The Xavier Musketeers are 3-3 in Big East play and are coming off home win against Marquette on Saturday. The Musketeers have a lot of new faces in the mix this season and it has showed at times as they have struggled to find a consistent rotation and head coach Chris Mack has recently done some fiddling with the starting lineups. Heading into Xavier's game against the Providence Friars Thursday night, I spoke with Caleb Childers from Xavier's SB Nation site Banners on the Parkway who was kind enough to answer some of my questions about Xavier's season so far and how he thinks Thursday's game at the Dunkin' Donuts Center will play out. You can also head over to Banners on the Parkway to check out the Q&A I did with Caleb from the Providence perspective.
Let's get into it.
Mike Hopkins: At 12-6 overall and 3-3 in Big East play, where do you think this Xavier team finishes come mid-March?
Caleb Childers: To be honest Mike, I'm a bit nervous on where this team will finish. Road games have been tough on them and they looked shaky against Marquette. Right now they are a 10 seed according to Joe Lunardi, but I'm feeling like they are going to move up, be a 7 or 8 seed and lose in the round of 32. Best case scenario though is that with the talent this team has, they step up their game and make it to the sweet 16. Regardless, our conference record will not be stellar because this conference is stacked.
MH: With 7 new players in the mix this season how do you think Chris Mack has done with lineups and substitutions?
CC: With the new guys brings something that Xavier has not seen in years, and that is depth. This team has so many guys that can come in and adequately replace someone from the starting five. Now it sounds good on paper, but unfortunately there's been a lot of frustrating performances and sloppy play. Now the starting lineup seemed set up until about a week ago when Mack switched things up and changed around who starts and who does not. I feel like this move sent a clear message to the team that no one's job is safe and I'm ok with this experimentation.
Also it is worth noting that a lot of guys are fluid in what position that they play and Mack has played Bluiett in some interesting ways earlier this season.
MH: Indiana transfer Remy Abell impressed me in the non-conference when I watched Xavier. Has he been the team's best overall player this season?
CC: Oh absolutely. Abell has absolutely done everything that he's been asked this season and more. Solid and offense and smart on defense. Sadly that has been lacking on this Xavier team, but Abell has done it. I think even though there may be some guys more talented than him on the roster and plenty of guys more experienced, I would absolutely say that he is the best overall player on this team right now. Love those Indiana transfers!
MH: Do you think Trevon Bluiett is the leader for Big East Rookie of the Year right now?
CC: Hmm. That is a much tougher question. I generally see the Rookie of the Year as being a mix of biggest talent/stats and biggest impact on his team. I think that Bluiett has definitely made the biggest impact on his team and he has definitely made some heads turn with his numbers and stats. At the same time I feel like Seton Hall is going to get some looks with Carrington and Whitehead (if he can stay healthy). So to roundabout answer your question, yes I think that Bluiett is in the lead, but he's not running away with it.
MH: Besides Matt Stainbrook, Trevon Bluiett and Remy Abell, who should Providence fans be concerned about facing Thursday night?
CC: Man you just named some key guys right there. The biggest threat that I see other than those guys has to be Jalen Reynolds. He's been a bit enigmatic this season and has a tendency to be in foul trouble, but when he is hot, he is hot. Watch out for him on Thursday night.
MH: What has been Xavier's biggest downfall in their losses this season? What have they done best to win games?
CC: Let's start with the bad and work towards the good. The two things that have sunk them this season have been sloppy defense and turnovers. Xavier has an incredible offense, but they also tend to give up a lot of points to even bad teams. Almost any team looks good shooting the ball against X, and that is alarming. At the same time, the team has a tendency to turn the ball over way too much and that has come back to haunt them in a lot of games.
Now for the good, this team can outshoot just about anyone. When the shots fall it's hard for other teams to keep up with Xavier. Right now Xavier is 12th in field goal percentage in the nation, and man they look good when those 3's fall.
MH: Who ya got Thursday night?
CC: I always try to be optimistic and I always want Xavier to win, but I'm honestly not confident about this game. Unfortunately for Xavier, their problems have been worst on the road and the Dunkin' definitely is not in Cincinnati. I think that the game will be close because that's how Big East basketball is, but I think that Xavier is going to drop this game 60-66 and leave a lot of people scratching their heads.
Big thanks to Caleb for taking the time and may the best team win!