Scouting Xavier at St. Johns
By Andy Mac Williams, 3/1/2022

Good news from Xavier's Monday practice. Nate Johnson was a full participant. He confirmed he planned to play Wednesday at St Johns( 6:30PM-FS1). XU is 0-4 since Nate bumped a knee late in that Cintas 74-68 win over UConn(Feb.11th). In a loaded well balanced conference like BE the margin for victory is narrow. Johnson is a starter(27 minutes/game-10PPG-40% from "3"-plus strong defense). Paul Scruggs DNP last 3 games in 2020 and XU went 0-3. Nate DNP last 4 games in 2021 and X went 1-4 so that's a composite 1-11 over 3 seasons without a key guard. Not an excuse but there is a correlation there.

Current analytics. Muskies moved up to #35 NET this AM. XU is 17-11, 5-8 NET Quad 1 games, 4-5 Road w/ a string of strong wins-UConn(17 NET)-Ohio State(20)-Marquette(34)-Va Tech(41-neutral Court)-Oklahoma State(56-road)-Creighton(67) home and away. Bracketmatrix lists Xavier in 116 of 119 brackets surveyed this AM w/ average 9 Seed in NCAA. Most pundits predict 7 BIG EAST teams will make NCAA Field of 68. BE NETS-Villanova(7), UConn(17), PC(25), Seton Hall(32), Marquette(34), XU(35), Creighton(67), St Johns (75).

I'll repeat IMHO Xavier is home free for NCAA berth w/ wins at St Johns Wed and home vs Georgetown Saturday(Senior Night-7 PM-FS1). 1-1 this week probably demands a BET 1st Round win over either Butler or DePaul Wednesday March 9th at MSG.


Red Storm play play like a CAT 5 hurricane(i.e. very fast as in quickest tempo of all 358 NCAA D-1 teams). They are among Top 20 in steals-blocked shots and turnovers forced. Johnnies drubbed Muskies 86-73 at Cintas 2 weeks ago playing 10 guys to XU's 7-scoring 21 points off 14 XU turnovers- outscoring x 24 to 12 from "3" and generally speeding up the pace to faster than Xavier wanted. St Johns is home in Queens at cozy(5,500) Carnesseca Arena(10-2 there-2-2 BE w/ wins over Depaul and Butler and losses to PC and Creighton).

Travis Steele on STJ:

"Our transition "D" has to be much better than Game 1. We have to sprint back-balance the floor and talk. They share the ball well in half court. We have to play it tight and limit their one on one actions. On offense we have to cut down on live ball turnovers. They convert so many of those into lay-ups and dunks. Can't have casual ball handling because they gamble a lot and reach and jab. Shot fakes work well vs them because they are so aggressive especially in the paint. Extra passes off fakes will yield a ton of great shots inside."

St Johns remains on the outside looking in re NCAA(15-13 overall, 2-9 NET Quad 1 games. 75NET) but dangerous and desperate. The NIT is calling along w/ MSG their 2nd home court. #2 BE scorer Julian Champagnie dropped 27 at XU. X has to defend him better. PG Posh Alexander is a force(15PPG-6 assists-BE steals leader. He can't control the tempo all the time.

Johnnies have a ton of weapons beyond Champagnie and Posh. Dylan Addau-Wusu is a football player mascarading as a 2G. Purdue transfer Aaron Wheeler is averaging 15P PG in BIG EAST play. 6-11 Joel Soriano is an elite shot blocker etc etc etc. Johnnies are good and deep and play a funky race horse style.

But it's really all about X says Travis:

"If we implement our defensive system (packline) and take care of the ball (limit live ball turnovers, we are going to go on a late season run here. We have not had 7 kills in a game over the last 10 starts. Our KenPom defensive efficiency number(points/possession) has tumbled from 35 to 62. The system is not broken. We just have to execute it. Getting Nate back gives up more guards. We need to play some small line-ups v s St Johns so more guards is vital. This is no time for us to be down."

99% of the Xavier fan base is positive and supportive. I understand double digit Cintas losses recently to St Johns and Seton Hall are disturbing and the "L" to DePaul hurt, but some fan(short for fanatic) conduct at the Seton Hall game was over the edge IMHO.

Booing when Zach Freemantle subbed in for Cesare Edwards made no sense to me. Zach played 49 minutes in 3 OTs at PC. He's struggled at times,but this guy is focused maybe to a fault? and a manic worker.

The "Fire Steele" chant was short lived and tasteless again IMHO. Travis has gone out of his way to praise the Student Section w/ reason. The X-treme Fans have been local-creative-the best ever. Steele supplies pizzas when kids wait on-line for tickets and twice has picked up major bar tabs at Dana's after Crosstown Shootout wins. I just do not understand it.

Postgame-Jack Nunge came out on the main court to shoot extra FTS after missing some vs Seton Hall. He reportedly was heckled and somebody threw a beer can? What? Nunge has performed at an ALL BIG EAST level all season. He played 45 minutes in 3 OTs at PC-got back to Cincy at 4AM Thursday-went to class Thursday and Friday and practiced both days and added to his MBA 3.94 GPA.

I like to win also, but that type of behavior is unacceptable-period!!

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