#22 Xavier Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview

Xavier Musketeers
2017-2018 Overall Rank: #22
Conference Rank: #3 Big East
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Coming off another Elite Eight appearance, Xavier and Coach Chris Mack have high hopes heading into the 2017-2018 season. The Musketeers had some ups and downs last season and finished just 8-8 in Big East play. But they were playing great basketball in March and hope to continue that moving into this season. Trevon Bluiett will again be the team’s top scorer. The 6-6 senior averaged 18.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists last season, while knocking down an impressive 91 three-pointers. He can score in so many ways and few have had much luck slowing him down.
2016-17 Record: 24-14, 9-9
2016-17 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Chris Mack
Coach Record: 187-91 at Xavier, 187-91 overall
Who’s Out:
Bluiett flirted with the NBA, but teammate Edmond Sumner did leave. The big guard was second on the team in scoring with 15.0 points per game and added 5.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds. It is a significant absence for Xavier, but they managed to make their March run without him after he tore his ACL. Also gone is fellow 6-6 guard Malcolm Bernard. He started 35 games and averaged 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds. RaShid Gaston and Tim Stainbrook gave Coach Chris Mack options in the frontcourt. Gaston was a part-time starter and averaged 7.4 points and 5.9 rebounds.
Who’s In:
Xavier should have little trouble filling the gaps on their roster with the addition of Green Bay transfer Kerem Kanter and three scholarship freshmen who are ready to make a big impact. Kanter thought about attempting to join his brother in the NBA, but opted to come to Xavier as a graduate transfer from Green Bay. With the Phoenix last year he averaged 11.3 points and 6.3 rebounds. Naji Marshall is an athletic 6-7 forward who can knock down shots and finish above the rim. Elias Harden and Paul Scruggs are the future of the backcourt. Scruggs is a tough, scoring point guard who will push for the starting point guard duties from day one. Harden figures to make an impact off the bench as a shooter.
Who to Watch:
The backcourt is already pretty talented. Quentin Goodin and J.P. Macura were starters last season and will likely rejoin Bluiett in the lineup again in 2017-2018. Goodin stepped in when Sumner went down and started 18 games. There were some growing pains, but he averaged 5.1 points and 3.4 assists and was playing very efficient basketball by March. Macura was the only player on the roster to start all 38 games last season. He ranked third on the team with 14.4 points per game and connected on 34.0 percent of his 188 attempts from beyond the arc.
Final Projection:
There is no lack of options in the frontcourt either, especially with Kanter and Marshall joining the mix. Sean O’Mara is the most productive returning forward. He averaged 6.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in just 13.8 minutes per game. Kaiser Gates earned a few starts as a sophomore and averaged 5.8 points and 4.0 rebounds. Tyrique Jones earned 13 starts as a freshman, although he only averaged 11.0 minutes per game. Even in that limited playing time he proved to be yet another strong rebounder. And this should be one of the best rebounding teams in the country. With scorers like Bluiett and Macura and a very talented group of newcomers, Xavier will be ready to make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Quentin Goodin, Sophomore, Guard, 5.1 points per game
Trevon Bluiett, Senior, Guard, 18.5 points per game
J.P. Macura, Senior, Guard, 14.4 points per game
Kerem Kanter, Senior, Forward, 11.3 points per game (at Green Bay)
Sean O’Mara, Senior, Forward, 6.1 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 74.6 (143rd in nation, 6th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 71.3 (152, 5)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.7 (100, 6)
Field-Goal Defense: 45.0 (235, 7)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.0 (211, 7)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 34.5 (204, 8)
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.8 (220, 8)
Rebound Margin: 6.1 (22, 2)
Assists Per Game: 14.7 (92, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.6 (131, 6)
Madness 2018 NBA Draft Rankings:
#39 JP Macura
Madness 2017 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#30 Paul Scruggs
#50 Naji Marshall
#134 Elias Harden
#152 Jared Ridder