One of my teammates in college was a transfer from Wofford. Wofford's mascot is the Terriers. That about covers everything I knew about the school and its basketball program prior to beginning my research for this article. It's no surprise that bigger name schools (i.e., Xavier) often pay smaller schools (i.e., Wofford) to come in and play early in the season. This game is one of those so-called guarantee games, in which Wofford gets a sum of money and Xavier gets a chance to recuperate from the Crosstown
Shootout Classic and hone its skills against a team that shouldn't be too much of a challenge.
Which isn't to say there's nothing to Wofford. The Terriers made the NCAA tournament in 2010 and 2011, albeit as a 13 and a 14, respectively. They barely missed the 20-win platform last season, finishing second in the Southern Conference before bowing out to Pitt in the CBI. If it sounds like I'm reaching a bit, it's because I am. But in this season of uncertainty, even a guarantee game is no guarantee for Xavier.
When: 2pm Saturday, 12/22
Where: Cintas Center
TV: FOX Sports Ohio
Mike Young has been at Wofford since the 2002-2003 season, amassing a 156-151 record in that time. Early in his tenure, Young played in a hurry, even cracking the top 20 in tempo in his second season. He has changed tactics since then, and Wofford now plays a glacial pace that lands them easily in the slowest 75 or so teams in the country. As is often the case with slow teams, Wofford under Young is good at protecting the ball (top 80 in the country in TO% 5 of the last 6 years) and less than solid on the offensive glass (generally ranking in the bottom half of the country in OR%).
Defensively, Young's teams have been porous. They've been outside the top 200 in EFG% allowed in all but two of his seasons there, and one of those seasons they ranked 187th. Other than being poor at forcing turnovers, however, there hasn't been one consistent statistical theme to the Terriers' struggles. Each year, they've found a new and exciting way to be bad at defending the bucket.
Three of Wofford's top four players from last year have departed. Guard Brad Loesing put up 14.9/3.0/5.6 on .415/.325/.797 shooting. He led the team in assists and scoring and ranked second in steals, but he now plies his trade in Hungary. Kevin Giltner shot .397/.357/.789 on his way to 14.8/4.2/1.8 as a 6'6" wing. He led the team in 3PM and FGA. Giltner is now playing in Iceland. Loesing played 95% of the team's minutes, and Giltner played 94% of them. Those, then, are big holes to fill.
A literally larger loss is six-foot-nine forward Drew Crowell, who was a more efficient scorer than either of them. He boasted a .608/.308/.554 shooting line and a game line of 9.2/5.5/1.4. He was second on the team in rebounding as a senior before taking his talents to Denmark.
Rising sophomore guard Karl Cochran played almost 3/4 of the team's minutes as a freshman last year on his way to 11.1/4.7/2.2 and a team-leading 45 steals. His shooting line of .383/.307/.708 leaves some room for improvement, but he figures to have plenty of chances to do just that as the team's leading returning scorer. Forward Lee Skinner - himself also a rising sophomore - led the team in rebounding on his way to a 6.2/5.9/1.8 game line. His work on the offensive boards was especially impressive, corralling 13% of his teammate's misses. Big body (6'8", 250) Aerris Smith rounds out the interesting returning players, having gone for 4.2 and 3.0 in 16 minutes per game last year.
Wofford signed five freshmen ahead of this upcoming season, none of whom were particularly hotly recruited. Spencer Collins is a 6'4" who averaged 20 and 8 at Easley High in South Carolina last year. Justin Gordon is a 6'6" wing who put up 12 and 11 rebounds and was named North Carolina's 2A State Player of the Year. Six-foot-two guard Bryan Harris spent a post-grad year at Massanutten Military Academy in Virginia. He averaged 24 points per game at Massanutten, where he played with fellow Wofford signee Zac Grossenbacher. Grossenbacher is a 6'7" SF whose parents are doubtlessly proud (and relieved) that he is getting his school paid for. Finally, 6'7" PF CJ Neumann joins from Cretin-Derham High in St. Paul.
It's not easy for a team to replace the guys who put up 60% of its points. When the team wasn't that good to begin with, it could spell the start of a long season. Xavier lost more from last year to this year than Wofford did, but Xavier is also still a much more talented ball club. In Wofford, the Muskies finally have an opponent that doesn't have them trumped in either experience or talent. Of all the games on Xavier's schedule this season, this one is looking the most like a W at this point.