Every day there are three things. Here are those three things.
1) Mack's mark. It might have come harder than it should have, but with Xavier's win over a pesky St. John's team at the Cintas Center last night, Chris Mack earned his 203th career victory, making him XU's all-time leader in wins.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Two things come to mind when Chris Mack's name is mentioned...
That he's the most down-to-earth accomplished sports figure I've ever been around, and one of my favorite persons to interview.
That he didn't just take the mantle from his predecessors, but pushed the program further, raising its profile nationally, playing a brand of ball that's become pretty identifiable with the program itself, and even though his name is mentioned when other jobs come open, he's steadied a coaching position that was once, in part, defined by either turnover or the threat of it. (Seemingly is an important word here. Prior to Chris taking over, Xavier had three coaches in 15 years. Chaos wasn't exactly reigning supreme on Victory Parkway, but you get the point)
Nothing against the guys who preceded Chris Mack, but it feels like no XU coach has been as identified with and connected to the school as Chris has. Longevity helps that. Being from here does too.
Most importantly, so does winning.
2) Holtmann's heroes. We don't talk much about Ohio State basketball around here, for reasons that are both legit and not-so legit. But the season the Buckeyes are having deserves a mention, even if it's just in a poorly-written, seldom-read blog like mine.
OSU was picked in an official preseason media poll, to finish in 11th place in the Big Ten. Seven games into their league schedule, the Buckeyes have yet to lose, with last night's victory over Northwestern making Chris Holtmann the first coach in 95 years to win his first seven Big Ten games.
The league is not great this season. It's NFL-like in how large its middle is and how indistinguishable most of the teams in it are. And OSU has feasted on some of their less-inspiring conference foes. But for a program that has seemingly lost its way over the final few seasons of Thad Matta's run, the season they're having - which includes a decisive win over then-number one Michigan State is noteworthy for a few reasons.
Chief among them is the season oft-injured Keita Bates-Diop is having, playing as efficiently as any big man in the country.
Also on the list is how Holtmann ended up with the job after we did the requisite debate about whether Chris Mack or Mick Cronin would take the gig before mentioning all of the big names that might be lured to Columbus, then wondering if Greg McDermott would take the gig before shrugging our shoulders when Holtmann finally emerged as OSU's choice. He wasn't the obvious choice, but he was the right one.
And he's not only breathed much-needed life into a program that needed it, he might be the national coach of the year.
(An opinion that will be shot down withing seven seconds of me hitting publish.)
3) Flyers fall. I haven't devoted much space to my alma mater's hoops squad this season. In part because UD is not that good. In part because complaining about them not being good would ring a little hollow given how successful the previous four years were. In part because every time there's a performance like Friday's 27-point win over VCU, there's the turd they Flyers laid last night in losing to St. Joe's by 16.
Dayton is a team with no clear identity and few identifiable strengths. They're capable of playing well together for tantalizingly short stretches, but not nearly good enough to sustain any kind of success.
And the coaching staff seems a little slow to adjust to what the opponent is doing.
Anthony Grant walked into a tough situation, replacing a popular, successful coach with most of the program's mainstays having moved on. It would've been unfair to expect another NCAA Tournament appearance this season, but I did hope that by now, I'd be seeing enough improvement to make me think that the final month and a half could be interesting.
Every time I allow myself to think that that's happening, I watch a game like last night's.
Radio Show: James has my show on ESPN1530. I have Lance's on 700WLW. Talk to you at 6:05.
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