*This is the second installment in a series of articles looking at the top preseason storylines for Xavier basketball heading into the 2016-17 season.*
Xavier announced on Thursday evening that head coach Chris Mack had suspended fifth-year senior guard Myles Davis indefinitely. It's a move that could have an impact on the Musketeers' 2016-17 season and an even bigger one on Davis' final year on campus.
There aren't enough details known at this time to fully assess the situation. We're not sure what Davis did and we don't know how long he'll be suspended.
All Xavier offered was the following via a press release:
"Myles Davis is suspended indefinitely from all basketball-related activities,” said Mack. “Playing basketball for Xavier is a privilege and we have high expectations for how our student-athletes represent our university. Unless Myles meets those expectations he will not be a part of our program."
Due to student privacy laws, Xavier will not have any further comment until there is a change in Myles' status.
We do know that Mack has suspended two players indefinitely before, Kenny Frease and Jalen Reynolds, for not "living up to the expectations of a Xavier student-athlete." Frease was suspended prior to the team's first practice on October 14 before the 2011-12 season and made it back on October 23 before the first exhibition game. Reynolds was suspended in the middle of the 2013-14 season on January 28 and missed two games, returning on February 8.
Davis' matters could be more complicated. In addition to whatever actions induced the suspension, he's also facing multiple misdemeanor criminal damaging charges from incidents over the summer involving his ex-girlfriend. It's impossible to predict when he might be reinstated, but clearly Xavier has used the indefinite suspension in the past as a way to keep the door open for players to earn their way back onto the team.
In terms of how it affects the Musketeers if he misses games, the two main factors will be the depth problems it creates for Xavier's backcourt and the fact that it removes a consistent 3-point threat from the lineup.
Davis would have been penciled into the starting 2-guard role that he held last year, playing alongside Edmond Sumner. Though he's not a lead guard, he was a capable ballhandler and good passer that could serve at the point position in a pinch. With him, Xavier has three guards including Sumner and Goodin, plus a pair of wings that can play the 2 in JP Macura and Malcolm Bernard, though Goodin and Bernard are unproven. Without Davis, Sumner and Goodin are the team's only primary ballhandlers and Mack will have to rely on both Goodin and Bernard to play important minutes. If anyone faced serious foul trouble or an injury, the depth chart would become an issue. Also, not having a player that shot over 38 percent from 3-point range each of the last two seasons and hit plenty of big shots in key games could cost the Musketeers' offense on bad shooting nights.
Davis was also the team's most experienced returning player. As a fifth-year senior, his leadership and influence would have been nice to have around the team, particularly during the opening weeks of practice.
Assuming Davis does miss games, the most likely scenario is that Xavier slides Macura to the two, Bluiett to the three, and Gates to the four with Sumner running the point and one of the bigs starting at center. This doesn't change the personnel in terms of still having three shooters on the court together at the same time to space the floor, and it also adds a little extra length and athleticism. Davis' absence will certainly create more competition in early season practices, though, with Macura, Goodin, Gates, and Bernard all fighting to pick up the extra minutes available.
The flip side of all this if you're looking for a reason to be optimistic is perhaps Davis being out forces Mack to throw Goodin to the wolves more often instead of easing him into college hoops, which could accelerate his learning curve. Given that a backcourt of Sumner and Goodin could be a nightmarish matchup for certain opponents, this may actually be an important development later in the season for the team.
For Davis, that's where he could really be costing himself.
Last year, he was approaching 30 minutes per game and it's hard to imagine he would have lost any of that playing time if he performed to the same standard we've come to expect from him. Now, depending on how long the suspension lasts, he may be giving talented players an opportunity to showcase how well the team runs without him on the floor. He won't lose his spot, but he may sacrifice some of his minutes if Goodin ends up being a Sumner- or Semaj Christon-level freshman. Or, Macura and Gates prove that they need to be on the floor a lot more often at the same time. Or, Bernard ends up being a lockdown defender on the wing.
Not only is Davis putting himself through turmoil and shortening his senior season, he could realistically be costing himself minutes for when he returns.
His indefinite suspension isn't the end of the world, but it should serve as a major wakeup call. Frease and Reynolds both returned and played well following their suspensions. The Musketeers have enough talent to survive this situation, but Davis is costing himself and his teammates.