Last season's game with Xavier was nothing short of awful. Purdue somehow found a way to undo 30 minutes of fantastic basketball and fall completely and utterly apart by blowing a 19 point lead with 10 minutes left. I honestly don't understand it. That's a seven possession lead. If Purdue had simply stood there and held the ball until the shock clock expired on seven possessions it would have erased more than four minutes off the clock without Xavier touching the basketball and they would still have to hit six three-pointers.
Needless to say, there is some payback that needs to be dished out after that epic collapse. The Musketeers now come to Mackey Arena for a key matchup that is now critical to Purdue's NCAA Tournament hopes. SB Nation's Banners on the Parkway was kind enough to provide us a glimpse of this year's X-men, while I did the same for Purdue over there.
Location: Cincinnati, OH
2011-12 record: 23-13, 10-6 Atlantic 10
2012-13 Record: 5-1
RPI: 62 (Purdue is 125)
2012 Postseason: Lost 75-70 to Baylor in NCAA Sweet 16 (Fourth Sweet 16 in five years)
Blog Representation: Banners on the Parkway
Series With Purdue: Purdue leads 9-5 (Purdue has lost four straight)
Last Purdue win: 70-66 at Purdue on 12/5/2001
Last Xavier win: 66-63 at Xavier on 12/3/2011
TV: Big Ten Network
Odds: No Line
If I were going to sum up this year's Xavier team in brief, it would go as follows: inexperienced guards, inconsistent forwards. You're probably looking for more than that, though, so I'll be a little more verbose.
This season doesn't so much build on the foundation of the Tu Holloway era (you guys remember Tu, don't you?) as it emerges from the wreckage thereof. Holloway and fellow seniors Kenny Frease and Andre Walker graduated, Mark Lyons - a playmaker who was explosive in all but the most literal sense of the word - transfered to Arizona, and Dezmine Wells was expelled for... something. With Travis Taylor - whose energy was often let down by his lack of composure at the rim last year - the most prolific returning player with 4.5 PPG last season, Xavier set out this year to rebuild with a new starting five and distance itself from the ugliness of the brawl with Cincinnati last year.
If you looked at Xavier's per game stats, you could be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that Xavier's offense is a balanced and multi-facted attack. Don't buy that. It all begins with freshman point guard Semaj Christon. Christon is a dymanic combo guard who can score the basketball in any number of ways out to about 17 feet. He also keys the scoring contributions of the rest of the team; Semaj assists 40% of the buckets his teammates score while he's on the floor. At 6'3" and explosively athletic, Christon is a tough task for all but the best perimeter defenders in the country.
His backcourt running mate is the diminutive Darwin "Dee" Davis, Jr., who is listed at 6'0" but stands closer to 5'10". Davis is small and shifty and a great on-ball defender. He put in a ton of work on his offensive game over the summer and it shows in his .563/.517/.810 shooting line. Off the bench in the back court is shooter Brad Redford, who is as effective from 25 feet as he is from 20'9". He is shooting 45.8% from deep but riding a 2-13 streak from behind the arc. If he gets hot, he's capable of hitting 4-5 threes in a game. He runs the wings and corners on the fast break and will catch and shoot without compunction.
G/F Justin Martin is a languid scorer who works the wing. He can score in bunches but is alarmingly passive for huge stretches of games. He's a good rebounder from the wing, using good length and athleticism to get to the boards... when he can be bothered. Despite his scoring prowess, he doesn't come across as a guy who wants to have the ball late in close games. Speaking of alarmingly passive, the 6'10" Jeff Robinson is our center. With length, leaping ability, and enough of a mid-range game to make people respect him, he is capable of getting buck nasty like he did with 13 and 4 and a huge dunk in the last 8:50 of the game against Drake, or disappearing entirely like he did in posting 0/3/0 in the first 31 minutes of that game. If he brings it for 40 minutes, he can be a destructive force. This is his fourth year at Xavier, and he's brought it for 40 minutes maybe a dozen times.
The final forward position is somewhat in flux. Former walk-on Erik Stenger started the season there. He brings a whole bunch of energy and effort and not a whole ton else. Still, when the rest of the team is being passive, he can be a spark off the bench. Travis Taylor is Xavier's only low-post threat who can actually get his own shot with his back to the basket. He wilted like cut grass against Drake's 6'8", 256-pound Jordan Clarke, so I'm a bit concerned with his ability to handle AJ Hammons. Or Sandi Marcus. Or Jay Simpson. Towson transfer Isaiah Philmore (6'8", 235ish) is the closest thing X has to a big body getting rotation minutes. He had to sit the first three games for some stupid paperwork violation, but he is shaking off the rust recently and posted 10 and 6 against Drake. Though he hasn't shown it too much at Xavier, he is also capable of stepping out and hitting the three.
Like Purdue, Xavier is a team whose success is going to be predicated on factors that are not easy to project. If the freshmen (mainly Christon) can perform up to the highest expectations and the little-used residual players from last year can take a big step up, Xavier may come together for a surprising run. If not, this is going to be a painful season. More pertinently to this game, Xavier is going to have to find a way to keep the Boilermakers' big bodies off the offensive glass and find a way through the Purdue defense ranked 37th in the country in adjusted efficiency. If Christon can crack the perimeter, more than one of Xavier's bigs decides to show up, and Martin can keep the defense honest, X has a shot here. If Purdue is grabbing second chances at scoring and forcing Xavier's offense into the speels of stagnation that have plagued the team in spurts this season, I think we can chalk this one up as a win for your boys.