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Tire Pros Invitational Recap

 

Xavier has further distanced themselves from their recent past failures in preseason tournaments. For the second year in a row, the Musketeers are the champions in Orlando.

It wasn’t always pretty, but wins are wins, and Xavier now has five of them to zero losses.

Any Xavier fan will tell you, that at this point in the season it is all about survival for the Muskies. They are lacking depth and cohesion in the early stages. Their play through the first five games has shown this.

With nearly a week off before they face Northern Iowa again (what?), Coach Mack and his team have earned some much-needed rest and a chance to evaluate where they are and what needs to change.

Here are my takeaways from the Tire Pros Invitational.

Xavier gained a wealth of valuable experience from the close games in Orlando.

If we go back to last season, nearly every one of Xavier’s games was either a comfortable victory or a significant defeat. Of their 28 victories last season, only one of them was decided by less than eight points. Two of their six losses last year were decided by four points or less. Xavier’s lack of experience in tight contests was most clearly reflected in their second-round loss to Wisconsin in a game that was tight through the balance.

It’s unfair to knock last year’s team because they won in convincing fashion for most of the year, but they certainly missed out on being tested at the end of games by simply executing better than the other team.

In the early going this year, Xavier hasn’t executed much better than their opponents. That has put them in vulnerable positions, testing their late game execution and will to win. They have come out unblemished. Although fans want them to show more than they have, Xavier has experienced the adversity in the early going that they missed out on last year. That will almost certainly benefit them down the road.

JP Macura looks like the next Musketeer to make the NBA.

I’m sure most people will disagree with me here, but for all the hype that Sumner and Bluiett have gotten about their NBA prospects, it is Macura who has shown the abilities required to play at the next level.

He has it all in my opinion.

He has a deadly shot from deep and is willing to shoot it in a variety of circumstances. On the fast break, off the dribble, off balance, way beyond the arc and at any time; Macura is a gutsy shooter. But it’s not just the fact that he can make it. Macura always seems to be the equalizer and opportunist for Xavier. In Orlando, it felt like every time the opposition seemed poised to pull away or pull close enough to take the lead, Macura was able to answer an opposing three with a silencer of his own. He is fearless and doesn’t rely on others to create a shot for him. Considering the value NBA teams place on three-point shooters, you have to start there.

He is also always the smartest player on the floor. You can point to his heady timeout call with 1.7 seconds left in overtime which ended up giving Xavier the win against Missouri, but he has shown throughout his career that he can affect the game with his mind as much as anyone. Although more conservative fans don’t like his demeanor on the court, Macura is able to get into the head of the opponents and back up his chatter with outstanding play. He takes risks and sometimes makes head-scratching plays, but he always rights the ship in the end.

The more you think about it, the more sense it makes. He’s athletic, can finish above the rim, is a nuisance on defense and an unselfish player. I’m no NBA scout, but if I were at a Xavier game to watch Sumner or Bluiett, I would consider it a disservice to my team not to mention what I saw from Macura.

The refs and rules committee are ruining college basketball.

It’s just painful to watch most of the time now. I found myself yelling at the TV for bad calls that the refs made against the opposition because I had gotten so sick of it.

The changes over the past couple of seasons really don’t make any sense. Yes, numbers had proven that scoring is down. And yes, college basketball has gotten more and more physical over the years, but it goes back to the old saying: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

So what if scoring is down in college basketball? Why does the rules committee have to step in and try to solve the problem by giving more benefits to the offense? Shouldn’t it be up to the coaching staffs and players to make their own adjustments and figure out a way to score?

Defense is half of the game, at least it is at the college level. By emphasizing a reduction of physicality and granting more freedom of movement to the offensive, the rules committee is essentially saying basketball should be a non-contact sport. No longer is hard work and physical play on the defense end rewarded. Instead, flopping is praised as a useful turnover mechanism. On any contact between two players, the offense is given the benefit of the doubt.

I can’t tell you how many times I saw a defender wait in the post, hands straight in the air like you are taught to do since 1st grade, and then have the foul called against them after the offensive player initiates the contact. The zebras have shown that there is no proper box out technique. If a boxed out player touches the ball, then the refs assume he was fouled on the box out. The offense gets a free reset.

Hopefully, the whistleblowing will level off as the season progresses like it did last year. I tend to think it won’t, however. If the rules committee keeps emphasizing it, it will eventually become an automatic response to blowing the whistle whenever two hands are placed on an offensive player.

The rules committee has made beneficial changes to the game. Reducing the shot clock has been great and the restricted area has largely solved the game’s biggest problem in the block/charge call.

But enough is enough. The experiment didn’t work, so it’s time to call off the dogs.

 

Sorry for the rant, just had to get my stance in writing. Let me know if you agree or disagree on anything here.