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Big East Basketball: Preview and keys to Xavier vs. UConn matchup

The Xavier Musketeers look to regaining their footing in the Big East, while UConn looks to continue their pursuit of back-to-back National Championships.

Connecticut v Butler
Connecticut v Butler / Michael Hickey/GettyImages
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The Xavier Musketeers and UConn Huskies are a testament to how much a team’s foundation can change when a new season finally gets underway.

Over the summer, both of these rosters underwent a massive overhaul, with top scorers on either side moving on from their college careers. Since then, two very different season stories have played out.

Starting off in Connecticut, Head Coach Dan Hurley and the Huskies were faced with the tough task of recreating a roster that brought home the fifth National Championship in school history. The run was fueled by Adama Sanogo, the team’s physical presence in the middle, as well as Jordan Hawkins, a sharp-shooting guard and engine of the championship roster. After the season came to close and the nets were cut down, both players were selected in the 2023 NBA Draft, leaving behind a sizable void in UConn’s system.

Over in Ohio, the Musketeers were in a similar predicament. Despite not reaching the heights of UConn’s success, Xavier was still coming off of a season that opened the eyes of many fans who dismissed them. The team’s starting five featuring Souley Boum, Colby Jones, Jack Nunge, Adam Kunkel and Zach Freemantle shared the wealth, each contributing double-digit point per game averages. When Freemantle went down at the end of January, Jerome Hunter slotted in and kept that trend in check, notching 10.3 PPG as a starter. 

Boum, Jones, Nunge and Kunkel have all since departed the program. Without four of the team’s five starters from 2022-23 out the door, Sean Miller and the Musketeers would need to find a way to replace over 56 points of offence per game.

Let’s take a closer look at how both sides filled in their rosters and fared early on this season.