The latest edition of the Crosstown Shootout was played Saturday afternoon, and the “first punch” was the most decisive as No. 21 Xavier jumped No. 11 Cincinnati from the start and went on to win by the final score of 89-76. Trevon Bluiett, who scored 40 points in last season’s meeting, led the way with 28 and Kerem Kanter added 17 off the bench for the Musketeers. While some Xavier turnovers led to Cincinnati making a run in the second half, the Bearcats were unable to truly threaten the Musketeers down the stretch.
Here are four takeaways from Xavier handing Cincinnati its first loss of the season.
1. Xavier turned the tables after getting dominated on the glass in last season’s meeting.
Given what happened in Cincinnati’s 86-78 win, with Mick Cronin’s team controlling the rebounding department, it wasn’t difficult to figure out what Xavier’s point of emphasis would be going into the rematch. And the Musketeer big men stepped up to the challenge, as Kaiser Gates grabbed ten rebounds while also scoring ten points and Kanter chipped in with 17 points off the bench. Outside of Gates the effort on the glass was a collective one, with Tyrique Jones, Naji Marshall and Sean O’Mara grabbing four rebounds apiece and Quentin Goodin (ten points, eight assists) finishing with five.
In last season’s meeting Cincinnati finished with an offensive rebounding percentage of 47.4 percent, while Xavier managed to grab just 28.1 percent of its misses. Those second chance opportunities made a difference then, and that was the case Saturday afternoon as well. This time around the Bearcats managed to corral just 22.0 percent of its misses, while Xavier finished with an offensive rebounding percentage of 41.9 percent.
2. Cincinnati will need more from Kyle Washington moving forward.
Washington entered Saturday’s game averaging 10.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, and while those numbers are lower than what the fifth-year senior produced in 2016-17 (12.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg) he’s still been a consistent contributor for the Bearcats. That was not the case Saturday, as Washington played just 15 minutes and went scoreless (0-for-4 FG) with just two rebounds. Gary Clark and Tre Scott held their own on the boards, grabbing seven rebounds apiece.
That being said, given the number of contributors in the paint for Xavier this was a game where Cincinnati needed more from Washington. He’s certainly capable of better performances, so it would come as no surprise if he were to bounce back from Saturday’s outing in short order.
3. Cincinnati is too talented to settle offensively as it did for much of the first half.
While Xavier’s excellent execution was a big reason why the Musketeers were able to jump out to a big lead, Cincinnati’s offensive issues did not help matters for the visitors. Far too often in the first half the Bearcats settled for challenged shots, on a couple occasions passing up open catch and shoot opportunities to dribble into a tougher shot. Cincinnati was better in this regard in the second half, with Jacob Evans III scoring 22 of his 23 points in the final 20 minutes and Jarron Cumberland (15 points) getting going as well.
If not for the production of Clark (ten first-half points) and Cane Broome (12 first-half points, 16 for the game) in the first half, the outcome could have been much worse for Cincinnati. While Wyoming should be a contender in the Mountain West, Saturday’s game at Xavier was Cincinnati’s first major test of the season. One lesson the Bearcats should take out of this defeat is that they’ve got too much offensive talent to not be “greedy” on offense.
4. Trevon Bluiett looked like his old self after two quiet outings.
After scoring at least 20 points in each of Xavier’s first five games, Bluiett scored a total of 21 points in games against Arizona State and Baylor. Bluiett’s been dealing with a lower back issue dating back to last week’s Las Vegas Invitational, but he looked to have that spring in his step against Cincinnati. Bluiett had it all working in the first half, hitting open jumpers and getting to the basket off the bounce as well.
Bluiett shot 7-for-14 from the field (5-for-10 3PT) and 9-for-11 from the foul line in what was an efficient performance reminiscent of his first five outings this season. When the back isn’t an issue Bluiett is one of the toughest offensive matchups in the country, because of his ability to find and make shots from anywhere on the court.
