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Preseason Preview: Xavier

Howard

(Photo by Ryan Messier/Paint Touches)

The first official practices of the 18-19 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. This series will start with the most under of underdogs and progress all the way up to most unbeatable of opponents. We will be releasing one a day ending the day before Marquette’s exhibition with Carroll. That’s right, when this series ends, Marquette basketball will finally be here.

Team: Xavier Musketeers
17-18 Record: 29-6 (15-3 in the Big East)
Postseason?: Earned the first 1 seed in school history but they were bounced in the round of 32 by 9 seeded Florida State
17-18 KenPom: 15
Date: January 06, 2019 & January 26, 2019
Location: Fiserv Forum & Cintas Center (Cincinnati, OH)
Coach: Travis Steele (1st Season)
Projected KenPom Range: 25-75
Projected Conference Finish: 6/10 in the Big East

Departures from 17-18
J.P. Macura: Starting SG: 29.7 mpg, 12.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.4 bpg, 2.0 tpg, .479 FG%, .377 3P% (Graduated)
Trevon Bluiett: Starting SF: 34.3 mpg, 19.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.5 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.3 bpg, 2.0 tpg, .437 FG%, .417 3P% (Graduated)
Kaiser Gates: Starting C: 23.8 mpg, 7.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 0.9 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.3 bpg, 0.6 tpg, .413 FG%, .378 3P% (Left team to pursue overseas professional opportunities)
Kerem Kanter: 2nd Man off the Bench: 16.4. mpg, 10.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.3 bpg, 0.8 tpg, .584 FG%, .333 3P% (Graduated)
Sean O’Mara: 4th Man off the Bench: 14.6 mpg, 6.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.7 bpg, 0.8 tpg, .592 G%, .000 3P% (Graduated)
Matt Singleton: Benchwarmer: Appeared in 4 games (Graduated)
Jared Ridder: Benchwarmer: Appeared in 0 games (Transferred to Missouri State)
67% of scoring, 57% of rebounding, 46% of assists, 55% of steals, 59% of blocks, 82% of 3PM

Arrivals:
Ryan Welage: Grad Transfer PF from San Jose State
Zach Hankins: Grad Transfer C from D2 Ferris State
Kyle Castlin: Grad Transfer SG from Columbia
Dontarius James: 3-star PF, ranked #222 per 247 Composite
Keonte Kennedy: 3-star SG, ranked #241 per 247 Composite

Probable Starters:
PG: Quentin Goodin: 6’4” 194 lb JR: 29.7 mpg, 8.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 4.9 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.2 bpg, 2.3 tpg, .445 FG%, .302 3P%
SG: Paul Scruggs: 6’3” 200 lb SO: 16.8 mpg, 4.9 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.7 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.4 tpg, .455 FG%, .304 3P%
SF: Naji Marshall: 6’7” 222 lb SO: 21.8 mpg, 7.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.6 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.6 tpg, .530 FG%, .349 3P%
PF: Ryan Welage: 6’10” 205 lb SR: 34.6 mpg, 18.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.4 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.8 tpg, .461 FG%, .429 3P% (stats for San Jose State)
C: Tyrique Jones: 6’9” 235 lb JR: 15.0 mpg, 7.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.6 bpg, 0.8 tpg, .627 FG%, .000 3P%

Probable Bench:
Zach Hankins: 6’11” 245 lb RSSR C
Kyle Castlin: 6’4” 193 lb RSSR SG
Elias Harden: 6’5” 187 lb SO SG
Dontarius James: 6’7” 210 lb FR SF
Keonte Kennedy: 6’4” 187 lb FR SG

Probable Benchwarmers:
Leighton Schrand: 6’1” 170 lb JR PG
Nick Vanderpohl: 6’1” 180 lb SO PG
Myles Hanson: 6’7” 215 lb SO SF (Redshirting due to NCAA transfer rules)

Notes:

