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Preseason Preview: Xavier

Marquette Men's Basketball

Marquette Men’s Basketball

The first official practices of the 17-18 college basketball season are in the books and Paint Touches is celebrating by counting down every Marquette opponent from worst to first. Each preview will contain a look at how the opponent did last season, who they lose, who they gain, reasonable expectations for their season, and our own prediction of how their matchup(s) with Marquette will go. We make a return to the Big East to preview a team that Marquette swept last season, the Xavier Musketeers.

Team: Xavier Musketeers
16-17 Record: 24-15 (9-9 Big East)
Postseason?: Barely made the field as an 11 seed before going on a tear and making the Elite 8. Lost to eventual national runner up Gonzaga
16-17 KenPom: 31
Date: 12/27/17 & 01/24/18
Location: BMO Harris Bradley Center & Cintas Center (Cincinnati, OH)
Coach: Chris Mack (9th Season)
Projected KenPom Range: 10-30
Projected Conference Finish: 2/10 in the Big East

Departures from 16-17
Edmond Sumner: Starting PG: 33.1 mpg, 15.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 5.0 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.8 bpg, 2.8 tpg, .479 FG%, .273 3P% (Drafted 52nd overall by New Orleans)
Malcolm Bernard: Starting PF: 28.0 mpg, 6.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.5 tpg, .418 FG%, .393 3P% (Graduated)
RaShid Gaston: 2nd Man off the Bench: 18.2 mpg, 7.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 0.6 apg, 0.2 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.1 tpg, .590 FG%, .000 3P% (Graduated)
Myles Davis: Benchwarmer: 11.3 mpg, 0.7 ppg, 0.7 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.7 tpg, .000 FG%, .000 3P% (Only appeared in 3 games) (Dismissed midseason)
Tim Stainbrook: Benchwarmer: 2.8 mpg, 0.2 ppg, 0.2 rpg, 0.2 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.0 tpg, .200 FG%, .200 3P% (Only appeared in 13 games) (Graduated)
Alex Bergen: Benchwarmer: 1.0 mpg, 0.0 ppg, 0.3 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 tpg, .000 FG%, .000 3P% (Only appeared in 7 games) (Graduated)
Cullen Barr: Benchwarmer: 0.9 mpg, 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 tpg, .000 FG%, .000 3P% (Only appeared in 9 games) (Graduated)
Connor Peterson: Benchwarmer: 0.9 mpg, 0.0 ppg, 0.3 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 tpg, .000 FG%, .000 3P% (Only appeared in 8 games) (Left team for personal reasons)
30% of scoring, 34% of rebounding, 34% of assists, 32% of steals, 48% of blocks, 22% of 3PM

Arrivals:
Paul Scruggs: 4.5-star PG, ranked #29 overall by 247Sports
Naji Marshall: 4-star SF, ranked #51 overall by 247Sports
Kerem Kanter: Graduate transfer PF from Green Bay
Elias Harden: 4-star SG, ranked #129 overall by 247Sports
Nick Vanderpohl: Walk on PG

Probable Starters:
PG: Quentin Goodin: 6-4 194 lb SO: 24.1 mpg, 5.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 3.4 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.9 tpg, .350 FG%, .255 3P%
SG: Paul Scruggs: 6-3 212 lb FR: 4.5-star PG, ranked #29 overall by 247Sports
SF: JP Macura: 6-5 203 lb SR: 33.5 mpg, 14.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.2 bpg, 2.0 tpg, .426 FG%, .340 3P%
PF: Trevon Bluiett: 6-6 198 lb SR: 35.1 mpg, 18.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.1 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.1 bpg, 2.2 tpg, .438 FG%, .371 3P%
C: Kaiser Gates: 6-8 228 lb JR: 21.0 mpg, 5.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.2 bpg, 0.7 tpg, .387 FG%, .339 3P%

Probable Bench:
Sean O’Mara: 6-10 244 lb SR C
Naji Marshall: 6-6 214 lb FR SF
Kerem Kanter: 6-10 240 lb SR PF
Tyrique Jones: 6-9 237 lb SO PF
Elias Harden: 6-5 183 lb FR SG

Probable Benchwarmers:
Leighton Schrand: 6-0 155 lb SO PG
Nick Vanderpohl: 6-1 170 lb FR PG

Notes:

