I have already covered the three reasons for why Xavier fans should calm their excitement this season. It would be best to also cover the three reasons why they should be jumping for joy.
No one likes a party pooper, so here are three reasons of optimism for X:
I mentioned inexperience as being something Xavier should be pessimistic about. However, there is nothing like having a lot of youth on a roster.
Take the college freshmen compared to the senior. The freshmen is full of excitement for college and is curious about pretty much anything. The senior has done his time and is excited to get on with his life. With youth comes an excitement that cannot be given. Xavier has nine underclassmen and seven new players (six freshmen and redshirt junior Remy Abell). All of these guys are in nirvana with that fresh fragrance of playing college basketball.
That is something any coach would love to have. Coach Chris Mack loves the youth on this team. He was quoted in an USA Today story saying, "I fell in love with this team’s energy." Mack was referring to Xavier’s August trip to South America where they played a few Brazilian club teams and finished 4-0. This Xavier team is hungry and eager to not only step on the court, but to walk off the court with a win every single game. People say youth is wasted on the young. That is largely true, but I don’t think they were including the 2014-15 Xavier Musketeers when they said that.
2. Big Men
Xavier lost big men Isaiah Philmore and Erik Stenger, but Stenger is more than replaceable for this team (originally a walk-on transfer from Northern Kentucky University). He played just 7 minutes a game with averages of 1.2 points and 1.3 rebounds. Philmore, meanwhile, is not as easy to replace (also a transfer from Towson). He put up averages of 9.3 points and 5 rebounds last season in 25 minutes a game, which is a respectable stat line. Those numbers – nearly 11 points and seven rebounds a game - will need to be accounted for this season. They should be refilled this year by all five of Xavier’s big men.
The big men returning for X are senior Matt Stainbrook, junior James Farr, and redshirt sophomore Jalen Reynolds. The incoming freshmen bigs are Makinde London and Sean O’Mara. According to Xavier’s 2014-15 roster, all five of these guys are listed at 6-foot-10. Big men always take longer to develop, so expect Stainbrook to be even better in his second and final season at Xavier. James Farr should also improve, and the same goes for Jalen Reynolds. Sean O’Mara already has a college body, so he can play right away without any worries of not handling the physicality of the college game. London, on the other hand, is rail thin for a big at 6-foot-10 and 210 pounds. London is raw and will take time to grow into his body and develop. To emphasize his low weight, Georgetown guard D`Vauntes Smith-Rivera is 6-foot-3 and weighs four pounds heavier at a weight of 214.
The thing that is most promising about Xavier’s big men is their mobility. Big men are a hard find as is, and coming across big men who have multi-dimensional games is even harder. All five of these guys have that quality. Not only does Stainbrook finish at the rim and rebound well, he can also pass the ball extremely well and might have the best post game in the Big East. Farr has great rebounding ability and can stretch it from outside with a smooth stroke from beyond the arc. Reynolds is an athletic freak, can dunk and rebound over people, and can also hit the mid-range shot. O’Mara can finish, plays a nice post game, and has a nice jumper. London played guard in high school before growing nine inches, so he can handle, pass, and shoot the three ball like a guard. All five of these guys have more than one skill set as big men. Chris Mack and Xavier fans alike have to be optimistic about the talented frontcourt they have this season.
Shooting is deadly. Look at the 2013-14 Creighton Bluejays and ask Villanova how deadly Creighton's shooting was. Teams that can shoot usually have success, although teams that rely too much on shooting can’t do much of anything else come March. The phrase "you live and die by the three" is the truth. Let Creighton know how they fared in the tournament last March and they would say they underperformed. That would be an understatement since they got blown out by the Baylor Bears to the tune of 85-55 in the Round of 32.
Xavier had very few guys who could create their own shot last season, and by shot, I mean jump shot. Justin Martin was arguably the only one who could, and he is now a Mustang playing at SMU under Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown. They also had few three point shooters. Myles Davis, James Farr, and Dee Davis were not just the only X players who seemed to not just make threes, but the only ones willing to shoot them. Xavier shot 35.4 percent from beyond the arc last season, but only made 172 threes as a team. That was good for seventh in the Big East, behind the likes of DePaul, Butler, and Seton Hall. What is something to point out, is Creighton (342 made three-pointers), Villanova (282 made three-pointers), and Providence (214 made three-pointers) all made a ton of threes. Those three teams were the best three teams in the conference last season, so there is a strong correlation between three-pointers made and team success.
The good news for Xavier is out of the seven new players that are suiting up this season, five of them can shoot. Larry Austin Jr. and Sean O’Mara being the only two with average jump-shots and guys who wouldn’t be taking a lot of long shots anyways (Austin eventually will down the line as he is a point guard). Makinde London, Edmond Sumner, Remy Abell, Trevon Bluiett, and JP Macura all have shooting strokes. Abell shot .485% from three as a sophomore at Indiana in a relatively small sample size (16-33). Bluiett was ranked as the fourth best shooter in the class of 2014 by ESPN.com and FOX Sports. Macura was ranked as the tenth-best shooter in the class of 2014 by FOX Sports. Xavier has got some guys who can not only gun it from deep, but create their own shot. Abell, Bluiett, and Macura are scorers who can shoot, not just stationary shooters. Sumner and London can stretch the floor with their range, and knock one down when open from three. Unlike last year, Xavier has plenty of shooters this season. All they have to do is knock them down and Xavier should be making it rain from all sections of the court.
What do you think the outlook is for Xavier this season? Pessimistic or Optimistic? Be sure to vote in the poll below and leave any of your comments!