As you may recall from last year, Joel and I spend a large portion of our time at work (only breaks and lunches, obviously) messaging one another about our favorite sporting teams. As the nights start coming cooler and earlier, that talk increasingly swings toward Xavier basketball. Each week we'll compile what we have and post it here as the Sunday Conversation. This is just a, mostly, unfiltered glimpse into what we think as fans. We'd love to hear from you as well.
Joel: Am I being a homer if I think we're loaded? Let's start from the very middle. I want to go on record as having been absolutely besotted with Jason Love. With that said, I think Stainbrook could give us that kind of production, if not more, on the offensive end. What do we know about his defense? Love blocked a surprising amount shots; what do we know about the Stain Train's defensive abilities? At the very least, I'm excited about his potential as a guy to whom we can throw the ball on the low post who won't screw it all up
Brad: Well, he blocked a shot per game (thanks ESPN stats!) in the MAC which, of course, means I have no idea what. If you look at his stats you'll see two and three block games scattered all over in there. I think a lot of it comes down to motivation. If you know how to work the internet at all, you can discover that he's notorious for doing his thing when he wants to. If Coach Mack can make that happen all the time (and he did get him to shed 30 pounds), then onward and upward. I think the way he's engaged fans on Twitter and in person shows that he's a decent dude.
Joel: Plus, he is an Indians fan, so you know he's a baller. If you think about just the amount of new guys in the frontcourt, you can almost forget about the talent we're bringing back. That pretty much begins and ends with Philmore at this point; I'm not expecting big things from Farr and Stenger at this point. Philmore, however, started looking like the guy we were looking for towards the end of the season. He has some open court skills - just ask that poor fool he put in the spin cycle - but I really like him as adding some ability to score in the half court in a team mostly full of young dudes who love to run.
Brad: I think Philmore starts the season in the first five, but Reynolds will become progressively harder to sit. The guy I just don't know on is Richards. He's a slasher on a team where Randolph and Christon fill that role better. He's added 27 pounds since signing. 27! [It should be noted that the exact number differs depending on who you ask, but everyone agrees that Richards is up at least 20 pounds].
Joel: Big deal; I knocked that out over the summer that year I lost my job.
Assuming his weight gain had more to do with strength and conditioning and less to do with eating his depression by the pint, where does that leave us? Best-case, he's an athlete who has added the bulk required to finish at the rim and take the bumps and bruises of a long season. A less charitable view leaves him having sacrificed the burst he needs to be effective at the altar of reps on the bench, leaving him less effective than he otherwise would have been.
Setting aside the fairly academic question of who starts when, who do you think we'll see in the frontcourt in the most important minutes? Coach Mack has a strong track record of favoring older guys, which gives us Martin and Philmore as returnees and Stainbrook as an incoming player with experience. (I've left out Stenger, as he's multiple car wrecks from seeing extended crunch-time minutes, and Farr, as he barely qualifies as having experience from last year.) Add to that mix the incoming guys of Reynolds and Richards and then also balance for the difference between two and three dudes in the backcourt. Is Martin going to be getting 30 minutes a game despite his languid/apathetic approach? Does Reynolds get thrown into the fire despite being a freshman because he's old enough to run for President? Gun to my head, I think you can write Philmore and Stainbrook in ink when trying to list the guys who are going to get the minutes. I think the forward positions fill in around them (earth-shattering stuff so far, I know), and I wouldn't be surprised to see more time with a big lineup of Stainbrook, Reynolds, and Philmore and less time with a more traditional Stainbrook, Philmore, and Martin look at the 5-4-3. This is a team that has the potential to play very, very big at times. Imagine how we would have looked with those three across the front and Dez and Semaj in the backcourt. Okay, enough of that.
Do you think I'm on target here? I'm just not sure how much more patience I have with Martin. Where do you see him and Richards fitting in?
Brad: I think Martin gets every chance to earn the minutes this year. I also think that, unlike in previous years, should he prove that he can't play, he hits the bench. If he falters, I think I'd prefer to go with Randolph instead of Richards, and create a mismatch with our blazing fast 6-1 guys. On the other hand, our 6-6 guy apparently prepped for the season by eating barbells.
As you gathered from that paragraph, I'd rather see us go small than go big. Our bigs can impact the game to some extent, but I don't see them being elite. I think the three is where we win matchup battles this year (Semaj aside), and I think that both Richards and Randolph can play there.
Joel: If Martin sucks, we can go three guards and give teams problems. On the subject of going small, however, think about three guards and Martin/Philmore and Reynolds up front. Say it's Davis, Christon, and Randolph in the backcourt and Martin and Reynolds in the middle; that lineup can fly. You can also go monster if you want to with the aforementioned big lineups. Taken on the whole, even with the numerous question marks still lingering, this crop of forwards is bigger, faster, stronger, more talented, and more versatile and pretty much just better in every way than the group we had last year. This roster is looking good if things break right.
Brad: I'll take the last word here, then. We both seem to be just a couple of strong drinks from saying that we think this team could be very good. It's only October 27th and, other than Ohio in a super secret scrimmage, we've only played ourselves.