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NEW SEASON: Georgetown Starts Conference Play Hosting Xavier Friday Night

Hoyas will be tested inside and outside by the Musketeers

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Georgetown v Syracuse Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images

This is the optimistic post for the Georgetown Hoyas (5-6) as they begin their BIG EAST Conference season by hosting the Xavier Musketeers (8-3). It’s a brand new season and the Hoyas can start their quest for 10+ wins with an upset at home. It will be nearly a week since the loss to Syracuse and, if history is any indication, Patrick Ewing’s teams tend to play a bit better after significant rest and practice time (e.g., the pandemic pauses). Perhaps the Hoyas, with three extra days of rest and preparation, catch the Musketeers without their guard up and take advantage.

New-old-coach Sean Miller and Xavier have a four-game winning streak after handling the Southern University Jaguars on Tuesday night. Xavier has wins over Florida, West Virginia, and Cincinnati, as well as losses to Duke, Gonzaga, and Indiana. The Muskies were picked second in the conference coaches poll back in October and they could be that good.

The game preview identifies that Xavier presents a balanced scoring attack with five players in scoring in double figures with Souley Boum (17.0 ppg.), Jack Nunge (15.3 ppg.), Colby Jones (14.9 ppg.), Zach Freemantle (13.3 ppg.) and Adam Kunkel (10.3 ppg.). They also happen to shoot threes very well.

There is no doubt that, for the Hoyas to succeed, the defense needs to improve drastically, especially on the perimeter. That likely starts with Primo Spears and Brandon Murray—who could be the most talented backcourt in the conference—playing consistent defense on every play. Generating stops and turnovers allows the Hoyas to get buckets in transition. Getting the ball through the hoop allows Georgetown to set up their press. This is why Georgetown can go on a quick 12-0 run at potentially any time.

Xavier moves the ball and hits threes. The Hoya defense will be tested immediately. The Musketeers love paint-touches via post-ups and penetration. Georgetown’s over-helping may be challenged more than their screen-hedging, but Miller may incorporate some more picks based on what he sees in Georgetown’s game tape. If Xavier settles on challenging Akok Akok and Qudus Wahab with Jack Nunge and Zach Freemantle, the Hoyas may fare well.

On offense, Patrick Ewing likely needs to see a big step in his team taking care of the ball. Fans have seen solid stretches of good GU ball movement and smart shot selection, but the consistency has not been there. Georgetown needs to come out strong and then be prepared for when the opponent dials up some additional pressure. The ball has to move. Dribbling is not the answer. The bench needs to be a positive, at least on the defensive side to give the starters a decent breather in the first half necessary to finish hard.

Here are the links:

Men’s Basketball Opens BIG EAST Conference Play On The Road Vs. Georgetown | Go Xavier

• Xavier is 7-2 in BIG EAST Conference openers.

• Xavier, 8-3, is coming off its fourth-straight win, 79-59 over Southern on Tuesday.

• Xavier leads the BIG EAST Conference in three major offensive categories: overall field goal percentage (sixth in the nation at .507), 3-point field goal percentage (eighth in the nation at .408) and assists per game (third in the nation at 20.5 apg.).

• Xavier graduate student Souley Boum led Xavier in scoring for the seventh time in 11 games with 17 points vs. Southern. Boum, who has earned a spot on the BIG EAST Honor Roll each of the last two weeks, leads the team in scoring (fourth in BIG EAST at 17.0 ppg.) and is second in assists (10th in the BIG EAST at 4.2 apg.).

• Xavier junior Colby Jones, who was named Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team, leads XU in assists at 5.6 apg. (fourth in the BIG EAST) to go with 14.9 ppg., which ranks third on the team and 16th in the BIG EAST.

• Xavier graduate student Jack Nunge, who was named Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team, is second the team in scoring at 15.3 ppg. (10th in the BIG EAST) and rebounding at 7.1 rpg. (10th in the BIG EAST).

Men’s Basketball Closes Out Non-Conference Schedule with Win Over Southern | Go Xavier

Souley Boum’s 17 points led four Musketeers in double figures as Xavier moved to 8-3 on the season.

