Vin Parise of College Basketball Talk caught up with Xavier head coach Chris Mack as the Musketeers get ready for the start of Big East play:
CBT: You guys have won 5 in a row, including the Cincinnati win, at Alabama and Wake Forest. What is going right with Xavier basketball right now?
Mack: To be honest, I was concerned about our confidence after we got back from the Bahamas earlier in the season. We could have won the Iowa game, but we were not a confident group after that trip because of our close losses. We then regrouped and won some games; but the Cincinnati win is what really changed things. Since then, our guys have felt like they can beat anyone, and it’s carried over.
CBT: You’ve just completed the 4th year of the 10 year contract between Wake Forest and Xavier. How has it been to play every season and to honor the life of Skip Prosser?
Mack: It’s been really special. Coach Prosser has had the biggest influence on my life both in basketball and my personal life. He was a great coach but also taught you how to be a great husband and father as well. He’s the most genuine person I’ve ever known. He’s touched a lot of hearts.
CBT: What is like to coach Semaj Christon every day?
Mack: I know it sounds like a cliché, but he is as coachable as he is a great player. As talented as he is, his desire to improve daily is unbelievable. And his immense desire to improve defensively has been one of the biggest keys to our season so far. He truly plays both ends of the floor.
CBT: Let’s talk about the first year of this new Big East that you and St. John’s are kicking off on New Year’s Eve.
Mack: This league is much better than people are talking about right now. Several signature wins as a group may not have been there the first two months, but there are great coaches in the league and the talent is strong. By the time March rolls around, I think people will see that from the Big East. But at the end of the day, I’m worried about us. We remember that we were picked 7th and we won’t forget it.
CBT: What are your thoughts about the matchup with Steve Lavin’s team?
Mack: We have our hands full with St. John’s. They’re probably the most talented team in the league. What concerns me is that all of their rebounders have the ability to then handle it and push the ball in transition. And they are terrific offensive rebounders if you do not box out. If our defensive transition is strong and we limit their offensive rebounding, I think we’ll have a shot on Tuesday. It should be a lot of fun.
Follow Vin on Twitter: @VinParise