Team: Xavier Musketeers
2015-16 Record: 28-6, 14-4 in the Big East
2015-16 Big East Finish: Second
Final 2015-16 KenPom Ranking: #11
Postseason: Upset by #7 seeded Wisconsin in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. We’re fighting, Xavier.
Key Departures: Jalen Reynolds (9.6 points, 6.5 rebounds); James Farr (10.7 points, 7.8 rebounds)
Key Returners: Trevon Bluiett (15.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists); Edmond Sumner (11.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists); Myles Davis (10.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists); J.P. Macura (9.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists)
Key Additions: Quentin Goodin (6’3”, 190 lb. guard, 247 Sports Composite #79); Tyrique Jones (6’7”, 235 lb. forward, 247 Sports Composite #108); Eddie Ekiyor (6’9”, 220 lb. forward, 247 Sports Composite #144); RaShid Gaston (6’9”, 240 lb. forward, senior transfer from Norfolk State, averaged 15.5 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists in 2014-15)
Coach: Chris Mack, in his eighth season (162-77 at Xavier and overall)
Outlook: I’d say that Xavier’s fitting in pretty well to the Big East, wouldn’t you?
In three seasons since joining the league, the Musketeers are 162-77 overall and 81-37 in conference games. They’ve never finished below .500 in league action, and even in the year where they did go 9-9, they promptly made the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
Now they’re coming off arguably the best season in program history. They might have won conference titles in other years, and they might have gone farther in the NCAA tournament in other seasons. In 2015-16, though, Xavier spent almost the entire season ranked, most of that time was in the top 10 with a repeated peak of #5 in the country. Nicely done, guys!
What are they doing for an encore in 2016-17? Well, the bad news is that they lose Jalen Reynolds and James Farr, the two 6’10” dudes who were amongst the best rebounders in the country in terms of rebounding rates. The good news is that’s all they lose from last year’s squad as far as notable contributors go. Think about it this way: Marquette was a mediocre team that was bad at rebounding last year, and that was with Henry Ellenson grabbing up missed shots at an elite rate. It’s going to be hard for Marquette to solve their rebounding issues while getting better overall. Xavier, on the other hand, was an elite team that brings back everything important except their elite rebounding. When you’ve got Edmond Sumner and Myles Davis dishing the ball around, Trevon Bluiett acting as the go-to guy who also does a little bit of everything, and J.P. Macura doing J.P. Macura things, you can solve the issue of “hey, who’s gonna rebound for this team” pretty easily.
I’m not saying you should pick the Musketeers to win the Big East this season. I think Villanova’s still the pick coming off of their national championship. What I am saying is that if you wanted to pick Xavier, I’d see where you’re coming from and not give you much of an argument.