• Most pundits thought that Edmond Sumner going down was what disrupted Xavier’s promising regular season. The schedule tells a different story. Xavier actually won the game that Sumner went down in and the next three. It wasn’t until Trevonn Blueitt was injured against Villanova, causing him to miss the next two games and play hurt for the rest of the regular season, that things started to come off the wheels. Xavier lost the next six in a row, only recovering to beat DePaul on the road to keep their postseason hopes alive. It was at this point that Blueitt was finally healthy again. They won two games in the BET before losing a close one to Creighton. As an 11 seed they marched through 6 seeded Maryland, decimated 3 seeded Florida State, and upset 2 seeded Arizona before running out of gas against Gonzaga. The Xavier of March is what this year’s team could be, not the team that lost 6 in a row while Bluiett was hurt. They do lose three and d specialist Malcom Bernard and RaShid Gaston, their man in the paint, but bring in the top ranked class in the Big East and a solid graduate transfer. Xavier is ready to make some noise again.
• First, second, and third priority for any scouting report on Xavier is going to be senior Trevon Bluiett. He ranks first on my personal of list of “Oh God, how has he not graduated yet” players. He is the rare type of player who can combine volume with efficiency on offense. His 18.5 points per game and 91 three pointers ranked near the top of the Big East in both categories. While jump shooting is his bread and butter, Blueitt also loves to attack off screens, run the pick and roll, and can even take his man in isolation, often pulling up in the mid-range for a cold swish. Defensively he isn’t as strong, though that might have to do with him consistently drawing defensive assignments that are lot bigger than he is because Coach Mack’s four guard offense. Still, Xavier will take the mismatch on defense because the advantage it creates on offense is well worth it. While Blueitt has games where he goes cold (his 0/10 performance against Georgetown and 3/14 showing in the Elite Eight) he is much more likely to explode. He had several 23+ point scoring outings and one 40-point game to his name last season. His competitive will to win makes him stand out as a leading candidate for Big East Player of the Year going into the season.
• JP Macura brings Xavier’s count of offensively strong, defensively questionable wings up to two. The former Big East 6th Man of the Year did an admirable job trying to lead the team while Blueitt was trying to overcome his injury, but he showed that he is at his best when he plays to role of Robin instead of Batman. Macura is a crafty wing whose main talent is shooting but has more than a few tools in his toolbelt. He especially shines in transition where some of his dunks have become a thing of legend. Though he doesn’t use it often, he is actually very good at taking defenders in isolation, scoring 42 points in only 35 possessions. However, he showed a complete ineptitude when running the pick and roll, generating an embarrassing 24 points in 56 possessions. On defense he is very disruptive with 1.4 steals per game, but his on ball ability is limited. His points per possession allowed ranked in the 16th percentile of all Division 1 players.
• The plan going into last season was clearly to develop Quentin Goodin slowly behind Edmond Sumner, preparing him to take over the reins in his second season like his predecessor did. Well, you know what they say about plans. Sumner’s injury meant Goodin was called up to the starting rotation and he responded well. In the final 18 games he averaged 7.7 points and 5.1 assists per game. Most teams would love that kind of stat line out of their PG. Goodin has the distribution skills but his scoring clearly needs some work. His eFG% was embarrassingly low and he had a few games where he clearly tried to force some things such as going 1/14 against Villanova. Defensively, Goodin was the best player Xavier had on the perimeter. He has a long wingspan for a point and uses that to shut down penetration and challenge jumpshots. Another year of development and Goodin should be ready to run the point all season.
• While not a center by any stretch of the imagination, Kaiser Gates may be end up being the largest player who ranks in the top 5 minutes getters for Xavier this season. Gates has size at 6-8 230ish, but he rarely plays like it. He is a jump shooter who uses his size to rise up over smaller defenders on the perimeter. 40 of his 63 made shots came from beyond the arc. He has no back to the basket game, in fact he only attempted 4 post up plays all season and scored 0 points. Defensively, he is similarly post avoidant. He spends more time guarding shooters on the perimeter than banging with the bigs. Unfortunately, he is a turnstile when it comes to quality ballhandlers so no matter where you put him, he is a defensive liability. His partner in the post, Sean O’Mara is a much more traditional big man. He spends all of his time in the paint and is an expert roll man. He excels at setting bone shattering picks and then rolling for easy dunks. Despite only getting about 14 minutes a game he averaged 6.1 points and 3 boards a game. On defense he is very good at defending other big men and altering shots from slashing guards. He is bound to the paint on that side as well, get him in the mid-range and he is easy to shoot over. O’Mara played a key role in their tournament run. He saw his playing time increase to 21 minutes a game and he averaged over 10 points and 5 rebounds a game.
• Xavier brings in the top rated 2017 class in the Big East….even after Jared Ridder and (most likely) Kentrevious Jones left the program. Paul Scruggs highlights the class after earning a 5-star rating by some services. Scruggs is a physically intimidating point guard from Indianapolis. He has a Big East ready body, strong playmaking skills, and a shot that’s getting better every day. Scruggs is joined by Naji Marshall, a top 100 wing with explosive athleticism and a love for finishing at the wing. Both players will have the chance to compete for starting roles in their first season. An interesting addition was graduate transfer Kerem Kanter. Kanter is the younger brother of New York Knick Center Enes Kanter. While not the player his brother is, Kerem did show some scoring and rebounding ability along with a soft shooting touch from the mid-range. His addition gives the Musketeers some size, and will hopefully allow for Gates to spend most of his time at the four instead of trying man the center position.

Prediction:

Marquette ran away with the first game against Xavier and comfortably led most of the second game. It must be noted that Sumner was absent for both games, Blueitt was too hurt to play in the first, and he was stilling nursing an injury in the second. Next season they should be at full strength and a much tougher opponent. I do like how Marquette matches up with Xavier. They are a high offense, porous defense type team with no true interior presence. If Marquette can keep Blueitt from dropping 25+ in one of the games, I like their odds of taking one. Marquette wins with a tight but comfortable lead of 5-10 at home before losing by double digits at the Cintas Center.

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Categories: Home, Offseason, Previews

Author:Ryan Jackson

Texas A&M Professional, Marquette Fantatic

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