In a season where nearly every team around the country has suffered a rather inexplicable loss, No. 5 Xavier had been one of the few constants which could claim no such defeat.
That’s no longer the case.
The Musketeers suffered a rather surprising defeat at home at the hands of unranked Georgetown, 81-72. And, to be honest, this one was pretty much all Hoyas.
D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera owned this game from the tip, scoring 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting and dishing out seven assists. He was the calm, cool, composed presence in the face of what can be a swarming Xavier defense, currently ranked in the top 10 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rating. Next to him in the backcourt, Tre Campbell scored 21 on the back of five 3s. The Hoyas were only the second group this season to shoot better than 50 percent from the field against that stout Musketeers defense.
On the other side, Chris Mack’s group just couldn’t get anything going offensively. They only made 35 percent of their shots as a whole, including only 35 percent from inside the arc. Really, only Myles Davis and Trevon Bluiett were threats offensively throughout the night, as Georgetown stifled drives from Edmond Sumner and Remy Abell. The Hoyas also did a pretty solid job on the glass against one of the best teams in the country there, only allowing James Farr and Jalen Reynolds to combine for 10 total boards, including only three on the offensive side.
For the Hoyas, this is the kind of season-changing victory they needed. They’re now 12-7 with one of the odder resumes in college hoops. They have victories against Xavier on the road, Syracuse at home and a neutral site win over Wisconsin. However, they’ve fallen to Radford and UNC Asheville, and also have further losses to teams like Villanova, Duke, Maryland, Monmouth and Creighton.
Maybe this victory will help this establish some sort of consistency. The schedule doesn’t get any easier, as they travel to Connecticut on Saturday, then have home tilts against Creighton and Providence, followed by road games against Butler and Seton Hall. Each one of those games is losable. But given the performance we saw Tuesday, those games are all also winnable. We’ll likely know by the end of the first week of February if Georgetown can mount a charge to the NCAA tournament after getting through this slate of games.
On the other side, I honestly just think this says more about Georgetown being able to catch anyone than it says anything about Xavier being in trouble. Good teams lose sometimes, even at home. The Musketeers still have one of the better resumes in college hoops, and are still trending toward one of the top three seed lines in the NCAA tournament.
One thing to watch for, though: This group at Xavier allows the opposition to get off an awful lot of 3s. Xavier allows the opposition to shoot from distance on 41 percent of its attempts, which 327th in the nation. Given that 3-point defense is best measured by how often teams shoot them rather than by 3-point percentage, it’s a part of the Musketeers game that could catch up with them in a bad way come NCAA tournament time. And realistically, it has already happened twice against Villanova and against the Hoyas.
There’s time to clean that up. Overall, it’s still a terrific start to the season that just had a nasty little bump in the road against a talented opponent.