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2012-2013 Look Ahead

Will Coach Mack bring the family back to Atlanta for the Final Four this year?
Will Coach Mack bring the family back to Atlanta for the Final Four this year?

As Brad has conveyed in his three-part recap, the 2011-2012 season was a strange ride to a familiar place for the Xavier Musketeers. If nothing else, the highs and lows of Xavier's year proved once again that college basketball is entirely unpredictable. It's a fool's errand to try to sift through all the factors involved to predict the final score of a single game just moments before the game tips, to say nothing of trying to make a prognostication regarding what to expect for an entire season. With that said, here's our position-by-position guide to what to expect for the 2012-2013 season.

Point guard:
First of all, there's absolutely no measuring the kind of hole left in a program when a guy like Tu Holloway leaves. For his career, Tu averaged 1.52 points per shot. That's just an unheard-of level of efficiency from a player getting that many points. For comparison's sake, Byron Larkin got 1.38 points per shot. Larkin was a very efficient scorer; Tu was otherworldly.

Xavier is left with three basic options for the beginning of next season. The first is Dee Davis. He struggled mightily with the adjustment to college for most of the season on the offensive end, but he showed a certain amount of aplomb late in the year as far as running a team goes late in the year. Perhaps just as importantly, Dee is an absolute menace on defense. His low center of gravity and quick feet help him stay in front of his man, and his willingness to sacrifice his diminutive body results it plenty of drawn charges. If he were playing for a BCS program and white, everyone in the nation would be sick of hearing about how scrappy he is. If you don't believe that, think about the sonnets announcers deliver when they describe Aaron Craft's defense.

Xavier could also choose to move Mark Lyons from the shooting guard position over to the role of primary ball-handler. Lyons has fulfilled those responsibilities in the past, and indeed he came out of prep school as a point guard. While Lyons has a penchant for making decisions so spectacularly bad that they leave the Xavier faithful scratching their heads, his TO rate was actually lower that Holloway's last year. His assist rate, however, was much lower than Tu's, and he shot a ton. He'd have to make some changes to his style to be an effective point guard.

The third option is 6'4" guard Semaj Christon, who will be joining Xavier as a freshman next season. He is an extremely talented player, as his five-star rating as a recruit would attest to. Christon has a level of athletic ability not often seen at Xavier in the point position. While Tu Holloway was adept at finishing in the lane with his ability to absorb contact and create angles, Christon can play above the rim in traffic. Semaj has the tools to develop into a star for Xavier, but there is some question as to whether expecting him to do so right from the start of his career is a good idea.

Fearless prediction: Davis will start the season at the point, as he has a year in the system and - with a summer to continue to develop - figures to be a pretty safe choice on the ball. Christon will push hard for playing time from day one; don't be stunned to see him take over the starting role at some point in the year.

Shooting guard:
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Xavier is going to want a lot of buckets out of this man next year.
This one is a lot more clear cut. Assuming Dee does indeed take the starting role as the point guard, Mark Lyons will have to find his way onto the court somewhere. As the team's leading returning scorer, Cheeks will be looking to put up the kind of numbers that get guards from the Atlantic Ten noticed. His shooting numbers, especially from beyond the arc, took a nice jump last year. Lyons is capable of scoring them in bunches from all over the court, and he will no doubt be the player Xavier looks to to lead the line this year.

Knee injuries take time to heal, and Brad Redford is still not a year removed from his most recent knee operation. The second pride of Frankenmuth, MI (after Bronner's Christmas Wonderland) got off to a slow start before finding his stroke in the early part of this calendar year. While he faded a bit down the stretch, Redford figures to be stronger, more fit, and more ready for his senior season.

Incoming guard Myles Davis also has a reputation as a catch-and-shoot style menace to defenses. At 6'2", 190, he has a bit of size on Redford, and he has used his final year before entering college to continue to work on his ability to handle as well as stroke it from deep. He was the best shooter in the northeast this year, and he figures to have at least one college-ready skill right now.

