Xavier has had its Thanksgiving plans decided for quite a while. Perhaps not as long as you knew that you would be going to your Aunt Margie's or traveling to some remote portion of Ohio to see relatives you haven't seen since dabbing came and went. Even so, the fact remains that Xavier has had the showdown with Alabama in the opening round of the AdvoCare Invitational on its calendar for a some time. Here's what you need to know so you sound like a genius when the game tips off.
Earning National Respect
Pop quiz time. When was the last time Xavier was nationally ranked? If you guessed 2015, a year in which it made it to the Sweet 16, you are incorrect. 2014? Thanks for playing. How about 2013? Better luck next time. Surely 2012? No folks, the last time the Musketeers were a top 25 team was in December of 2011. After rising to No. 8 that season, a three-game losing streak against the likes of Oral Roberts, Long Beach State and Hawaii knocked the X out and they have been unable to make it back since.
That is until Monday, when the team's 3-0 start and dominant win on the road over a previously ranked Michigan team pushed the Musketeers to No. 23 in the AP poll. Unfortunately, they are still lagging behind in the USA Today/Coaches poll, currently seated at No. 29, one spot behind fellow Big East squad Butler.
Trouble in Paradise?
You might think with that national ranking, and a 4-0 record following Monday night's win over Northern Kentucky, that Xavier would be rather content. That is not the case, at least if you ask coach Chris Mack, who did not mince words following the 12-point victory over NKU.
"My team was unprepared on a one-day turn-around, and the preparation had very little to do with Xs and Os. It was more our emotional preparation, our emotional state, our frame of mind coming in the game," Mack told the Cincinnati Enquirer on Monday night. "And I’m responsible for my team. So when I say it’s not about Xs and Os, I’m not trying to deflect the blame. I’m the leader of our ship, and our ship sucked tonight. Isn’t that exciting to be ranked? That’s a bunch of garbage. We talk about it, we talk about it, we talk about it but it’s not about talk. You are who you are on the floor that night. That’s it."
Mack may be on to something. If you pay attention to gambling odds, you know that Xaiver has been a heavy favorite in three of its four games this season, but it is just 1-3 against the spread. The Musketeers were particularly lax in the win over NKU, which may have lost by 12, but did not look the part of punching bag that many assumed it would. Hopefully this weekend will serve as a wake up call.
Scouting the Crimson Tide
In its first three games under Avery Johnson who formerly coached in the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks and the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets, Alabama is 2-1 . The Crimson Tide took care off business at home against Kennesaw State (77-64) and Louisiana (105-93), but those wins sandwich a pretty brutal evisceration at Dayton (80-48).
Led by Retin Obasohan (14.0 PPG), Shannon Hale (11.0 PPG) and do-it-all playmaker Dazon Ingram (9.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 4.3 APG), Alabama is a middle of the road offensive team, averaging 76.7 points per game on 45.1 percent shooting.