Xavier Musketeers Basketball Season Preview

The college hoops season is right around the corner, and Busting Brackets is here to whet your basketball-starved appetite. Over the next five weeks, we are publishing season previews team by team, conference by conference, to offer a glimpse into the upcoming season. Busting Brackets is giving you the lowdown on the biggest storylines, offseason changes and x-factors for each team and each league as we roll into the 2012-13 season. Our complete season preview archive can be accessed here. Buckle up, peeps.

Xavier Musketeers

Last Season 23-13 (10-6 Atlantic-10)
Lost to St. Bonaventure in A-10 title game
Lost to Baylor in Sweet 16 of NCAA tournament
Key Returning Players: Travis Taylor, F
Jeff Robinson, F
Brad Redford, G
Dee Davis, G
Key Additions: Semaj Christon, G (Brewster Academy)
Jalen Reynolds, F (Brewster Academy)
Isaiah Filmore (Towson Transfer)
*Myles Davis, G (Notre Dame Prep)
James Farr, F (Maine Central Institute)
*Academically Ineligible
Key Losses: Tu Holloway, G
Mark Lyons, G (Transferred to Arizona)
Kenny Frease, C
Dezmine Wells, G (Expelled, Transferred to Maryland)
Andre Walker, F
Top Non-Conference Games: Nov. 13 vs. Butler (Continuation of last year’s series)
Nov. 22-25 DIRECTV Classic (Anaheim, CA)
Dec. 1 @ Purdue
Dec. 6 vs. Vanderbilt
Dec. 19 vs. Cincinnati (Fifth Third Bank Arena)
Dec. 29 @ Tennessee
Jan. 2 @ Wake Forest
Feb. 26 vs. Memphis
Top Conference Games: Jan. 10 vs. Temple
Jan. 26 @ Saint Joseph’s
Feb. 23 vs. VCU
Mar. 2 vs. UMass
Mar. 6 vs. Saint Louis
Mar. 9 @ Butler
Breakout Player: Semaj Christon. Chris Mack ushers in a top-25 recruiting class, headlined by one of the premiere point guards in high school basketball. An outstanding athlete, Christon has a silly good handle—befitting of a Rucker Park baller—and is explosive off the bounce. His decision-making and reads in the half court still need improvement (this should come with age and experience), but his quickness, shiftiness and athleticism alone should allow the incoming freshman to shine in the league right off the bat. Perhaps more so than any other class of 2012 recruit, Christon has a knack for getting into the lane, be it by splitting double-teams, working the pick-and-roll or taking his man straight-up. At Xavier, he’ll have to adapt his highlight reel, street-ball-oriented style of play to a more refined and structured college system, but with the right coaching in place, this shouldn’t be an issue. In the meantime, Christon’s raw talent by itself should be enough for the Musketeer newcomer to make an immediate difference. The A-10 has a number of highly prized freshmen to look forward to in 2012-13, but the prohibitive preseason freshman of the year stops in Cincinnati. Christon is the best high school talent this league has seen in years.
X-Factor: Contributions from new players. When you lose all five starters from a team that toyed with an Elite Eight appearance, developing the leftover young talent on the roster as smoothly as possible is paramount for a quick turnaround. Coach Mack has an abundance of youth at his disposal—probably more than he’d like—but the talent of that youth could expedite a quicker retooling process than initially expected. Travis Taylor, Jeff Robinson and Brad Redford will anchor the Musketeers in 2012-13, but the senior trio alone will need help from the underclassmen for Xavier to be any kind of threat in the revamped A-10. Inbound Towson transfer Isaiah Philmore should be an immediate help. The junior forward could be the top impact transfer in the entire league given his talent and the playing time available to him. Prized freshman point guard Semaj Christon would be somewhat of a disappointment were he not to win freshman of the year honors (yes, he’s that good). Don’t sleep on his high school teammate either. Jalen Reynolds was one of the better power forwards in all of high school basketball last year and could get significant burn as a freshman as well. Xavier has enough in terms of senior leadership to remain afloat in the A-10. As a result, this year’s project should be more of a case of reloading than rebuilding. But if Xavier wants to make hay of the league its sat near the top of for the better part of the last decade (and the Musketeers would never settle for less), the Musketeers must get immediate contributions from new players. No A-10 team loses more from last season than Xavier, but that also means no teams stands to gain as much from fresh faces either.
Best Case: Finally given the playing time to showcase his game, Jeff Robinson, who was buried behind Kenny Frease for the last three years, has a coming out party as a senior. Robinson and Travis Taylor form a stout 1-2 punch down low for the Musketeers, who punish teams inside with physical play. Isaiah Philmore rounds out the frontcourt, picking up from where he lost off as a sophomore at Towson. The junior transfer shows why he was one of the most sought-after transfers on the market last year. In the backcourt, Christon is an immediate difference maker. Not only is he the runaway pick for league rookie of the year honors, but the super-skilled freshman also throws his hat into the ring for the A-10 Player of the Year award. Buttressed by a strong [and deep] frontcourt and talented backcourt, the Musketeers have a solid showing against a tough non-conference slate. Xavier then capitalizes on a back-loaded conference schedule by beating up the bottom-feeders in the A-10. By the time the Musketeers reach the meat of their schedule (not until the end of February), the young freshmen and new pieces have developed nicely into confident and capable contributors. The young guns hit the ground running at the end of the season as the Musketeers, even in a rebuilding year, flex their A-10 might. Xavier finishes in the top-five of the league, and strong showing in the conference tournament leads to a favorable seed in the NCAA tournament.
Worst Case: The senior trio was buried behind Frease and Andre Walker for a reason. Though seniors in name, Taylor, Robinson and Redford more resemble underclassmen, earning their first major minutes as collegians. Christon is more sizzle than steak, and the freshman struggles to adjust his street ball game to a more regimented system. Philmore is nothing more than a decent, non-descript option off the bench. The Towson transfer quickly finds out the A-10 is not the Colonial Athletic Association anymore. Coach Mack, accustomed to working with teams predicated upon talented upper classmen, struggles to cobble together a team with such little experience playing as a unit. Free throw shooting troubles continue to plague Xavier, and the relatively inexperienced team is plagued by youthful lapses and silly mistakes. The Musketeers are buried in a conference loaded with quality, experienced-laden teams who have been playing together for several years. Xavier finishes in the bottom half of the conference for the first time under Chris Mack, and the program misses out on the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005. Over the last 10 years, Xavier has built the reputation as the most dangerous mid-major in college basketball during March. But there’s only so much you can do in that month when your season ends halfway through it. Xavier learns the hard way this season.
Projected Finish: 16-14 (8-8 Atlantic-10)
Lose in first round of A-10 tournament
Miss NCAA tournament

Topics: Basketball, Xavier Musketeers

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