Sunday's loss to Wisconsin turned the focus from the current Xavier team to the 2016-17 Musketeers sooner than expected. And while the recency of Team 94's early exit in the NCAA Tournament still stings for fans, there's plenty of reason for optimism when looking ahead to next year.
In addition to bringing back most of the core from this year's team, the Musketeers will add four new faces to their roster next season, and all four will help improve the team's overall athleticism, defense, and toughness.
Here's a refresher on the four new Xavier players that will be available for Chris Mack and his staff next season:
RaShid Gaston (6-9, 240) - A transfer from Norfolk State that practiced with the team this year, Gaston showed the toughness and strength to be a standout defender while going up against Jalen Reynolds and James Farr every day. He came in known as a good rebounder and working against two of the best rebounders in the Big East all year only made him better. His offensive game also improved while working with big man's coach Mike Pegues for a whole year, and he'll have the benefit of another offseason to prepare, but the strength of his game is definitely his defense and toughness. Gaston only has one year of eligibility left.
Eddie Ekiyor (6-8, 232) - A freshman that arrived on campus in January and practiced with the team for the second semester while redshirting, Ekiyor is another defensive-minded post player. Coming from Ottawa, he had a big adjustment period due to the level of competition at a high-major program, but he's settled in nicely. He's a fluid athlete with a really-long wingspan (like 7-foot-2), and he understands how to play hard. On offense, he's currently confident as a finisher around the rim, or in face-up situations where he uses his quickness to drive past less athletic defenders with a few dribbles.
Quentin Goodin (6-4, 185) - An incoming freshman from Taylor County High School in Kentucky, Goodin is a tremendous athlete with good size that can play either guard position. He has the skill-level to be a primary ballhandler, but he plays with a scorer's mentality. It's extremely difficult to keep him from getting into the lane and disrupting the defense, and he still has plenty of upside if he continues to improve his jumper. He averaged 22.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game this season. Xavier will have a lot of perimeter scoring next year, so the real question is how big will Goodin's learning curve be on defense? That's where he has the biggest opportunity to earn minutes as a freshman. He currently shows good instincts and playmaking ability on that end of the court, but the jump from high school to Big East competition is a big step up for anybody.
Tyrique Jones (6-7, 240) - An incoming freshman from Vermont Academy prep school, Jones is known for his athleticism and physical play. He has really good quickness for a forward, which will allow him to jump or switch on ball screens like XU wants to, and he's a great rebounder at both ends of the court. On offense, he too gets his points as a finisher around the rim or facing up and driving past guys. Jones averaged 16.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game this season in the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) while playing with and against multiple big-time prospects every night he stepped on the court.