Four Takeaways from No. 21 Xavier’s win over No. 16 Baylor
Xavier didn’t have the strongest night from senior All-American candidate Trevon Bluiett but the No. 21 Musketeers still had more than enough to race past No. 16 Baylor with a 76-63 win. Here are four takeaways from a very good win for Xavier (6-1) as they handed the Bears (5-1) their first loss of the season.
1. Xavier doesn’t need an A-game from Trevon Bluiett to beat a ranked opponent
Trevon Bluiett is one of the best players in college basketball. This has been documented by three seasons worth of evidence and numerous preseason All-American accolades.
But the most important takeaway from Xavier’s win over Baylor on Tuesday night was that they can still beat ranked opponents when Bluiett isn’t rolling as a scorer. Averaging 21 points per game entering the Baylor game, Bluiett only finished with 10 points on 3-for-9 shooting on Tuesday as he never seemed to get comfortable dealing with Baylor’s length and athleticism on the defensive end.
And for Xavier on this particular night? That turned out to be okay. J.P. Macura was red-hot in the first half (more on him in a minute) and others like Kaiser Gates and freshman Naji Marshall also stepped up in the scoring column to make up for the off-scoring night from Bluiett.
Gates, in particular, made some huge three-pointers, making it tough for Baylor to stick with its gameplan on the defensive end.
That’s a great sign for Xavier since they also feature a number of other role players who can step up on any given night. We’ve seen senior Sean O’Mara step up his post scoring at times and Tyrique Jones has also been a double-figure scorer plenty of times early this season.
Xavier doesn’t need all of its big guns to get going in order to win if their offense continues to be this balanced.
2. Baylor needs more offensive help for Manu Lecomte
While Baylor deserves credit for never giving up and sticking within striking distance for a good chunk of the game, their offense just didn’t have much help for senior guard Manu Lecomte.
Lecomte struggled to a 4-for-13 shooting night and finished with only 11 points as he had a difficult time adjusting to Xavier’s length and activity on the defensive end. Playing against long-armed opposing guards like Quentin Goodin, Lecomte struggled to hunt his own offense and passing over the top of the Musketeer defense also proved to be a difficult task.
And Baylor didn’t have many other answers to get points since Lecomte was struggling. Terry Maston had 15 first-half points for the Bears but he appeared to go down with an injury as he didn’t play for long stretches of the final frame. Xavier also had a solid plan to change looks against Baylor’s post offense, at times collapsing with doubles from unique angles and playing straight-up single coverage during other moments.
If Baylor wants to be one of the Big 12’s elite teams, they’ll need to address some of its offensive issues if Lecomte can’t get going. This won’t be the only game that Lecomte has to face long and athletic guards this season.
3. Xavier’s J.P. Macura seems to be playing to the level of his opponents.
It’s been a bizarre start to the season for Xavier senior guard J.P. Macura. One of the most intense players in the country, Macura has been really good against the Musketeers’ quality early-season opponents (Arizona State and Wisconsin) and really mediocre against lesser competition.
The Baylor game continued this early trend. Macura was clearly feeling it on the offensive end against the Bears, attacking the 2-3 zone from the free-throw line and also pulling up for some NBA-range three-pointers. Macura finished with 19 points and six rebounds.
Macura’s offensive outburst slowed down in the second half but his defensive intensity was still solid. He was a key on post doubles while getting deflections on the perimeter.
The major question becomes if Macura can sustain really good production every single game? Playing with such a fiery intensity can burn out some players within the ebb-and-flow of a long season or even, at times, within the same game. Macura is a senior, so he should have a good grasp on how to deal with his at-times boundless energy. But if Xavier wants to achieve its highest ceiling this season, they need Macura to play like this nearly every night.
If Macura plays like this and Bluiett is at his normal scoring pace then Xavier could be scary.
