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Marquette Basketball Preview Primer: vs #6 Xavier Musketeers

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[Insert Obligatory DMX Lyric Here]

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-West Regional Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

What’s the worst Christmas song of all time? My first answer would be Quin-Snyder-In-Song-Form Baby It’s Cold Outside, but that doesn’t even mention Christmas somehow. My answer might end up being Train’s Shake Up Christmas. In a genre that prides itself on appealing to weirdos that actually enjoy winter, this song laps the field.

On an unrelated note, is there a band with a bigger drop off between their best song and the rest of their songs than Train? Leave out one hit wonders from this discussion; I’m talking artists with multiple Billboard hits and longevity. Drops of Jupiter is an absolute classic. You can find me belting this at the office holiday party after going for that extra Moscow Mule. But then what does Train have? Meet Virginia? It’s fine, but that’s a decent artist’s tenth best song. Did you know they released a cover album of Led Zeppelin II? It’s called “Does Led Zeppelin II” and it’s just the original album note for note. The New York Daily News called it, “Confusing and Unnecessary,” which is maybe the worst thing you can say about a piece of art that someone put time and effort into creating.

Maroon 5 could be up there, but Songs About Jane is too good of an album. My music hot take is that Weezer really isn’t that good except for Buddy Holly and kind of Island in the Sun, but I recognize that others feel vastly different. Now that I thought of Train’s hilariously wretched Christmas song, I can’t stop thinking about this question.

Xavier is a good team. They always have been. I had no idea Thad Matta coached there. They’ve been ranked between 10 and 20 in the polls since Chris Mack made it his ultimate goal to look like Kevin Willard. Don’t look that fact up. There’s no need.

They come into Big East play at 11-1 with 3 Tier A wins (1 will likely be taken away because LOL @ Madison), 1 Tier A loss (against the 2017 reincarnation of UCLA, Arizona State, more on that luego) and a Tier B win at Northern Iowa.

Current KenPom/T-Rank Rankings

Xavier: 16/8

Marquette: 49/55

Xavier Stat Leaders

Points: Trevon Bluiett, 19.8 PPG

Offensive Rebound Percentage: Tyrique Jones, 11.6% (For those who may not know the context, this ranks 123rd in the country)

Defensive Rebound Percentage: Tyrique Jones, 24.9% (70th in the country)

Assist Rate: Quentin Goodin, 33.7% (42nd in the country)

Chris Brown is another answer. Kiss Kiss lifted my soul through middle school. Loyal will get some heads nodding. Everything else is just bad.

Marquette Stat Leaders

Points: Markus Howard, 21.8 PPG

Offensive Rebound Percentage: Theo John, 10.1% (If he were qualified with enough minutes, this would rank around 300th in the country)

Defensive Rebound Percentage: Theo John, 16.2% (No national ranking here, but he’s in the 78th percentile)

Assist Rate: Andrew Rowsey, 28.9% (111th in the country)

All-Time Series

Marquette leads 49-22. Every college has the dream of beating Xavier 50 times in its history, so this game could be historic.

Alright, What’s Xavier About?

They’re big. Quentin Goodin (*saves “More like Quentin BADin” tweet in drafts*) is their point guard and he’s 6’4”. It’s what the kids call “a matchup nightmare” on the surface when the 238th tallest team (Marquette, obvs.) matches up against the 10th tallest. But last year, the discrepancy was 196 to 9 and Marquette swept the Musketeers, albeit with no Edmond Sumner and a hobbled Trevon Bluiett, so hold off on buying those “Marquette lost to Xavier on December 27, 2017” flags for now.

In terms of style, they pound it inside. Honestly, I could probably just copy and paste a game preview from like 2011 and you wouldn’t even notice. Trevon Bluiett is their best player. If Philadelphia becomes a test site for nuclear weapons within a few months, he might have a chance to win Big East Player of the Year behind Jalen Brunson, who somehow survives the tests on anger and spite alone.

J.P. Macura is a white guy who pisses people off. You might think it’s because he takes charges and shoots threes, but no. He’s best at driving the ball, shooting 59% from inside the arc, but also hits threes at a respectable 35% rate. Shoutout to NBC’s Rob Dauster for pointing out that if J.P. No-Sleeves played for Duke, he’d be the most hated player in America.

I, being the dumb wrong child that I am, did not think Xavier would be that good this year because they need to pound the ball inside to be successful. That’s a perfectly fine strategy on its own, but the task is Dez Wells’d* when Quentin Goodin was coming off a year where he treated the ball with the same disrespect that Tim Burton gave to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Goodin was careless with the ball and I saw no way that he improved to the point of Xavier being a top 25 team. He still is incredibly careless, but his assists come in stacks now and keeps the offense churning well.

*My new verb for when a task is made way more difficult than it should be. If you remember Dez Wells from that hyped up 2015 Maryland team with Melo Trimble and Demonte Dodd, he took the second most shots on the team. His problem was that like half of them were two point jumpers and they never went in. He was great everywhere else, but he was so frustrating to watch because of that.

You know those strides Marquette has made with their defense the last few games? Get ready for a slap in the face. Xavier has a more efficient offense to date than Marquette. They get close to half of their shot attempts at the rim, which ranks fourth most in the country. I doubt Markus Howard and Andrew Rowsey do much to dent that number.

Defensively, they’ve never needed to turn you over. The main difference between this year’s team and last year’s might be how they defend two point shots. They rank #31 this year after a pants-soiling #293 performance last year.

P!nk is an option as well. So What makes me wish I dated a douchebag in order to play this song on full blast when he cheats on me after I gave him a second chance. After that her hits are pretty meh. Get The Party Started was on my Samsung MP3 player for a hot second, but that didn’t age well.

So How Does Marquette Beat Them? I Really Don’t Want To Have To Buy That “Marquette Lost To Xavier On December 27, 2017” Flag

First, they need to tell the Xavier players that Skyline Chili isn’t good and that the Reds are wasting the career of one of the best hitters of our generation in Joey Votto. That should hit them where it hurts. Then they need to make sure to put on socks. Those are really important, actually. Can’t run when you have blisters, folks.

Once they’ve confirmed the address of the arena, secured a good parking spot with easy access to an exit, and started playing basketball, they need to limit Xavier’s inside shots as much as possible. Tyrique Jones will likely be their main post target. He doesn’t turn the ball over much at all, but is 309th among players 6’8” or taller in assist rate (16th percentile overall), and even that is the highest among the three likely centers on the team of Jones, Sean O’Mara and Kerem Kanter. I suspect a heavy dose of doubles down deep in the post. Hell yeah, that alliteration was intentional.

Remember that Arizona State game I mentioned earlier? Even though that game wasn’t the blowout that the 16 point loss indicates (the average margin was Xavier losing by 2.2 points), they still beat Xavier at their own game. The Sun Devils took 27 threes at a 48% clip and 32 twos at 62.5%. Marquette would have to improve their seasonal output in both those categories to match those numbers, but it’s not that unreasonable to foresee it happening. To see a team give up 86 points to a top 15 team and still eat that W on a neutral court gives a beacon of headlights for another small, offensive-minded team playing at home. If just one Musketeer has an off shooting night, things could look good for the Golden Eagles.