1. If you were Duquesne Head Coach Ron Everhart what would be your game plan to upset Xavier?
Duquesne’s style of play should help them Thursday night because Drew Lavender (pictured right) is clearly not 100% Towards the end of the Rhody game Monday night, it was very clear his ankle was bothering him (He rolled it very badly against Charlotte last week). After the game Monday night Sean Miller said Drew’s ankle was at “50%” Because he is our only natural ball handler I’d be surprised if the press didn’t cause us a few problems. Obviously, I don’t want any of our players to get injured, but Drew would be #1 on the list of players I don’t want hurt. Xavier tends to go as Drew goes. College basketball is already a game of spurts as it is and they will be even more magnified with the Dukes up-tempo style. Although Duquesne needs to be careful about fouling because the Muskies lead the A-10 in free throw percentage. After perusing your blog it does not appear as though the Dukes like to play zone. This makes sense as it slows down the game, but Xavier has not played well against zone most of the year. When teams play man defense, X tends to be able to pick it apart over the course of the game because of the great balance throughout the team. I would advise Coach Everhart to do what you do best, though. Keep the game as fast paced as possible.
2. Xavier does not have any 1 player who averages more than 12 points per game, how are the Musketeers able to be such a successful team without relying on a star player for consistent scoring?
It truly has been a joy to watch Xavier play this season. They epitomize the word “team.” I think the answer is simple. They have just bought into the entire team concept of making the extra pass and deferring to the player who is hot during that particular game. Lately Josh Duncan (pictured right) has been on a tear. He hasn’t missed a shot the past two games for crying out loud. I believe most of the credit for this balanced attack should go to Sean Miller. It’s the coach’s job to make sure the team plays as one singular unit. And it’s not just on the offensive end either. We normally play solid man-to-man with great help defense principles. The biggest and most pleasant surprise of the year has been Stanley Burrell’s commitment to defense. He has more or less shut down Eric Gordon, Chris Lofton, Sean Singletary, Brian Roberts and Jimmy Baron.
3. Pittsburghers are familiar with Sean Miller from his time playing at Pitt. Miller has had tremendous success in his short time at Xavier, where would you say he ranks right now amongst past Xavier coaches?
He’s fast on his way to becoming one of the best in Xavier history. It really depends on how long he wants to stay in Cincinnati. He signed a big extension last summer and has given every indication that he is happy and fully committed to Xavier University. Couple that with a top 25 recruiting class for next year and I really can’t see him leaving soon. There isn’t one Xavier fan that doesn’t love Sean Miller right now. The Cincinnati Enquirer recently had an online fan poll about the state of all the local sport’s teams and Xavier had the most satisfied fan base giving Sean Miller almost a unanimous vote of confidence. If he were to stay here for most/all of his career, then I can’t see him going down as anything other than the best coach in Xavier history.
4. Duquesne features two talented big men, Shawn James and Kieron Achara. What do you think the Musketeers will do to stop the Dukes' post players?
Forgive me for sounding pretty arrogant here, but ever since Xavier destroyed Kansas State and held Michael Beasley to his lowest point total of the season (5) I have not been too worried about any teams big men. Of course, this doesn’t mean they can’t and won’t have big nights. Derrick Brown, Jason Love and Josh Duncan are the big men for Xavier and I have confidence they can go up against anyone in the country. I am worried about James’s shot blocking ability, though, because I am sure he alters just as many shots as he blocks. However, Xavier doesn’t penetrate into the lane that often. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact Shawn James has Thursday night.
5. The Dukes have been able to upset Xavier a number of times in recent memory, any chance Duquesne can pull an upset Thursday night? What would have to happen for an upset to occur?
Ahhhh yes. I remember specifically in the '03-'04 Elite 8 year for Xavier, Duquesne beat us both times, once in late February, which was our one loss in 17 games until the refs beat us in the Duke Elite 8 game. But the Dukes have as good a chance as any A10 team to hand us an upset loss this Thursday. For one, our last 4 A10 games have been VERY close games that went down to the wire. Also, the Dukes have a high scoring balanced team. This is good, because Stanley Burrell has a reputation for taking teams' high scorers and shutting them down. Josh Duncan has been playing very well as of late, but with Xavier's balanced scoring, you can't just say “let’s work on shutting Josh down and we'll be fine." A good 2-3 zone would do Duquesne good against X, as we have had trouble penetrating that particular defense recently. Xavier has also been prone to turning the ball over to some good full-court traps when senior Drew Lavender (a one-man press-break) doesn't have the ball. Play with heart and try to catch these Muskies off-guard, as it is VERY difficult to win at the Cintas Center...but the Dukes have done it before.
Thanks for your candid answers Patrick.
Be sure to check out College Chalktalk's Staff Predictions for the Duquesne Xavier game.