4. Xavier freshman Naji Marshall looked like he belonged
Xavier brought in another really solid freshman class this season and 6-foot-7 wing Naji Marshall looks like he could a key to the Musketeers’ season. Another long and active player on the defensive end and aggressive attacking the rack on the offensive end, Marshall struggled against Wisconsin two weeks ago. The freshman looked a lot more comfortable playing against Baylor.
Even facing unique defensive matchups like Bears center and rim protector Jo Lual-Acuil, Marshall was assertive, finishing with 10 points and four rebounds off the bench. Getting to the free-throw line six times, Marshall showed why he was a consensus top-75 recruit in his class.
While Marshall is at his best playing in the open floor when he can get a head of steam going to the rim, his versatility also gives Xavier some unique options when he’s in the lineup. Marshall still has to prove he can be consistent but he’s another versatile piece for Xavier. On a night when Xavier needed a little extra, Marshall stepped up as a much-needed additional scorer when Blueitt got off to a sluggish offensive start.
Big East Conference Preview: Villanova looks to hold off challengers
1. Villanova looks to replace three starters and remain atop the conference: With the end of the 2016-17 season came the end of three collegiate careers, with Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds all out of eligibility. All three provided key intangibles for Villanova, with Hart and Jenkins also being two of the team’s top three scorers from a season ago. The question: how will the Wildcats account for those losses, with regards to both production and leadership?
There will be some adjustments to make, but simply put the pieces are there for Villanova to remain atop the Big East. Jalen Brunson, one of the nation’s best point guards, is back for his junior season as are wing Mikal Bridges and forward Eric Paschall. Sophomore guard Donte DiVencenzo, who earned a spot on the Big East’s All-Freshman team and was also the Big 5 Newcomer of the Year, is back for his sophomore season, and Phil Booth is healthy after sitting out most of last season with a knee injury.
Add in freshmen Omari Spellman and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree inside, and Jermaine Samuels Jr. on the wing, and Villanova will not lack for talent. And in Spellman, who sat out last season, they have a big who can get them points on the block on a consistent basis. For that reason this team will be different from last year’s group, which may make the Wildcats even tougher to defend.
2. Seton Hall, Xavier and Providence are all worthy challengers: Due to its track record and combination of returnees and newcomers, Villanova has earned the right to be preseason favorites. But this season may provide the best group of challengers to the throne since the reconfiguration of the Big East.
Xavier brings back an experienced group led by an All-America candidate in senior forward Trevon Bluiett, and the experience gained by Quentin Goodin as a result of Edmond Sumner’s injury could pay off for the sophomore in 2017-18. Add in a talented freshman class led by wing Paul Scruggs, and grad transfer Kerem Kanter, and it would not be a surprise if Chris Mack’s Musketeers won the Big East.
A similar argument could be made for Seton Hall, as Kevin Willard has a squad led by four tough, talented seniors. Angel Delgado is the nation’s best rebounder, a big man who was near automatic when it came to racking up double-doubles last season. Wing Desi Rodriguez can get hot offensively on a moment’s notice, and forward Ismael Sanogo deserves more respect nationally for his abilities as a defender. The key for the Pirates: how Khadeen Carrington, a talented guard who can make plays off the bounce as well as hit perimeter shots, adjusts to the shift to the point. If he handles it well, Seton Hall can be a major factor.
As for Providence, Ed Cooley has a senior point guard in Kyron Cartwright to trust with the offense. Cartwright averaged nearly seven assists per game last season, and that number could be even higher given the improvements made by the other options on the roster. Rodney Bullock has the potential to be an all-conference player if he becomes more efficient offensively, and forward Alpha Diallo appears poised to take a significant step forward. Makai Ashton-Langford is one of the key pieces in a good recruiting class, but the key may be the health of senior big man Emmitt Holt.
Holt’s been dealing with an abdominal issue during the preseason, and if he’s limited even more will be asked of freshmen Nate Watson and Dajour Dickens.
