#16 Xavier Men's Basketball Preview

Xavier Musketeers

Overall Rank: #16
Conference Rank: #1 Atlantic 10
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2010-11: 24-8, 15-1
2010-11 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Chris Mack (50-17 at Xavier, 50-17 overall)

The NCAA Tournament loss to Marquette showed just how much Xavier depends on Tu Holloway. The point guard went 1-for-8 from the floor against the Golden Eagles in their opening game of the NCAA Tournament and scored just five points. He also committed five turnovers. Marquette is not known for their defense, but they took Holloway out of the game and the Musketeers had no answers. Holloway is a superb player who averaged 19.7 points, 5.4 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.4 steals during his junior campaign. He is a great scorer from anywhere on the floor, but if Xavier wants to get back to their old ways of making at least the Sweet Sixteen, some other players will have to step up when Holloway is having an off day or the opposition puts all their defensive pressure on him.

Who’s Out:
Jamel McLean and Dante Jackson are gone after both starting nearly every game last season. McLean developed into a very good interior scorer and one of the best rebounders in the Atlantic 10. Fortunately for Xavier, they have a slew of options to replace him in the starting lineup. Jackson was often the overlooked starter on the team. He shot some long balls and grabbed a few boards, but mostly he helped with the ball handling a little bit and played pretty good defense. At least his scoring and rebounding will be replaceable. Andrew Taylor, Jay Canty and Jordan Latham highlight the list of role-players not returning.

Who’s In:
The newcomers will be one way Coach Chris Mack can fill some gaps. Transfers Travis Taylor and Andre Walker should make an immediate contribution. Taylor, who played a couple years at Monmouth, could step right into a starting spot. The NEC may not be the A-10, but Taylor led Monmouth with 17.8 points and 7.6 rebounds as a sophomore two seasons ago. Walker is a big, versatile forward who is surprisingly nimble for a 6-8, 225 pound forward. He did not put up huge numbers during his time with Vanderbilt, but he is an experienced senior who has gone up against some great competition. Justin Martin does not have as much experience, but the redshirt freshman did give his coaches and teammates reason to be optimistic while practicing with the team last season. Like Walker, Martin is a versatile forward who can play at the three or four spot. Dezmine Wells is a very talented incoming freshman who will look to provide a spark off the bench on the wing. Dee Davis will be groomed to take over for Holloway next season.

Who to Watch:
With the newcomers, the Xavier frontcourt is pretty deep, experienced and talented. Kenny Frease will be back in the starting lineup after averaging 11.7 points and 7.1 rebounds. Frease got into much better shape for his junior campaign last year and was on the floor for nearly 30 minutes per game. He was also much more productive. Another year with improvement like that and Frease will be even better. Griffin McKenzie had to overcome some health issues following being on the business end of a beating. Yet, he showed some promise during his freshman campaign and is ready to play a bigger role this season in the Xavier frontcourt. Jeff Robinson will be first on the list to step into McLean’s old place though. The 6-9 junior can jump out of the gym and should be a much needed force on the glass.

Final Projection:
Mark Lyons is back to start beside Holloway. Lyons emerged as a much more consistent player last year. He was taking better shots and taking better care of the ball and that resulted in a 13.6 points per game average. With a little more consistency on his outside shot, Lyons will be a force that the opposition will have to deal with. Brad Redford is back after missing last season with an injury. Redford provided another spark off of the bench with his shooting two years ago and should fit right back into that role during the 2011-2012 campaign. This is a team that has plenty of weapons besides Holloway and that should help them not just compete for an A-10 title, but possibly get back to Sweet Sixteen.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Tu Holloway, Senior, Guard, 19.7 points per game
Mark Lyons, Junior, Guard, 13.6 points per game
Travis Taylor, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Jeff Robinson, Junior, Forward, 4.4 points per game
Kenny Frease, Senior, Center, 11.7 points per game

Madness 2012 NBA Draft Rankings:
#38 Tu Holloway

Madness 2011 Men's Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#47 Dezmine Wells
#135 Jalen Reynolds
#139 Darwin Davis

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