Three Thoughts as Xavier Dominated Butler Last NightPosted by WCarey on February 12th, 2014
Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Tuesday night’s game between Xavier and Butler in Indianapolis.
Xavier began February quite ominously with a home loss to Seton Hall and a 23-point defeat at Villanova. Coupling those two losses with a loss at Providence to end January, the Musketeers went from a team that was projected as a lock for the NCAA Tournament to a team on the bubble. Riding a three-game losing streak, Xavier was able to get back on the winning track last Saturday with a hotly contested home victory over Providence. With games at Butler and at Marquette next on its schedule, Chris Mack’s team was presented with a great opportunity to score two more Big East road wins and help improve its overall NCAA Tournament résumé in the process. The Musketeers passed the first test on Tuesday night with a thoroughly dominating 64-50 win over Butler in Indianapolis. The following are three thoughts from last evening’s action.
- Xavier’s Defensive Effort Was Impressive. In the Musketeers’ victory over Providence on Saturday, they held the Friars to just 53 total points and a 37.5 percent shooting mark from the field. That defensive intensity carried over to Tuesday, as Butler was held to just 50 points on the evening. The half-century mark scored by Butler was significantly below its season average of 70.9 points per game and represented the team’s lowest scoring output of the season. Xavier’s strong field goal percentage defense was on display once again, as Butler was held to just 34 percent shooting on the evening. Musketeers’ junior guard Dee Davis was tasked with the role of guarding leading scorer Kellen Dunham and he completed it with great success, as Dunham finished the evening with just two points on 1-of-10 shooting. Xavier’s interior defense was also suffocating given the fact that Butler’s starting frontline of Khyle Marshall, Kameron Woods and Andrew Chrabascz finished the evening a combined 5-of-17 from the floor.
- Butler’s Long Season Continues. Wednesday’s loss dropped Butler to 12-12 on the season and a horrific 2-10 in Big East play. A new head coach, an injury to Roosevelt Jones, and the move to a more competitive conference pushed expectations lower in the preseason, but a last place record in the program’s first 12 Big East games was somewhat unexpected. A silver lining for the Bulldogs may be that they have very been competitive in seven of those losses, but in major college basketball, hanging your hat on close losses only goes so far. Things do not get much easier going forward for Brandon Miller’s squad as it hosts #18 Creighton on Thursday before traveling to play a suddenly surging St. John’s squad on Monday. For the sake of the program, Butler had better be able to shake off the struggles of its inaugural Big East campaign and become a more competitive program in future seasons.
- Xavier’s NCAA Tournament Résumé Still Needs Some Fine Tuning. Chris Mack’s squad now sits at 17-7 overall with a 7-4 record in the Big East. While those are respectable marks, the Musketeers still have some work to do before they can be considered a lock to receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The team has a bit of work to do because its current résumé is not particularly strong. A neutral site victory over Cincinnati on December 14 represents the only win Xavier currently has over a certain NCAA Tournament team. Luckily for the Musketeers, the season does not end today and they still have several more opportunities to bolster their profile. Road games at Marquette, Georgetown and St. John’s represent potential for impressive wins away from the Cintas Center, while Xavier’s final two home games of the season are against current Big East heavyweights Creighton and Villanova. If it is able to grab a victory in one or both of those games, its NCAA Tournament résumé will be undoubtedly good enough to ensure a bid.