The Xavier game this weekend will likely mark the last time many of us will see Josh Benson and Kevin Dillard in the red and blue (royal blue?). No one can blame you. This team lacks so many of the qualities that usually attracted us to previous UD squads: heart, personality, a sense of unity, Keith Waleskowski. The only highlight I can even recall at this moment is Dyshawn Pierre’s perfect shooting performance against Boston College in the Charleston Classic. That was back in mid-November.
On the flip side, there isn’t much to this Xavier team either. There’s no imagined villain like Tu Holloway or Stanley Burrell. The Musketeers aren’t the class of the conference and there doesn’t even seem to be any bad blood between the two schools. In short, the only compelling aspect of this specific game is the manufactured rivalry between the two schools. Two different uniform colors.
This is depressing.
Our Overlords have been taking care of business since defeating your Flyers last month. X racked up wins against both Fordham and Duquesne and lost a nail-biter on the road to Richmond. Currently tied for third in the league, the Muskies roll into the Gem City with a 14-9 record, sitting 7-3 in conference play.
This is a rare encounter for Xavier as this particular game holds more meaning for them than Dayton; usually it’s the other way around. For once, UD is the team with nothing to lose (and nothing to gain really, but play along) and Xavier is the team that needs to come out and get the victory to build their waning tournament profile.
The Overlords have seven games left on their schedule, needing to pick up some quality wins along the way. Fortunately, there are plenty of worthy opportunities out there for X. VCU comes to Cincinnati next weekend, Saint Louis visits Cintas during the first week of March, and the Muskies close out their season on the road against Butler. Mix in four winnable matchups – at Dayton and Rhode Island and visits from UMass and Memphis – and on paper (at least) Xavier seems to have a fairly tenable path to the postseason. (For the record, Ken Pom has the Muskies finishing up 17-13 – winning just two games here on out, against UMass and Rhody).
This is not to say anyone, including yours truly, has any confidence that the Overlords will pull it off and go something like 5-2 to conclude their final stretch of the season. The smart money would clearly be against Xavier. This has been a rare edition of the Musketeers – unable to close out games, losing by three to Pacific in an early season tournament, going down by a point to Wofford, handed a defeat in overtime at Vanderbilt and losing tight ones on the road against Tennessee and Wake Forest. Previous Overlord squads pull most of these games out, this year’s listless club did not.
However, what would be more “Xavier” than closing out the season on a run, slipping into the dance and inexplicably reaching the Sweet 16? (Of course nothing would be even more “Xavier” than the Muskies shitting the bed like a sorority girl on diet pills, going 1-6, and subsequently winning the A10 tournament).
Meet and Greet
You should know the characters to this story by now.
Chris Mack and his delectable wife run the enterprise. They are very hands on, Mrs. Mack is incorrigible really (I’m still in the process of organizing my “College Coaches’ Wives Calendar. Got Christi slated for July, thinking red, white and blue bikini with suggestive hotdog.)
Semaj Christon is the talented guard, a young kid who has risen to the challenge, the type of recruit Dayton has yet to wrangle. Imagine if Chris Wright panned out, that’s Christon. If Dez Wells was allowed to stick around, well sir, that would have been a fairly talented tandem.
Brad Redford is the sharpshooter that defecates with the lights off. His only crime, like Mitt Romney’s, is in being white. Black guys that just shoot threes never get picked on. We are all living in the wrong era. I miss America sometimes.
You have Dee Davis, a more talented Stephen Thomas that hurts you when you least expect it. He’s like love in that way.
Travis Taylor is the lunch pail guy. He grabs boards, scores on put backs and fights in parking lots. He carries a lot of cash yet doesn’t have a checking account. He doesn’t know the legal names of his three closest friends.
Justin Martin is still a sophomore, not quite ready for prime time. He’s Natalie Portman in The Professional (you snobs can call it Leon if you must). “Okay, there’s some potential there” you think to yourself. “Some day, some day soon” you inform your penis. Then a few years go by, you sit down to watch Closer, and it’s like, “Nah, it’s still kinda creepy.” (I maintain that Natalie Portman remains the only female celebrity that seems totally jackable to, yet inexplicably doesn’t translate masturbatorily.)
Isiah Philmore is the hot chick that looks great on Facebook but shows up to the bar with an extra 30 pounds and her “ex-boyfriend.” Good thing Chili’s has boneless wings, friend, because you’re going to need a double order. You know the drill. Tell your date you left your phone in the car. Take off, drive to your ex-girlfriend’s house, sit outside and sob uncontrollably.
Erik Stenger is the kid that kept playing basketball because his father made him. “Look at me now, Dad!” he screams. “I made it.” If only his Dad could roll off his housekeeper to pick up the phone. He pays all the bills and keeps things discreet; he’s earned this dalliance, Erik. It’s time to live your life.
“It’s been 32 years since Dayton won in Cincinnati. 32 McDonald’s Big Macs stacked on top of each other would be as high as 3 card tables.”
This is a tough one. Although I know this is technically Dayton’s turn to win, and Xavier hasn’t exactly set the world on fire this season, I trust this Dayton team about as much as I trusted you to get to the end of this post. My gut is telling me X wins another crunch-timer, 65-63. Archie goes home, pulls out a laminated copy of his contract and sleeps easily, a content smile from ear to ear.