The Providence Friars travel to Cincinnati for an early afternoon tilt against the Xavier Musketeers at the Cintas Center. The Friars are coming off a road win at the Verizon Center against the Georgetown Hoyas while the Musketeers are looking to recover from their first home loss of the season which came at the hands of the 2-9 Creighton Bluejays. Providence is 7-3 in Big East play and tied for 2nd place with the Butler Bulldogs. Xavier is currently in 7th place in the league at 5-6 but a win could move them up to 5th and get their NCAA Tournament hopes back on more solid ground.
Just like I did ahead of the first Providence/Xavier game I spoke with Caleb Childers from the Xavier SB Nation site Banners On The Parkway about Xavier's season so far, how he feels about the team's NCAA Tournament hopes after the Creighton loss, what he makes of Myles Davis' post-game comments after that loss and more. You can also head over to Banners On The Parkway to see my answers to Caleb's questions.
Let's get into it.
Mike Hopkins: Last time we spoke a little over two weeks ago you were nervous about where this Xavier team was going to finish up this season. Are you still nervous? What do you think of their NCAA Tournament hopes at this point?
Caleb Childers: I have to be honest, at this point I think we are a bubble team. Too many close losses are coming back to haunt us. Our biggest upside had been that we won every home game, but we just lost to Creighton in what might have been their best game yet. So I am still nervous like last time, and I am still optimistic that we will be in the field, but it will be close.
MH: Coming off the first home loss of the season on Wednesday night against lowly Creighton and being 1-4 over the last 5 games are you in panic mode?
CC: Am I right now? Not in panic mode. However, I am in "must win" mode. We're sitting on the wrong side of the conference standing right now, but we have already played the best teams on the road, so things have a chance.
The team is clearly angry and frustrated right now so it will be interesting to see how they respond to this now. If we come up as a team and focused on Saturday I will be relieved, but if we play like we just did again, then I will be in full on panic mode.
Now was I in panic mode during Wednesday's game? YES YES YES OH GOODNESS YES.
MH: Looking at the conference stats this season it looks like Myles Davis has taken a big step forward in his sophomore campaign. Jalen Reynolds also seems to have upped his game in year 2 at Xavier. Then you look at the production Chris Mack is getting from freshmen Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura and it certainly looks like the future is bright at Xavier. Would Xavier fans be able to live with an NIT bid this season knowing that this is a young team overall?
CC: That is a very interesting question that you raise. I think that an NIT bit would be seen as a massive disappointment for this squad. We see this team as having the talent and skill of an NCAA tournament team. Last year was seen as being the "young" team, and they made the tournament play-in round so I think that set the bar for us.
Now would we able to live with that knowing that the future is brighter? Oh absolutely. It's something that we have talked about a lot. This team has so many young guys, from Bluiett to Reynolds and Davis and to the guys that are not even playing, like Sumner. Next year definitely looks even better as long as we have guys return, so we know that the future is looking good.
Also I want to bring up that last year's recruiting class was one of our best ever and was ranked highly by some of the different sites. I like to think that the MSG tournament and the consistent tough conference play has to factor into this, and I am thankful for that.
MH: What do you make of Myles Davis' post-game comments following the Creighton loss?
CC: I was a bit surprised to hear his comments, but overall I approve of what he said. It is clear that he's frustrated and I am sure that conversations like this have played out in the locker room countless times. Myles Davis has absolutely stepped up his game and became one of the best guys on the floor recently, so I think it is fitting that he talked about this issue. Good for you Myles, good for you.
MH: Who should Providence be most concerned about facing on the Xavier team for Saturday's game?
CC: Myles Davis definitely comes to mind not just for his comments, but for some of the big games and numbers that he has put up recently. As always, look for Remy Abell to make an impact. Abell has been consistent for the Musketeers all season long and will play well at home. Also if you are watching on TV, be concerned about the number of times that you hear about Matt Stainbrook is an uber driver. You'll only hear it 50 times.
MH: For any Friar fans that might be in Cincinnati for this game where would you recommend for a pre-game and/or post-game adult beverage?
CC: There's a lot of great places to eat and drink at in Cincinnati so let's get started. The game is a 1 pm start, so hit brunch at Sugar n' Spice. Amazing food if you are not watching the nutrition. If you have time swing over to Dana's. It's not the best quality at all, but it's the Xavier student bar close to campus, so it's good for gamedays. After the game you have all afternoon, so I would definitely head downtown to the Moerlein Lager House for good food and good beers. Arthur's also has some amazing food that should not be missed. If you're spending the night in Cincinnati, hit up Rhinegeist in Over-The-Rhine. It's a brewery with a great vibe and really good beers. Not very old, but quickly becoming a local favorite.
MH: Who ya got Saturday afternoon?
CC: It's going to be a close second half like last time, but I think Xavier is going to squeak this one out in regulation, 65-63.
Thanks again to Caleb for taking the time to answer my questions!