Andy Mac: Scouting Creighton at Xavier
By Andy Mac Williams, 1/14/2022

Travis Steele suggests his Muskies quickly forget Wednesday night's painful 64-60 loss to BIG EAST BIG DOG Villanova when they tip off at Noon Saturday in Cintas vs Creighton(10-4 overall. 2-1 BE-3rd place). The game airs on BIG FOX-WXIX 19. Xavier is 2-2 BIG EAST-tied for 5th w/ UConn and Butler. Both XU losses are to Villanova. VU is BE leader(5-1) w/ 5 game win streak-hosting Butler Sunday at Wells Fargo. 2nd place PC(4-1) is paused by COVID( DNP Tuesday at Creighton-postponed Saturday vs UConn) so Nova is licking its chops looking to run away early from the other 10. X cannot afford another early season conference loss at home-period!!

Two road games next week are daunting. DePaul upset #20 Seton Hall 96-92 in Chicago Thursday finding their PG in the process(Oregon transfer Jaylen Terry dropped 28 points playing all 40 minutes). X is at DePaul Wednesday( 9PM-FS1). Then it's XU at Marquette next Sunday Jan. 23( 2PM-FS1). MU is up to 44 in NET riding a 3 game win streak scoring 85PPG.

WHY the Villanova Loss?? Let me count the ways. A) Down 34-17 late in 1st half-Paul Scruggs early foul trouble(Brian O'Connell officiating). VU bullied XU inside early outscoring them 12-2 in second chance points and creaming Muskies on the glass. Thank Eric Dixon for that(15 points-10 boards).

Credit Villanova defense for bumping XU constantly around the bucket(13-31 from 2 point range-missed speed lay-ups and point blank post shots) Credit the zebras for allowing Dixon and Justin Moore to camp out in the lane-isuspending the 3 point rule and allowing both to bump and bang like rutting moose.

Xavier rallied w/ grit after halftime. Down 54-45 w/ 6:30 left, Steele went w/ 1-5-10-3 and 24. Scruggs skirted foul trouble w/ VU constantly trying to post him up-He scored 13 2nd half points. His dagger "3" tied it at 56 w? 2:17 to play. Nova stayed poised though and hit the FTs.

SO learn and move on! Muskies need to find a way to play Jack Nunge and Zach Freemantle together successfully on both ends of the court. Maybe more zone(2-3 and/or 1-3-1??). Colby Jones rebounds like a demon and draws fouls well. but his shots have to fall more frequently. It will happen!! On to Creighton.

Greg McDedrmott's motto in 12 seasons at CU is "LET IT FLY" Now he is in the middle of a reload. All 5 starters from last season are gone. No more Zegarowski, Ballock, Jefferson, Mahoney(all playing PRO) Christain Bishop transferred to LSU. That group rained in "3s"-ran the floor and averaged over 80PPG.

Results so far are A-OK. Notable road "W" at down state rival Nebraska. Wins over Colorado State and BYU. Close Omaha losses to Top 25 Iowa State and Arizona State plus a 2-0 BIG EAST start. Jays blitzed Villanova 79-59 back n 12-17 and did LET IT FLY!! They won 75-69 in 2 OTs at Marquette. Reality set in at Villanova 10 days ago w/ a revenge filled 75-41 Pavilion pounding handed out by VU.

Creighton DNP Tuesday at Omaha vs PC(Friars have COVID problems). CU is healthy and has been practicing. Their starting 5 is made up of two Frosh-a 7 foot Sophomore and two Grad Students.

PG is Frosh Ryan Nembhard(12PPG-5 assists) 4 time BE Frosh of Week already. Brother Andrew starts for Gonzaga. He's skilled and quick(20 steals) but playing maybe too many minutes(35/game).

Holdover Shereek Mitchell has been hurt. He neeeds to spell Nembhard. 6-7 Arthur Kamura( 8PPG-5 REBS) starts at a forward(Top 100 recruit). Soph 7 footer Ryan Kalkbrenner played off the bench well last season. He has post moves and a jumper and some mobility and blocks shots(3/game plus 12PPG and 7 boards). An ankle sprain slowed him in that dedbacle at Villanova but that was 10 days ago.

Veteran wing and Duke transfer Alex O'Connell is a knock down shooter and nice all court player(12PPG-5 REBS-good passer). The surprise addition is #44 Ryan Hawkins(6-7, 220) 6rh year D-2 transfer(won 3 D-2 NCAA Titles at NW Mizzouri State-MVP NCAA D-2 Tourney. Very smart versatile leader w/ 170 career college wins and about 12 losses ( 13.5PPG-7 REBS) inside-outside-very talented!!

When the floor is spaced and the "3s" are falling, Creighton is very good. 70PPG is not typical CU but they do guard allowing 65PPG. 3 pointers at just 30% and they are being outscored from long range. FTs under 70%. X needs to shake off Villanova and start quickly and negotiate Kalkbrenner's length around the rim. Ideally get the lanky 7 footer in foul trouble.

A steady diet of Scuggs and Odom should make it a long afternoon for Frosh Nembhard at PG. Sounds good on paper.

No screwing around here for Xavier. 12-3 w/ 2 losses to Villanova and another to TOP 25 Iowa State-a 20 NCAA NET and 3-3 in NET Quad 1 games is strong, but 12 or more BE wins demands a home win over CU.

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