Wednesday, March 14, 2001

Xavier scouting report

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The player Xavier will turn to:

        David West. The Atlantic 10 player of the year has been XU's go-to guy since preseason, when coach Skip Prosser declared he was changing the offense to an inside-out attack. West leads the team in scoring (17.8 avg.), rebounding (11.0), field goal percentage (.550), blocks (60) and steals (37), and he ranks second in assists (57). He shoots 74 percent from the free throw line and has made nearly twice as many free throws (165) as any other Musketeer.

        The guy Xavier must have playing well:

        Take your pick between Kevin Frey and Lloyd Price. We'll say Frey, because of this extraordinary statistic: This season and last, XU is 26-1 when he scores 12 or more points, 17-17 when he doesn't. This season, Frey is averaging 12.9 points in victories and 8.0 in losses. Fortunately for XU, Frey often plays well best in nationally televised games — averaging 13.8 points this year in six such outings.

        The team Xavier doesn't want to face:

        Arizona (23-7). The Wildcats, the preseason No.1 team, probably would await in the round of 16 should XU still be alive. The Musketeers sometimes can beat better teams through sheer athleticism, but they would be at a disadvantage in that category against Arizona.

        What gives Xavier its best hope to get to Minneapolis:

        Honestly? Upsets in the bracket. Xavier's seeding is fortunate in that it wouldn't face a first or second seed in the first two rounds. Should it win twice, maybe XU will get lucky and have someone else beat Arizona or Illinois to open up the draw.

        What could get Xavier bounced in the first round:

        Lack of offensive movement. Xavier has struggled with ball movement at times, the offense growing especially stagnant late in close games (Dayton, George Washington). The Musketeers must swing the ball quickly around the perimeter and ensure West gets touches, which he didn't in the late minutes of those recent losses.

        What was Xavier's best win?

        Its upset of crosstown rival Cincinnati. The Musketeers rallied from a 15-point deficit to win 69-67, just the second time it has won at Shoemaker Center. UC (No. 31 RPI) is also the highest-rated team XU beat.

        What was Notre Dame's best win? A 76-75 defeat of Boston College on Feb. 21, in which senior point guard Martin Ingelsby made an ugly, off-balance jumper with 3.7 seconds left to win it. The victory helped the Irish clinch the top seed in the Big East Tournament.

        What was XU's worst loss?

        The last one — an 83-74 defeat to George Washington in the Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinals. GW was 131st in the RPI at the time, and the loss nearly kept XU out of the NCAAs.

        What was Notre Dame's worst loss?

        Notre Dame was embarrassed by its 73-64 home loss to Miami, which ended up 121st in the final RPI.

        Where is Xavier now, compared to November? What's gotten better, or possibly worse?

        This has become one of the finest defensive teams in school history. XU's .399 defensive field-goal percentage led the Atlantic 10 and is the team's best mark in 39 seasons. Its .295 defensive 3-point percentage also led the A-10 and is the team's best ever. XU has learned to play to its strength, which is West, and has remained fundamentally sound in free throw percentage (.706) and ballhandling (averaging 1.2 more turnovers forced than committed).

        But shooting remains a trouble spot. This season, XU has its worst field goal shooting (.428) in 36 seasons, its worst 3-point shooting (.309) in the 15 seasons the shot has existed, and its lowest scoring average (73.5 ppg) in 16 seasons. Lately, the Musketeers have tightened up late in close games. This team needs to relax Friday and return to its free-wheeling ways.

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