Xavier is off to a hot start. A red-hot start. As in, a 7-0 and #12 ranking start. So, what has been the secret to Xavier's success? I spoke with resident Q&A man Caleb Childers of SBN's Banners On The Parkway for the lowdown.
Fletcher Keel: What were the preseason expectations for Xavier heading into the season, and how have they met them over their first seven games?
Caleb Childers: Preseason expectations for this team were top 3 in the conference and a Sweet 16 tournament appearance. Xavier has made five of the last eight Sweet 16's, so at this point every season is defined by reaching that milestone. This years team is currently 7-0 and absolutely on fire. There's no rational Xavier fan out there who expected this start and we're all absolutely thrilled. We did not look the best in our opening game against Miami of Ohio, but this team really hit it's stride in the game two weeks ago against Michigan. The team played a complete team game and crashed the boards to win the game. Traditionally, Xavier has struggled and played horribly in Thanksgiving tournaments, so winning in Orlando with the final game over Dayton was beautiful to see. So right now this team has vastly exceeded every expectation, but the season is young.
FK: Outside of the win over Alabama, the Musketeers have scored at least 78 points in each game. What makes their offense so potent and dangerous?
CC: This years team has incredible depth. Against Dayton, six players scored in the double digits and two more players scored 8+ points. Trevon Bluiett is a big time scorer who consistently puts up numbers (averaging 14.3 ppg) and he's not the only threat. A lot of teams revolve around one player who can shine and put a team on his back, but Xavier has six guys that I trust game in and game out. Each night someone has stepped up and played a great game. That makes it even harder for opponents to stop our offense.
FK: Who is someone that can do a lot of damage (be it offensively or defensively) that WKU fans might overlook?
CC: That's a tough question to answer with just one guy. Like I said, we've got an offense the relies on everyone and there is no one guy doing it all. One player that hasn't gotten enough love to watch out for is forward James Farr. Big Game James has been an absolute beast on defense in the last few games with 9 rebounds a game. The 6'10 Farr could be trouble for Justin Johnson down low. He's also averaging 9 points a game with only 19.7 minutes a game coming off the bench. He wrecks havoc on both sides of the ball, and he's been extremely fun for us to watch. He's a guy that every team wants to have.
FK: WKU and Xavier went hand in hand in recruiting conversations over the summer before Kentucky native Quentin Goodin verbally committed to Xavier. Any chance we can put a friendly wager on the outcome on Saturday and, I don't know, the team who wins gets Goodin (whether he likes it or not)?
CC: Xavier has really been in play for a lot of great talents, and gotten several of them, since joining the Big East. I think it's made a big different having kids see what kind of basketball they'll be playing and who they'll be playing against night in and night out. Goodin is one of the many pieces that Xavier has signed and he's got great potential.
As much as I love wagering, I do not quite feel comfortable with putting people on the line, even people I've never met who are freakishly gifted playing basketball. I am always up for a wager though, so lets find something. A Skyline chili meal? Do they have Skyline in Bowling Green? What about bourbon from your area or beer from Cincinnati? As long as I don't have to put on the Big Red costume. Speaking of mascots, have you ever seen our Blue Blob? Look him up if you have not, because I think he's a very very distant (3 hours down the road distant) cousin of Big Red.
FK: Do you see any way the Hilltoppers can pull the huge upset on Saturday?
CC: With the momentum that Xavier has right now, I just don't see it. Xavier was on fire against Dayton and has played a complete team game both on offense and defense recently. I think Saturday's game is actually going to be close through the first half with Xavier taking a seven point lead into halftime. Then in the second half Xavier will slowly pull away but never blow the doors off. That's what happened against Northern Kentucky and I see it happening again. Bluiett will score 18 points and Farr will scoop up 10 rebounds to lead Xavier to a 80-70 win.
Thanks to Caleb for answering my silly questions, and if you're so inclined, you can check out the Q&A I did with BotP here.
The Tops and Musks (is that how they shorten it? I'm going to say yes) will tip-off tonight at 7:30 CT and will be televised for the entire nation on Fox Sports 1.