#11 Xavier Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Xavier Musketeers
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #11
Conference Rank: #2 Big East
After a superb regular season Xavier stumbled in March. They only won one game in the Big East Tournament before falling to Seton Hall. With a #2 seed, Xavier easily cruised past Weber State in the NCAA Tournament, but then lost a hard fought contest against Wisconsin. The Badgers were able to force the Musketeers to play Wisconsin basketball and Xavier could not quite grind out the win. But this Xavier group has an experienced and talented backcourt that can lead them to another high seed in March, but the frontcourt must develop if Xavier wants to reach the Sweet 16 and beyond.
2015-16 Record: 28-6, 14-4
2015-16 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Chris Mack
Coach Record: 162-77 at Xavier, 162-77 overall
Who’s Out:
The two main departures for Xavier are all in the frontcourt. Jalen Reynolds was a regular starter last season and averaged 9.6 points and 6.4 rebounds. James Farr was a superb option off of the bench and averaged 10.7 points and a team high 7.8 rebounds. Xavier was the best rebounding team in the Big East last season with an impressive +7.5 rebounding margin, but that will be very difficult to replicate without Reynolds and Farr. Remy Abell and Larry Austin are the losses on the perimeter. Abell started all 34 games last season and averaged 6.4 points per game.
Who’s In:
Transfer RaShid Gaston will help bolster the frontcourt. Two years ago he averaged 15.5 points and 9.6 rebounds at Norfolk State and spent last season practicing against Farr and Reynolds. The competition will be tougher in the Big East, but Gaston is a very talented 6-9, 239 pound forward who could step right into a starting spot. Incoming freshman Tyrique Jones is another physical forward who can battle in the paint. The newcomers on the perimeter also feature a transfer from the MEAC and a talented freshman. Malcolm Bernard, a graduate transfer from Florida A&M, is a big 6-6 wing who led the Rattlers with 14.4 points and 7.1 rebounds last season. Quentin Goodin will find minutes this year too despite all of the talent returning to the perimeter. Xavier needs somebody to be the backup point guard and the reigning Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Kentucky should be able to fill that role.
Who to Watch:
This team is built around Edmond Sumner, Myles Davis and Trevon Bluiett. Sumner is a big 6-6 point guard who can attack the basket with ease. He averaged 11.0 points per game and went to the free-throw line a team high 154 times. Sumner could be a better outside shooter, but Davis and Bluiett can handle that role. Davis is basically a secondary point guard and he actually led the team with 4.1 assists per game. He also added 10.8 points per contest. Bluiett is the most dynamic scorer. He connected on a team high 78 three-pointers and led the Musketeers with 15.1 points per game. At 6-6 and 205 pounds, he also is a very strong rebounder and he could be asked to add to his 6.1 rebounds in 2016-2017. Bluiett, although listed as a guard, could end spending more time at the power forward spot if Coach Chris Mack has long term issues trying to replace Farr and Reynolds. The backcourt also has the reigning Sixth Man of the Year in the Big East with J.P. Macura. He provides a very nice offensive spark off of the bench. However, he could step into the starting lineup if Xavier plays small with Bluiett at the power forward spot.
Final Projection:
Kaiser Gates and Sean O’Mara will have to play a larger role this season. Gates showed plenty of promise as a freshman, averaging 3.2 points and 2.6 rebounds in just 10.4 minutes per game. He has the size at 6-8 and 228 pounds, but he can shoot the ball too and is surprisingly nimble for a 6-8 forward. O’Mara is the more traditional bruiser. Along with the newcomers and Bluiett’s ability to play either forward spot, Coach Mack has frontcourt options. If somebody emerged as an interior scorer it would be beneficial, but Xavier has plenty of scorers on the perimeter to make up for it and compete with Villanova for a Big East title.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Edmond Sumner, Sophomore, Guard, 11.0 points per game
Myles Davis, Senior, Guard, 10.8 points per game
Trevon Bluiett, Junior, Guard, 15.1 points per game
Kaiser Gates, Sophomore, Forward, 3.2 points per game
RaShid Gaston, Senior, Forward, DNP last season
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 80.5 (19th in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 70.4 (132, 4)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.2 (112, 5)
Field-Goal Defense: 41.5 (69, 4)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.5 (121, 4)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.3 (96, 2)
Free-Throw Percentage: 73.0 (54, 4)
Rebound Margin: 7.5 (19, 1)
Assists Per Game: 16.1 (30, 2)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.6 (168, 5)
Madness 2017 NBA Draft Rankings:
#22 Edmond Sumner
Madness 2016 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#90 Quentin Goodin
#128 Tyrique Jones