Conversation with Dana and Victory

By:  Michael Weber
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The Freak - Damian Saunders
It's almost here...A HUGE home game at the AJ Palumbo Center quasi-home-game at the Consol Energy Center.  It's 8-1 Xavier v. 8-1 Duquesne for first place in the A10.  In trying to break down this matchup a little closer, I decided to have a little chat with "Dana and Victory" about the Xavier Musketeers.  Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to elaborate on whether some snuggies will be in attendance on Sunday.  But, apparently George Clooney is a Xavier fan now.  Who knew?  Eh, who needs Clooney when we have the professor, John Clayton from ESPN, on our side?  Enough chit-chat...and onto the convo: 

Join us after the jump for the questions/answers!
1 - Tu Holloway has obviously gone through a huge transformation from being a freshman whom I saw play at Duquesne like a deer in the headlights to my favorite for A10 Player of the Year.  What has allowed him to flourish under Chris Mack this season?

Holloway began his freshman season with a sequence of very credible performances (he was 10-10 from the line in an early upset of Missouri) but suffered a stress fracture that limited his action, and struggled mightily down the stretch.  There were a lot of rumblings that Sean Miller was very hard on the young PG, and with Mark Lyons becoming eligible the next season there were even some rumors that Tu might leave the program.  I think Tu's relationship with Chris Mack is much better and has allowed him the freedom to really build the team in his own image.  I get the idea that the player and coach have a high trust level, as seen in games like Richmond and Georgia where Tu started very slowly and took over in the second half.  My view is that no matter how good Jordan Crawford was last year, Holloway was the on-court general.  This year he's stepped into the role of primary scorer in addition to his distribution duties, and has been a complete revelation.

2 - Obviously Xavier was hurt early in the season by injuries, ineligible players and a short bench.  But, they seem to be hitting their stride right now with a fairly dominant win over Georgia earlier this week.  What exactly did this team figure out as the season went on?

Xavier has had to change its offensive philosophy due to alterations in personnel during the last two offseasons.  First, they adjusted to a baseline runner system to fit Jordan Crawford's special abilities.  This past offseason, they had to adjust to Crawford's departure and the loss of their most reliable 3-point threats.  I think this team just took awhile to grow into its skin.  The fortunate thing is that they only suffered one questionable loss before conference play (Miami of Ohio away) and now have built enough of a resume to assure postseason play.

3 - Even going back to the Sato years at Xavier, Duquesne has been somewhat of a thorn in Xavier's side.  I believe Xavier has lost their last two trips to Pittsburgh, one of which was as the #9 ranked team.  Why has Duquesne been able to beat a much more talented and experienced team when they make it to the Steel City?

Your guess is as good as mine on this one.  Duquesne as Xavier's bogey team stretches back to the Prosser years.
4 - What will come first:  (1) The end of the world or (2) Dayton winning a game in Cincinnati?

UD will eventually win in Cincinnati, if for no other reason than the Xavier players are carrying the pressure of the streak on their backs.  But if Gregory sticks around, it could be awhile.

5 - As with all Duquesne games, fans are concerned about how our smaller, quicker lineup can handle taller teams.  How do you think Xavier will try to exploit this?  Will Frease be a dominant player or will he be forced to the bench if the game gets into a track meet?

Frease will struggle if the game becomes a track meet.  X has struggled quite a bit with teams that come with a smaller, mobile lineup (Charlotte, GW) and put shooters at all five positions.  Frease is very much a traditional 5 and isn't really equipped to run the floor.  The problem is that Lyons and Holloway are extremely effective in transition, so speeding up the game could be a double edged sword.

6 - How do you see the A10 First Team shaking down?

Holloway has got to be Player of the Year, right?  I think Nicholson and Harper are also locks.  The Dukes have to have someone on there, I'm guessing Saunders on name recognition.  No one for Temple has impressed that much.  The fifth spot -- I don't know, maybe Kevin Anderson, Bill Clark, Ramone Moore would be contenders?

7 - A10 Coach of the Year Race is basically down to Everhart and Mack.  Who wins it and why?

Much as I respect Ron Everhart, I think Mack should be COY regardless of what happens Sunday.  The graduation, injury, and eligibility losses XU has overcome this season are pretty ferocious.  We've been playing effectively with six and a half players for the majority of the season.  Still, Everhart deserves a ton of credit for what Duquesne has accomplished this year.  Maybe they should split it.

8 - Sunday's game will be at the Consol Energy Center and not the AJ Palumbo Center.  Does it make a difference?  How many Xavier fans do you think will make the trip?

From message board postings and what I hear around town, there are a lot of XU fans going up -- a thousand at least.  I do think the venue makes a big difference -- although Duquesne has played at Consol enough that it won't be unfamiliar territory, the size of the arena and crowd composition may well dilute the home court advantage Duquesne would enjoy at Palumbo.  If that makes sense.

9 - Winner of this one go on to win the regular season title?

If Xavier wins, yes -- X really has only one tossup left on the schedule and that's the rivalry game at Dayton.  If Duquesne wins, I'm not sure it's a fait accompli because Duquesne still has to go to Richmond.

10 - What's your gut feeling on this one?

Xavier has played much better in "big" conference games than its contests against the league's also-rans.  So I expect a much better showing than the lackluster efforts against GW, SLU, Charlotte recently.  By the same token, anyone with half a brain in the Duquesne camp knows this is the Dukes' biggest -- perhaps only -- opportunity to build a resume worthy of at-large consideration.  So I expect both teams to be focused and ready to roll.  My gut feeling is that Xavier wins, but I'm not sure I can support that conclusion using any sort of statistical evidence.  Duquesne is one of those teams that the advanced matrics love and all the prediction systems like them by three or four possessions.  So I'm taking the Muskies despite my better judgment, under the impression that Holloway will come up big and that Mack will have something up his sleeve to combat the Dukes' uptempo attack.