactly taking the game to your opponent. Another part of the equation is the Atlantic 10 itself. The bottom of the conference has risen. It's not just Xavier having issues on the road in the A-10. The loss at UMass hurt, but the Minutemen are 13-1 at home. The only shred of good news for Xavier is that a very squishy NCAA bubble still gives the Musketeers hope. A win over Charlotte and a run in the A-10 tournament could still get the Musketeers in.

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