3. The conference’s “midsection” should be improved: Given the fact that seven teams reached the NCAA tournament last season, this may feel like a weird thing to read. But with the combination of newcomers and returnees at many of the Big East schools that populated the middle portion of the standings last season, those matchups are going to be even tougher this season.
Creighton welcomes back guards Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas, and they’ll add a transfer at the point in former Syracuse guard Kaleb Joseph. The key for Joseph will be to regain the confidence that he seemingly lost during his two seasons at Syracuse, but the combination of sitting out a year and being in a system that gives guys the freedom to make plays should help.
Marquette, which won 19 games and reached the NCAA tournament last season, has a very good perimeter tandem in Andrew Rowsey and Markus Howard, with the latter being one of the best shooters in the country as a freshman. The question mark for the Golden Eagles is how productive their big men will be, with SMU transfer Harry Froling set to join the likes of junior Matt Heldt and freshman Theo John in December.
Butler will be led by senior forward Kelan Martin, sophomore guard Kamar Baldwin and a new head coach in LaVall Jordan (more on the Bulldogs below), and St. John’s may be the ultimate “wild card.” Guards Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett Jr. return, and the additions of transfers Marvin Clark II and Justin Simon will help immensely. If the pieces mesh, Chris Mullin has a roster that could turn heads in the Big East.
4. LaVall Jordan looks to build upon the “Butler Way”: While the Brad Stevens era was critical with regards to the growth of the Butler basketball program, which reached the national title game two consecutive years and moved from the Horizon League to the Big East, the “Butler Way” began well before that point. Among those who played a role in the success is LaVall Jordan, who played on three NCAA tournament teams between 1998 and 2001 for Barry Collier and Thad Matta.
After brief stay at Milwaukee that was preceded by a six-year stint on John Beilein’s staff at Michigan, Jordan has returned to his alma mater to fill the vacancy left by Chris Holtmann’s move to Ohio State. Jordan won’t be operating with an empty cupboard either, as Kelan Martin (16.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Kamar Baldwin (10.1, 3.7) return from a team that won 25 games a season ago. Butler did lose three starters from that team, most notably forward Andrew Chrabascz, but do not expect this program to simply fall off of a cliff.
5. Patrick Ewing, arguably the most important player in Big East history, makes his return to Georgetown: To say that Ewing was “arguably” the most important player in league history may be an understatement; as the crown jewel of a 1981 class that included the likes of Chris Mullin (St. John’s) and Villanova’s “Expansion Crew,” Ewing helped usher in an era of dominance for the Big East in the 1980’s. The Georgetown teams he led were both feared and respected, and with his return to The Hilltop as head coach the goal is the bring back those glory years.
Ewing, in his first head coaching job after spending well over a decade as an assistant in the NBA, has some talent to work with inside as Marcus Derrickson (8.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and Jesse Govan (10.1, 5.0) both return. But there are a lot of holes to fill on this roster, especially on the perimeter with the losses of Rodney Pryor and L.J. Peak. Look for freshman wing JaMarko Pickett to get plenty of opportunities in his debut season, one that could be difficult for the Hoyas once they begin conference play.
PRESEASON BIG EAST PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Angel Delgado, Seton Hall
Only one player in college basketball (Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan) had more double-doubles than Delgado last season. The senior big man averaged 15.2 points, 13.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game last season, shooting 54.3 percent from the field. On a team expected to contend in the Big East, Delgado will once again be a focal point for the Pirates. And if he can improve on the turnover count (3.0 tpg last season) Delgado will be even tougher to slow down.
THE REST OF THE BIG EAST FIRST TEAM
Jalen Brunson, Villanova: One of the best point guards in college basketball, Brunson will have more leadership responsibilities on his plate in 2017-18.
Marcus Foster, Creighton: Foster’s first season in a Creighton uniform was a productive one, as he averaged 18.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.
Trevon Blueitt, Xavier: Bluiett should be heard from with regards to both Big East Player of the Year and All-America honors. Last season he averaged 18.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.
