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The Morning Dish – Wednesday, November 29, 2017

November 29, 2017 The Morning Dish No Comments

For a while there, it looked like Xavier wasn’t quite the same program. The Musketeers had hardly fallen off a cliff, as they still had personnel and coaching that most programs in America would love to have, but the results have not, on the whole, been what we had come to expect. It felt like they were good, but something was missing that was there before. It felt like they might be starting to trend downward.

It doesn’t feel that way anymore, but if it did, beating a solid Baylor team that many probably had underrated should change that.

It’s entirely possible that Xavier had gotten so good, had been such a well-oiled machine, that expectations for them had risen perhaps a bit higher than they should.

While in the Atlantic 10, Xavier annually contended and also played a great non-conference schedule that helped them earn a number of at-large bids, or put them in position for them. When the reconfigured Big East added them in 2013, the thought was they would be among the contenders right away. And while they have generally been good, they haven’t been right there challenging Villanova every year to this point. Only in 2015-16 were they right there with the Wildcats, finishing two games back in second place.

Last season, the Musketeers were muddling along, still winning but without much in the way of NCAA Tournament resume wins. In fact, starting in early February, for a one-month stretch their only three wins had come over DePaul – not exactly something that would inspire much confidence. But then they did something they have done every year in the Big East: reach the semifinals of the Big East Tournament, which a 62-57 win over Butler did for them. Then they surprised a few more people and reached the Elite Eight, something just about no one thought possible for much of the season, especially when Edmond Sumner went down for the season in January.

After the Musketeers beat Maryland, blew out Florida State and edged out former coach Sean Miller and Arizona to reach the Elite Eight, expectations rose for this season even when Sumner opted not to come back. And now, Xavier has wins early on at Wisconsin and at home over Baylor, with arch-rival Cincinnati awaiting on Saturday.

So Xavier is back… although it’s not like they ever really left. It just felt that way to a small degree, at least until last March.

 

Side Dishes

The ACC continued to rule the Big Ten/ACC Challenge this season, aided by a buzzer-beating layup by Tadric Jackson that gave Georgia Tech a 52-51 win over Northwestern after the Wildcats had most of the momentum late in the game. Florida State remained undefeated with a 78-73 win at Rutgers to give the ACC four straight wins to start. The Big Ten later got on the board with Purdue knocking off Louisville 66-57 in West Lafayette, but the ACC got right back to winning as Virginia Tech dominated Iowa 79-55 in Blacksburg and Wake Forest beat Illinois 80-73 in Winston-Salem.

There was another buzzer-beater last night, though it came in a game that probably slipped under many people’s radar. With the game tied in the final seconds, Presbyterian inbounded the ball to sophomore guard J.C. Younger, and he buried a jumper from the right side as time expired to lift the Blue Hose over UNCG 74-72. Younger finished with six points on the night, but it was that instead of finishing with four that made the difference.

UCLA‘s three players who were arrested for shoplifting while in China remain suspended and away from the team. While a final decision about the length of their punishment is still in progress, head coach Steve Alford said on Tuesday that he doesn’t think the timetable is on the order of months. Additionally, the coach said LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley are working out on their own and focusing on academics in the interim, though they are allowed to use athletic facilities.

 

Tonight’s Menu

Highlighted by more games in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge as well as the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge, a pretty good slate of games is on tap tonight.

  • In a Philadelphia Big 5 battle, improving Penn heads to Villanova (7 p.m.)
  • In a nice matchup to watch, Auburn travels to Dayton (7 p.m.)
  • The Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge continues with visiting Indiana State (7 p.m.), UNLV traveling to Northern Iowa (8 p.m.), Evansville heading to New Mexico (9 p.m.) and Nevada hosting Illinois State (10 p.m.)
  • Continuing the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, we have NC State hosting Penn State and Clemson traveling to Ohio State (7:15 p.m.) to get the night going, with North Carolina hosting Michigan just a bit later (7:30 p.m.). Later on, Minnesota hosts Miami in an underrated matchup and Nebraska hosts Boston College (9:15 p.m.), while a bit later Indiana hosts Duke (9:30 p.m.)
  • Alabama hosts Louisiana Tech (8 p.m.)
  • Arizona tries to get back on track after its 0-3 showing in the Battle 4 Atlantis as they host Long Beach State (8 p.m.)
  • Belmont will give another high-major team a test as they visit TCU (9 p.m.)

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