Xavier shows toughness in early-season games 

November, 24, 2008
11/24/08
11:21
AM ET
Winning early-season games against quality competition is as much a function of a team's toughness as anything else. After five weeks of practice, most teams are still fiddling with lineups, role definition and how they will incorporate new players into their system. Offensive and defensive execution are often sloppy early in the year, as well. Most teams are operating at about 70 percent efficiency and will improve over the course of the season.

A coach's hope is that he can win games while still developing the culture of that season's team. It helps if he has enough veterans who have been through hard-fought games in the past to teach the newcomers what it takes to win close games. Xavier, despite losing three key players from last season's Elite Eight team, won the Puerto Rico Classic on Sunday night by grinding out three wins throughout the tournament over Missouri, Virginia Tech and No.12 Memphis with that formula.

All three of the Musketeers' victories came down to the final possession, and in each case they found a way to win. In two of the wins, they shot less than 40 percent from the field. Memphis held them to 2-for-14 3-point shooting, and Missouri forced 20 Xavier turnovers. But they were aggressive enough to get to the free-throw line an average of 34 times each game.