‘We’re gonna find out.’ Where does Xavier basketball go from here?

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Xavier has 3 days to search for answers before the Skyline Chili Crosstown Shootout.

Xavier head coach Sean Miller is done talking about having a team with 10 new players. They’ve been practicing since the summer, and the time for the new-look roster to gel is over at the regular season’s one-month mark on Wednesday.

The problem: Xavier’s growing pains have been worse than expected. Miller’s record at Cintas Center entering the year was 74-13 through six seasons.

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Xavier started 2-0 in November with wins over Robert Morris and Jacksonville but have now dropped three straight games at Cintas Center after Tuesday’s 87-80 loss to Delaware. Miller called it his team’s “worst performance” in nine games.

Xavier hadn’t lost three consecutive home games under Miller since his first month on the job in 2004.

“We’re at a point, this is the moment of truth for us,” Miller said.

‘We don’t have any room for error.’

The hardest part for Miller and company is finding Xavier’s identity. The non-conference schedule was loaded with litmus tests ready to challenge the young Musketeers throughout the first month of the season.

It’s hard to pinpoint how Xavier could go toe-to-toe on the road against No. 1 Purdue (83-71 loss), at home against No. 6 Houston (66-60 win) and Saint Mary’s (No. 23 in the preseason AP Poll) in Las Vegas (66-49 win) but turn around and fall flat at home in losses to Oakland and Delaware.

“Where we’re at, depth, experience, we don’t have any room for error,” Miller said. “We know that.”

Instead of sustaining its play at a high level, Xavier has played to the level of its competition. That’s something NCAA Tournament teams −and Miller-coached teams − typically avoid.

It’s difficult to know which Xavier team will show up any given night. Xavier’s had stretches where its offense came out, limited turnovers and shot lights out. Other times, Xavier’s defense suffocated opponents for the majority of the game. One theme early on was that Xavier’s defense was better than its offense.

On Tuesday, Xavier allowed Delaware to shoot 50% from the field (56.3% in the second half) and turned the ball over 17 times, leading to 30 Delaware points. For Miller, the game fell into a different category.

“It’s about leadership, fight, unselfishness, hard play, will and toughness.”

Can it be fixed?

When asked if those characteristics can be coached, Miller said, “I think we’re gonna find out.”

Xavier has lagged on executing the fundamentals of the game at crucial points in games and it’s hindered its chances to add to the win column. A missed block-out, a bad turnover, foul trouble, losing a team’s best shooter, not closing out, lack of toughness − they’ve all arrived in spots at critical moments, when sustaining high effort seems to be the missing ingredient.

“We didn’t fight until the end,”…

Read More: ‘We’re gonna find out.’ Where does Xavier basketball go from here? 2023-12-06 22:38:32

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