Looking Ahead: The Guards

Semaj Christon won't be doing it alone next year. - USA TODAY Sports

Brad Redford's departure leaves Xavier with Dee Davis, Semaj Christon, Brandon Randolph, and Myles Davis to fill the guard positions. Here's a look at best and worst case scenarios for all four of them.

As Brad has covered in his four-part recap of the 2012-2013 season (which can be found here if you haven't read it yet), the tumult of the summer gave way to a year that was somehow both exactly what we expected and somehow bitterly disappointing at the same time. Xavier missed postseason play completely for the first time since the 2004-2005 season, but there were more than enough bright spots along the way to foster the hope that X will soon be playing meaningful basketball in March once again. Today's article is the first in a three-part series that will look at the team's position for next season as it stands right now. Today will focus on the backcourt, tomorrow the frontcourt, and Wednesday will discuss the overall outlook for the Muskies in 2013-2014.

The most senior returning guard is rising junior Darwin "Dee" Davis, Jr. Extended playing time is often informative regarding a player who was previously underexposed, and it certainly held true in Dee's case this year. The results however, were a mixed bag: Dee's toughness was confirmed on multiple occasions, as he battled through a variety of minor injuries and difficult matchups, repeatedly demonstrating little regard for his own well-being in comparison to his contribution to the team. He also had an exemplary assist rate; nearly a quarter of the possessions he used were converted into assists to a teammate. A knack for getting to the line and semi-reliable performance from both there and behind the arc round out the positive side of the ledger for Dee.

On the other hand, Dee often looked a lot like what we all suspected he was: a change of pace guard getting starter's minutes on a thin team. Davis' reckless energy is a two-edged sword when deployed over long periods of play, and there were times during the season that he was visibly less quick on both ends of the floor. He also shot 42% from inside the arc, which isn't very good.

Best case 2013-2014 scenario:
The best thing for Dee probably results in a reduction of playing time. If one of the incoming guards steps up quickly or Coach Mack signs a transfer who can immediately step into the back court, Davis will be able to slide to the third guard position, coming off the bench to provide a burst on both ends of the floor. If Dee adds enough muscle over the summer to help get him through the long season and continues to improve his shooting stroke, he can be a dangerous weapon for X while grabbing 15-20 minutes per game.

Worst case 2013-2014 scenario:
Dee has demonstrated his toughness beyond the point at which it could be reasonably questioned, but he's not invincible. If he can't pack enough extra beef onto his frame and is once again exposed to a lot of minutes, it's almost a foregone conclusion that it will have an impact on his game at both ends of the floor. If neither of the already committed guards is up to logging big minutes in the backcourt next year, Dee could be facing another tough season.

Next up on the docket is Xavier's all-action rising sophomore Semaj Christon. Semaj was touted as the real deal before he showed up on campus, but I'm not sure anyone had in mind the level of productivity he provided in his first year. He took on an almost historic portion of the load and was still able to be reasonably productive, and his assist rate placed him comfortably in the top 100 in the nation. With explosive athleticism and elite size, he was the highest-magnitude of the bright spots for Xavier this year.

Of course, there was still room for improvement in Christon's play. He needs a better sense of when he can get all the way to the basket, as well as an arsenal ready to handle that eventuality. He was fairly right-handed this season, even finishing with the right when he got to the rim on the left side. Free throw shooting was not a consistent strength, but he did show stretches of reliability from the line. He gets there plenty, so being able to jar 80% of them would be a huge boost. Finally, his 7-28 performance from behind the arc allowed opponents to give themselves a chance by playing off of him.

Best case 2013-2014 scenario:
Semaj extends his range to beyond the arc and spends all summer working on his left hand. With an ability to score from deep and finish with both hands, he draws fouls at an even more prolific rate, and his work from the line in the gym finally translates to game day, further boosting his production. With that kind of game, he would be borderline unstoppable. Big numbers would result and Semaj's sophomore season would propel him into the national spotlight and ultimately the NBA.

Worst case 2013-2014 scenario:
Semaj returns the same player that he was, just a year more physically developed. He continues to be inconsistent from the line and make mental errors, but his size and athletic ability don't lie. He'll be back for another year, but - as you may recognize - a player of his output who can play more than 80% of the team's minutes still has a good deal of value. Barring injury, Semaj's worst case scenario is still a very good ballplayer.

The elder of the two incoming guards for Xavier is Myles Davis. Owing to his year in prep school and the eligibility problems last season, the freshman is actually less than eight months younger than Dee Davis (no relation). Davis comes into school with a reputation as a deep threat who is very capable of getting his own shot off the bounce. His size (6'2", 205) and range should play right away, provided he is indeed eligible this time around.

Best case 2013-2014 scenario:
Hacked off at being stuck on the wrong end of one the NCAA's unfathomable eligibility decisions, Davis comes out of the gates hot and never looks back. He provides the shooting threat off the bench that Brad Redford did but with a more diverse offensive game to keep defenses honest. He is able to hold his own physically in the college game and challenges for starter's minutes as the gunning backcourt mate to slasher Semaj Christon.

Worst case 2013-2014 scenario:
A year out of organized, competitive basketball has left Davis rusty. His three-point stroke is still intact, but he struggles to pick up on Xavier's system at the outset. The defensive demands of high-level D-1 basketball are a huge leap from the games he had been getting to keep himself sharp, and he ends up getting James Farr's minutes from last year as he works to get himself acclimated to the Big East.

ESPN 100 guard Brandon Randolph from Inglewood, California rounds out the scholarship guards on the roster at this point. Randolph is another athletic guard who is highly-rated for his offensive prowess. His jumper can be streaky, but it's not debilitating when it's off. He's a point guard who thinks score first and is prolific in attacking on his right hand. His left and his ball distribution are works in progress at this point, but he has the potential to make a massive name for himself before his career at Xavier is done.

Best case 2013-2014 scenario:
Randolph's physical skills make up for his tactical shortcomings, and he challenges for big time from the work go. With him and the similarly talented Semaj Christon in the backcourt, Xavier is able to expose defenses to an unrelenting attack both in the full court and off of Coach Mack's ball screen offense. Christon's potential defection to the NBA doesn't seem like such a big deal with Randolph in the fold for Xavier.

Worst case 2013-2014 scenario:
Randolph's physical skills are evident, but his struggles to adapt remind Xavier fans what a special player Semaj Christon is. Coming in without the year of prep school that Christon had, Randolph has trouble handling defenders who are capable of turning him off of his right hand, leaving him in search of secondary moves to get to the rim. The learning curve is steep for the true freshman, and his potential remains a hope for future seasons.

On the whole, Xavier looks to have a talented backcourt lined up for next year, though there are still a few question marks. The Muskies are in a position to count on production from two freshmen - including one who hasn't played a truly meaningful game in over a year - right away. An injury to either of the returning guards could put Xavier in the same perilously thin backcourt position that they found themselves last year, and I don't think Landen Amos (as much as we love him here) is a long-term solution.

On the other hand, if Semaj can round out his game over the summer and Randolph and Myles Davis come ready to contribute from day one, guard play could be a massive strength for Xavier. Having a guy who started last year in Dee Davis in a position to get reduced but (ideally) more effective minutes hints at how good this group could be. This doesn't take into account the fact that Coach Mack still has a couple of scholarships to play with if he chooses to add an immediately eligible player to the mix. If all goes well, Xavier has the horses in the backcourt to draw comparisons to the Tu/Cheeks combination that saw two Sweet Sixteens in three years.

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