Did we all underrate Xavier this year?
Just four days after putting up 117 points on Fairleigh Dickinson, the Musketeers extended a not-so-cordial invite to new conference rival Butler, whipping up on the Bulldogs 62-47.
Travis Taylor and Jeff Robinson combined for 32 points, 17 boards and three blocks and Brad Reford added three big triples as the Muskies made a serious early-season statement. Butler was a favorite in the Atlantic 10 heading into the season, and Chris Mack’s club disposed of them like a week-old three-way from Skyline.
The bigger story here, however, is Butler.
Simply put, the Bulldogs look like they could be in trouble this season. Their offense, at this point in the season, more-or-less consists of the following: Rotnei Clarke brings the ball up, passes the ball to a wing, and he and Kellen Dunham proceed to run off of screen after screen after screen. Sometimes, those screens result in open looks from three. And those threes will drops at a pretty good clip throughout the year, because Clarke and Dunham may be the nation’s best pair of shooters.
The problem is what happens on the rest of Butler’s possessions.
With Chrishawn Hopkins being dismissed, Brad Stevens does not have anyone that can use their dribble to create shots against quicker defenders. If the Atlantic 10 has anything this season, it is a plethora of teams with quick, ball-hawking guards. Butler will be in and win their fair share of games with scorers like Clarke and Dunham on the roster, but what happens on the nights when those two combine to go 7-18 from the floor and 2-10 from three?
Well, I’ll tell ya: Andrew Smith is going to need to score more than nine points on eight shots, Khyle Marshall can’t go just 3-10 from the floor, and Roosevelt Jones is going to need to be closer to the six assists he had on Friday than the five turnovers he had on Tuesday without the benefit of an assist. Losing Hopkins wouldn’t hurt as much if Smith, Marshall and Jones can show more improvement from last season.
Xavier’s better than we expected, that’s for sure. And it’s unfair to completely judge this Butler team off of just two games.
But there are significant that were red flags raised during Tuesday’s loss.