Rodney Bullock, Providence: Butler’s Kelan Martin would be a solid choice here as well, but if he can be a more efficient player offensively Bullock will have a good shot at a first team spot as well.
FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW
Kelan Martin, Butler
Khadeen Carrington, Seton Hall
Omari Spellman and Mikal Bridges, Villanova
Marcus LoVett Jr. and Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s
Khyri Thomas, Creighton
BREAKOUT STAR: Donte DiVincenzo, Villanova
DiVincenzo is the biggest reason that I’m not that worried about Villanova trying to replace Josh Hart this season. I don’t know that he turns into the player Hart was this year, but he’s already proven that he had the ability to be an explosive scorer – he reached double-figures 14 times and scored at least 19 points four times coming off the bench – and he has the kind of toughness and defensive intelligence that he fit in with Villanova seamlessly on that end of the floor as well.
The only real concern about having DiVincenzo on this list is how good Villanova will be. They’re quite deep on the perimeter and return Phil Booth from injury. He could end up being a much-improved player with a markedly better season and end up with numbers that don’t look all that dissimilar from this season’s.
COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Chris Mullin, St. John’s
With John Thompson III being replaced at Georgetown during the spring, there really isn’t a coach in the Big East that’s truly on the proverbial hot seat. The pick here is Mullin, whose teams have improved in the win column in each of the last two seasons. So why Mullin? Because with the talent on this season’s roster, expecting the Red Storm to at the very least challenge for an NCAA tournament berth would be reasonable.
ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING …
Four teams have credible hopes of reaching the Final Four.
I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT
the impact that Justin Simon and Marvin Clark II can have for St. John’s. The Red Storm can be an NCAA tournament team this year.
FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR
November 13, Minnesota at Providence
November 22-24, Villanova at Paradise Jam
November 28, Baylor at Xavier
December 3, Seton Hall at Louisville
December 5, Gonzaga vs. Villanova (in New York City)
1. Villanova: The Wildcats are once again favored to win the Big East, thanks to the combination of newcomers and returnees. The return of Phil Booth, and the additions of Omari Spellman and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, will certainly help matters for Jay Wright’s team.
2. Seton Hall: With four senior starters, the Pirates are one of the most experienced teams in college basketball. And if new point guard Khadeen Carrington can balance scoring with getting other guys the ball in good spots, look out.
3. Xavier: Trevon Bluiett will once again lead the way, with J.P. Macura being another senior capable of making an impact on a game. If the talented recruiting class, led by Paul Scruggs, is ready and Quentin Goodin takes another step forward the Musketeers can win the league.
4. Providence: In Kyron Cartwright the Friars have a special point guard. He’s surrounded with talented offensive option, including Rodney Bullock, and the arrival of Makai Ashton-Langford should give Cartwright the occasional respite. The Friars will certainly be head from this season as they look to make a 5th straight NCAA tournament appearance.
5. Creighton: In Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas the Bluejays have one of the top perimeter tandems in the country, much less the Big East. If Kaleb Joseph is ready to run the show at the point, Creighton is capable of contending.
6. Marquette: With Andrew Rowsey and Markus Howard among the returnees, it’s known that Steve Wojciechowski’s team can put points on the board. But can they be more effective defensively? If so, the Golden Eagles should make a return trip to the NCAA tournament.
7. St. John’s: The Red Storm are the “wild card” in this race. With the additions of Justin Simon and Marvin Clark II, St. John’s has the talent needed to make waves in the Big East race. But will this be a cohesive unit when the games truly matter?
8. Butler: LaVall Jordan has some talent to work with in his first season leading his alma mater, including guard Kamar Baldwin and forward Kelan Martin. What may make things more difficult for Butler are the loss of three starters and the improvements made by other teams in the league.
9. DePaul: Will the Blue Demons escape the Big East cellar for the second time in the last three seasons? Yes, thanks to the return of Eli Cain and the additions of Austin Grandstaff and Max Strus.
