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VUSports Big East Preview: Xavier

Broc Libra breaks down Xavier in the penultimate installment of his Big East basketball preview ...

The college basketball season starts tonight.  I’ve predicted the following Big East standings so far:

3. Creighton

4: Seton Hall

5: Butler

6: Georgetown

7: Providence

8: St. John's

9: Marquette

10: DePaul  

With the team I predict to finish 2nd, I go to Ohio and the Xavier Musketeers. 

2015 – 2016 season

Depending on who you talk to, Xavier either had a fantastic year or a disappointing year. On one hand, they won 28 games, a feat that Xavier has only done 2 other times in their history (2007-2008 & 1989-1990) and neither of those seasons were done in the Big East. They were ranked for all but 2 weeks during the season, hit a high of 5th a few times and ended at 9th. On the other hand, they lost to Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament and lost in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament to Wisconsin on a buzzer beater. A very successful regular reason but an very unexpected tournament result. 

Who left from last year?

This list could have been a lot worse but two players decided to come back after going through the draft process. The seniors who graduated were solid but mostly role players in Remy Abell (6 points a game) and James Farr (11/8). Farr actually had very good advanced analytics but he only played 21 minutes a game. Next, Jalen Reynolds left and while many people feel his loss was tough, it could be an addition by subtraction scenario as Reynolds averaged 10/6.5 in only 19 minutes a game, but averaged over 3 fouls a game. Lastly, back-up PG Larry Austin Jr. left for Vanderbilt and little used big man Makinde London transferred to UTC.  Also, while not from last year, big man Eddie Ekiyor “grey-shirted” but he left before he even played a game for Xavier.  

Who is new?

Xavier has 4 newcomers, which include a 5th year transfer, an eligible transfer and 2 true freshman. The 5th year transfer is Malcolm Bernard who played last year at Florida A&M. Bernard is a 6 ft 5 guard who averaged 14.4 points a game in the MEAC last year. The eligible transfer is big man Rashid Gaston. Originally from Ohio, he played 3 years at Norfolk St and averaged 16/10 as a junior, but transferred back to his home state as he sat last year and only has one year left of eligibility. The two true freshman are PG Quentin Goodin and PF Tyrique Jones. Goodin is explosive, just like his counterpart Edmond Sumner and Tyrique Jones will provide good depth off the bench.

Who’s returning?

Xavier has almost their entire backcourt back for another year. Leading the way is junior wing Trevon Bluiett who is a match-up nightmare as he can play anywhere from the 2-4. He averaged 15 and 6 last year and will likely up those numbers for this upcoming year, likely his last at Xavier. Xavier’s other star is Edmond Sumner, a 6 ft 5 sophomore PG who averaged 11 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists a game. He’s long and fast and this will also likely be his last season at Xavier as he’s projected to be a top 20 pick in the NBA draft next season. Other returning players include Myles Davis, who seems like he’s been at Xavier forever, but he’s suspended “indefinitely” so we’ll see when he comes back.  Also back is JP Macura, who had a rough off season, but is key at the top of Xavier’s 1-3-1 zone with his long arms and ability to get steals. Also returning is Kaiser Gates, a 6 ft 8 athletic forward who just underwent knee surgery and will likely be out about a month. Lastly, little used  junior center Sean O’Mara will be in line for a much bigger role and will likely improve on his 3 points and 2 rebounds a game. 

Big OOC games

Xavier’s schedule is solid as it’s pact with solid teams, but no one spectacular. They play in the Puerto Rico Tip Off tournament and start with Missouri, and could also play Clemson, Davidson, Arizona State, Northern Iowa, Tulane and Oklahoma. They also play @ Baylor, @ Cincinnati, and @ Colorado, and home vs. Utah and Wake Forest. They also play Eastern Washington, North Dakota St, Northern Iowa, Buffalo and Lehigh. 

Final predictions

Starting 5:

PG – Edmond Sumner (SO – 6 ft 6)

SG – JP Macura (JR – 6 ft 5)

SF – Malcolm Bernard (SR – 6 ft 5)

SF – Trevon Bluiett (JR - 6 ft 6)

C – Sean O’Mara (JR - 6 ft 10)

Remaining rotation (in anticipated order)

SG – Myles Davis (SR – 6 ft 2) – will likely start when his suspension is lifted

SG– Kaiser Gates (SO – 6 ft 8) – will likely start once returning from injury

C– RaShid Gaston (SR – 6 ft 9)

PG – Quentin Goodin (FR - 6 ft 3)

PF – Tyrique Jones (SR – 6 ft 6)

SF – Tim Stainbrook (JR – 6 ft 9) – former walkon

Final Thoughts:

For Xavier, it’s really building off of the momentum they had last year. There’s a ton of talent on this team : They shot the ball well, they got to the line a ton, they rebounded well, passed well and scored the ball very well. While they gave up a lot of points, they played at such a high pace that their advanced defensive numbers were solid. They turned the ball over quite a bit and sometimes relied more on outscoring teams rather than playing good solid defense, whether it was disruptive man to man, or that killer 1-3-1 zone. Xavier, also at times, really let things bother them, which included the game against Villanova when Sumner went down with an injury and they just stopped playing; a team that talented shouldn’t do that as they’re just too good. With their solid, but not spectacular schedule, they should do very well and content for not only a Big East title, but also a birth in the Sweet 16, Elite 8, or even beyond. 

OOC – 12-1 

Big East – 13-5

Combined – 25-6

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