Xavier jumped in front early and used a 16-2 run midway through the first half to take control of the game, leading by as many as 18 before going into halftime up 16, 40-24. Souley Boum shot 5-of-6 from the floor, including 3-of-4 on threes, to lead Xavier with 13 first half points. The Musketeers shot over 55 percent from the floor int he first half, with a 20-10 advantage on points in the paint.

Kam Craft’s eight points lead the way in the second half as Xavier extended its lead to as many as 30, 78-48, in the final minutes before winning by a score of 79-59.

Winner of four in a row, Xavier opens Big East play Friday at Georgetown | The Enquirer

Adam Kunkel - Kunkel’s been relatively quiet in Xavier’s last two games. He’s a guy who can really thrive on the road, and if he’s on his game offensively it usually translates to the Musketeers having a good night.

Key to the game - Sharing - Xavier’s one of the best passing teams in the country. The Musketeers rank fourth in the nation in assist rate, assisting on 68% of their made field goals.

If Xavier’s ball has energy and the Musketeers are working to find the open man, it should be hard for the Hoyas to stop them.

Takeaways from a snoozer to end the non-con | Banners on the Parkway

There is a huge gap between Xavier’s starters and the bench - Desmond Claude has an offensive rating of 76.2 and turns the ball over a third of the time he uses it. Kam Craft was good tonight but struggles on defense and has an offensive rating of 93.7. Dieonte Miles is still the best defender on the team but has become mostly hopeless on offense. Kyky Tandy is just never going to happen. That leaves Jerome Hunter as the reliable piece of Xavier’s bench. The gap today was evident, as the bench was outscored by Southern’s bench and chipped in 17 in a buy game blowout.

Turnovers are still a problem - Southern forces turnovers at a top 20 in the nation rate, and they turned the Musketeers over a bunch today. A 24.1% turnover rate does not augur well for a schedule that features St. John’s and UConn. Souley Boum had seven assists and just one turnover, but Adam Kunkel and Des Claude combined to turn it over nine times. That’s a problem.

The three point shooting is great - What an awful night! Xavier only made 33% of their three pointers. What seems like a particularly errant night this season would have been a top 15 effort last year. It is much easier to watch a basketball game when your team shoots and the ball goes in. Nothing to worry about here, as the Musketeers slipped all the way to sixth in the nation in three point shooting.

Xavier beats Southern to close out nonconference schedule. Let the Big East season begin | Enquirer

It was a game that Xavier controlled, but it was also clear what the Musketeers were trying to accomplish.

Xavier could have tightened up its rotation and probably won Tuesday’s game by a larger margin.

But Xavier’s still searching to find depth and meaningful contributions off its bench.

So Miller substituted early and often. Xavier went with some lineups that were new, all in an effort to try and get the bench more involved.

“Right now, everybody on our team is incredibly important,” said Miller. “We wanted to continue to develop depth.”

Several of those rotational players stood out. Jerome Hunter made winning plays, said Miller, and he makes Xavier a quicker team when he’s on the floor.

Sean Miller receives no sanctions out of NCAA’s investigation of Arizona | Banners on the Parkway

Ten months ago, when everybody and his mom was blowing up our Twitter about firing Travis Steele, my consistent question was who X would get to replace him that would be a clear upgrade. Sean Miller - who has a strong case for being the best coach in the program’s history - obviously fits the bill there, but I thought that the looming investigation would rule him out almost categorically.

Now it’s almost Christmas and Santa has brought me not only Miller once again on the Xavier sideline but closure in the investigation with no punishment coming his way. I would have been happy to be the first to admit that I was wrong, but many, many of you beat me to the punch in pointing that out. Now the story is well and truly written and Miller is free and clear to continue putting Xavier back on the tracks. Feel free to remind me in the comments or the Twitter replies or both what geniuses you all are and what a silly goose I am. In light of the giant W the program just collected, I’ll be happy to take the L on that one.