10. Georgetown: Patrick Ewing’s return as head coach will be a difficult one, given the strength of the Big East and his team’s lack of perimeter shooters. That being said, having Jesse Govan and Marcus Derrickson back in the front court should help matters.
Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer
Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer from the program to move closer to home, according to a release from the school.
The 6-foot-7 Ridder hails from Springfield, Missouri as he was regarded as a top-150 prospect by Rivals in the Class of 2017.
“After much consideration and talking with my family, I have decided that it is in my best interest to move home,” Ridder said in the release.
“Jared has indicated to the coaching staff that he has a desire to be closer to home,” Xavier head coach Chris Mack said. “While we are disappointed, we all want Jared to be happy moving forward. We wish him nothing but the best.”
A potent scorer and noted perimeter shooter at the high school level, Ridder helped MoKan win the Nike Peach Jam during the summer of 2016 playing alongside talented players like Missouri’s Michael and Jontay Porter and Oklahoma’s Trae Young. With a desire to move closer to home, could Ridder potentially land at a spot where one of his talented former teammates is playing?
Ridder averaged 24.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists during his senior season of high school ball at Kickapoo as he was a first-team, All-State selection in Missouri.
Xavier junior Trevon Bluiett was arrested for one misdemeanor count of possession of marijuana, hash oil or hashish on Monday afternoon, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. According to the initial report by Holly V. Hays of the Indianapolis Star, Bluiett was arrested in Carmel, IN just before 3:30 p.m.
Bluiett declared for the 2017 NBA Draft a few weeks ago but did not sign an agent as he was hoping to improve his stock enough to potentially get picked in June.
One of the Big East’s best players last season, the 6-foot-6 Bluiett averaged 18.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game while shooting 43 percent from the field and 37 percent from three-point range.
It’s hard to say how this arrest will change Bluiett’s outlook for the NBA Draft or potentially next season if he returns to Xavier. Since so many NBA players have been slapped with minor weed charges over the years, this sort of arrest likely won’t hurt Bluiett’s NBA Draft stock if he’s good enough to make the league.
Frank Kaminsky trolls Arizona after high school teammate Sean O’Mara gets winning basket for Xavier
No. 11 seed Xavier’s upset win over No. 2 seed Arizona left a lot of people stunned late Thursday night. Naturally, people took to Twitter to share their opinions of the Musketeers advancing to the Elite Eight to face No. 1 seed Gonzaga.
Some of those with comments on Arizona’s loss included members of Wisconsin’s back-to-back Final Four teams in 2014 and 2015. You might recall that the Badgers eliminated the Wildcats in both years in the Elite Eight to make the trips to the Final Four–so there is some history here between the two schools.
The Twitter comments started with former Wisconsin guard Ben Brust questioning Arizona head coach Sean Miller for going away from his big men. Brust’s “should have kept touching the big Serb” comment would indicate that getting touches for Arizona center Dusan Ristic was important–although others were pointing out freshman Lauri Markkanen’s minimal involvement in the Arizona offense during the last 10 minutes.
Starting to think it's not a coincidence for AZ… Sean Miller ran no offense and should have kept touching the big Serb
That’s when former Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky entered the discussion and promptly shut things down.
Wisconsin’s personal history with Arizona hit closer for Kaminsky than a normal game when Xavier junior big man Sean O’Mara scored the game-winning bucket for the Musketeers with just under a minute left.
When Kaminsky was a senior and Benet started its season 29-0 and was nationally ranked in the USA Today High School rankings, O’Mara was the freshman big man that Kaminsky was beating up in practice every day.
While Kaminsky has turned into a productive member of the Charlotte Hornets rotation this season, O’Mara is having himself a solid 2017 NCAA Tournament run as he’s averaging 12.3 points a game after putting up 6.1 per game during the regular season.
We definitely know who Kaminsky will be rooting for when it comes to the West Region.