• Xavier fans might be in store for a little whiplash this season. The Musketeers brought home the best regular season in school history but only had a round of 32 appearance to show for it. Then in the blink of an eye they lost their two best players to graduation, three of their four big men to the same, their coach to Louisville, and another starter to a surprise decision to play overseas. The Musketeers could have been in for a disaster of a season but new skipper Travis Steele made some impressive acquisitions on the free agent market. A trio of grad transfers supplement some talented returning pieces and should keep Xavier on the right side of the bubble…though it may be close.
• The biggest question for Xavier going into the season may be who is their go to scorer? The Musketeers have been handing the ball to Blueitt and letting him go to work for the past three years. Not only is their #1 scorer gone, but they also lost #2 and #3 in Macura and Kanter. The best candidate might be Naji Marshall. Marshall was a top 75 recruit coming out of high school, so his fantastic freshman year shouldn’t be considered a surprise. But he was getting less pub then fellow freshman Paul Scruggs and Xavier fans were happy to see him earn over 20 minutes a game. Marshall is an ultra-athletic wing with a fondness for transition buckets. He did everything well and the graduation of Blueitt should lead to the ball being in his hands a lot more. The next step in his game needs to be the development of an outside shot. He was decently accurate last season but at a low volume.
• Running the show will rising junior Quentin Goodin. He is the leading returning scorer for the Musketeers and the second leading assistman in the Big East. He may be the leading returning scorer but it took a lot shots for him to get there. His eFG% leaves a lot to be desired though he did have a huge jump between his freshman and sophomore season. If he can have a similar jump this season, Goodin could become an above average scorer which will only make his distribution ability that much deadlier. One thing Coach Steele won’t have to worry about is his on ball defense. In isolation situations last season, Goodin was able to lock opponents down with ease. Backing him up will be Paul Scuggs. Scruggs is likely a starter in his own right but is the only other player with PG skills so he may need to slide over to the point when Goodin needs a spell. He was the top-rated freshman in the Big East last season but he didn’t really live up to the billing. Next season he will have no one in front of him at the 2 to block his minutes so he will need to take a big step.
• The trio of grad transfers is one of the biggest stories of the offseason in Cincy. Few programs have ever had three grad transfers join in a single season and how Coach Steele gets all these new pieces to blend will be a huge challenge in his first year. Two of the grad trio seem likely to come off the bench for the Musketeers, providing them much needed depth. Kyle Castlin was the fifth starter for a Columbia team that didn’t crack double digits in the wins column. He mostly scores off the bounce but has limited range for a guard. Zach Hankins was the Division 2 Player of the Year last season for the Ferris State Bulldogs. He averaged near a double double while putting the ball in the bucket with absurd efficiency. He could challenge for a starting spot, but I keep thinking about Manny Suarez. Suarez was a D2 big man who averaged a double double before grad transferring to Creighton….where he got about 5 minutes a game. Hankins is better than Suarez was for sure, but I would expect growing pains coming into the Big East. The real prize in the trio is stretch four Ryan Welage. The Indiana product is returning from three years on the west coast for his senior season. He was a three-year starter for the hapless Spartans but didn’t elevate to star status until his junior year. His size and shooting should create some great mismatches for Xavier. His skillset was desperately needed after Kaiser Gates announced his departure.
• Xavier was lousy with talented big men last year, which allowed them to play their bigs in short but extremely productive bursts. They won’t have the same depth this year so the one remaining big from that group could be in for a breakout season. Tyrique Jones was absurdly efficient in his sophomore campaign, averaging 7 points and 4.5 rebounds in only 15 minutes of game time. He does all his work around the bucket, which is acceptable when you are sinking 62.7% of your attempts. He should get the lion’s share of the minutes at center and he should see those point and rebound totals rise. He will get pushed by Hankins but there will be plenty of minutes at the 5 for both, especially with the surprise dismissal of incoming 7-footer Jake Walter for an “undisclosed legal issue.”
• Last season, Xavier only had three players with 20+ three pointers made. None of those three are on the roster for the upcoming season. The players they left behind are all career 35% or less shooters from outside. Welage will alleviate some of this shooting exodus, but neither Hankins nor Castlin are three-point shooters. True freshman Keonte Kennedy is known as a shooter but he is expected to be more of a project. If Coach Steele doesn’t develop players like Marshall, Scruggs, and Goodin into three-point threats, they could be in for a long season.

Prediction:
• Last season, Marquette’s comeback at home fell just short of knocking off the Musketeers. This year’s Xavier team is not nearly as good. Marquette should win at home easily. A few weeks later at the Cintas Center, Xavier comes out playing better and shooting well. It’s a back and forth battle that the X-men eventually take, though it is much closer than the game in Milwaukee was.

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Categories: Analysis, Home, Offseason, Previews

Author:Ryan Jackson

Texas A&M Professional, Marquette Fantatic

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