Thursday, November 1, 2012

Previews in the paint: Xavier Musketeers

After a season filled with ups (#8 national ranking at one point) and downs (the brawl to end them all in the Crosstown Shootout), the Musketeers are entering what many might call a "rebuilding year," basically a euphemism for "Just don't embarrass us, please."

Coach Mack loses Tu Holloway and Kenny Frease to graduation, Mark Lyons to Arizona, and Dezmine Wells to sexual assault charges. That's 77.5 percent of Xavier's scoring, 69.1 percent of its rebounding, 85.0 percent of its assists, 76.6 percent of its made field goals, and 69.4 percent of the team's total minutes played.

How does a program recover from such a purging?

Coach Mack says that the squad will have to move away from relying on the few and focus more on the unit.

Transfer Isaiah Philmore and freshman Semaj Christon will bring fresh talent to the Musketeers' squad, but three veterans still remain in Cincinnati. Guard Brad Redford (3.3 ppg, 11.4 mpg), forward Jeff Robinson (3.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg), and forward Travis Taylor (4.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg) will have to build the team's core. Redmond is considered one of the best pure shooters in the country, but the former Mr. Basketball in Michigan only played seven scoreless minutes in Xavier's three NCAA tournament games last season.

Taylor showed great play during non-conference matchups last year, but was largely irrelevant in the A-10 season (6.8 ppg and 6 rebounds against non-conference teams, a tough schedule for Xavier, but only 4.2 and 2.9 in the A-10).

Xavier's extreme loss of talent makes Philmore's arrival the brightest spot of the 2012-2013 campaign.  Transferring from Townson University in Maryland, he lead the Tigers in scoring with 15.3 ppg and was second in rebounding (7.0 rpg) as a sophomore.  Standing at six feet, eight inches, Philmore will earn minutes quickly because of his ability to create mismatches.

Semaj Christian is a local player who many feel should step in and run the point, but Mack seems determined that sophomore Dee Davis will control Xavier's backcourt.

Given the rebuilding job ahead, the always tough non-conference schedule (Butler, a non-conference game schedule before the move to the A-10, Cincinnati, Purdue, Wake Forest, and Tennessee, among others this season) is not going to play in the Musketeers' favor.

This is the first season in some time that Xavier fans will not have a star to entrust with the game: no Tu Holloway, no Jordan Crawford, not Derrick Brown, etc. The Atlantic-10 is stronger than ever, and it is likely Xavier will find a home in the middle of the pack. 

Despite all the challenges ahead, it's important to remember that Xavier has found a way into the NCAA Tournament 11 time in the past 12 years.

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