Fearless prediction: Mark Lyons will obviously start the season as the two guard of choice for Coach Chris Mack. During spells in which he is catching his breath or handling the ball, Redford and Davis both offer the skills to spread the defense. Redford has more experience in college and in the Xavier system, which should give him the edge in playing time, but Davis will be fighting him for every minute. The Muskies had success with a three-guard lineup from time to time last year; expect to see more of that this season as Coach Mack looks to get his embarrassment of riches in the guard position onto the floor.

Small forward:
Much like the shooting guard, this position is the incumbent's to lose. Dezmine Wells was nothing short of a sensation as a freshman last year, and his numbers only figure to improve as he adjusts to the college game and becomes more of the focus of the offense. Dez showed incredible athletic ability and an advanced feel for the game last year, and his shooting stroke was more effective than initially anticipated. Wells figures to be an elite force for Xavier next year.

His competition for minutes will come from a couple of different places next season. The familiar face is the ever-languid Justin Martin, whose smoothness and generally sleepy facial structure sometimes give the impression that he's not 100% into the game. He flashed a nose for the ball on defense last year, and his rebounding and shooting came around late. It's not too far-fetched to say that Coach Mack may have finally gotten through to Martin at the end of the year regarding the effort and attitude required make it work at this level. If he can get/keep his head in the right place, Martin has the skills to affect the game from the three.

New to the team in terms of game eligibility is Towson transfer Isaiah Philmore. At 6'7", 230, Philmore is broader across the shoulders than Martin, and his 15 and 7 per game averages at Towson attest that he's willing to get into the middle and mix it up. He also hit 35% of his three-point attempts the last time he suited up, though, which speaks to his ability to score from outside as well as inside.

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Dez Wells will be the answer to a lot of questions for Xavier next year.
Fearless prediction: Ultimately, Wells will get the lion's share of the minutes here. While Martin and Philmore can both play the three and allow Xavier to go big by bumping Wells up to the two (or just give him a breather), both of them will probably be needed due to problems further on down the line. To wit...

Power forward:
This is where things got a little murky for Xavier this year, and next year doesn't have any clear answers on deck. Martin and Philmore both have the skills required to play a small four, but neither of them has the size (Martin's too short and too skinny, Philmore's too short) you'd like to see in the guy getting your primary minutes at the power forward.

Jeff Robinson is what Jeff Robinson is, whatever that is. He might reel off a handful of double-digit scoring games, or he might completely disappear for the better part of a month. Robinson doesn't have a lot of bulk, but he is a good enough athlete to defend the post and rebound well. He also occasionally flashes the ability to finish well above the rim on offense. He's simply not as consistent as you would like a guy to be before you hand him 25-30 minutes per game, though.

Travis Taylor is also familiar to the Xavier faithful. To his credit, he has a motor that flat out doesn't quit. He gives relentless effort at both ends of the floor and rebounds very well for a man of his size. Coach Mack, however, has repeatedly spoken of his tendency to get "hyper" and his need to slow down and execute. Xavier's power forward position struggled to finish at the rim last year, and a lot of that was Travis Taylor's doing.

Incoming freshman James Farr stands 6'10" and plays the same face-up four role that was so effective against Xavier last year. The Chicago-area baller is going to need to pack on some muscle to be effective on the post at either end, but he has the skills of the guard that he was before a late growth spurt pushed him closer to the basket. Farr's mid-range jumper plays right now in Xavier's ball-screen offense, but his body is going to need to continue to mature to take the pounding of interior play.

Fearless prediction:
This is a tough one. The four was an absolute offensive black hole for the Muskies last year, and that hampered the offense as the player tasked with guarding Walker, Taylor, or Robinson would drift off into the middle to make life difficult for the rest of the team. If Philmore's game translates from Towson to the Atlantic Ten, look for him to make this position his fewer than a dozen games into the season. In the meantime, Jeff Robinson or Travis Taylor will start the year here. Hope one of them makes a jump over the summer.

With the departure of Banners favorite Kenny Frease, there will be fewer minutes given to a true center for Xavier this year than in the recent past. None of the incumbent players on the roster really fill that role, but incoming freshman Jalen Reynolds comes close. Reynolds was part of this year's recruiting class before he reclassed to the 2012-2013 freshman group. Reports from his year at prep school (alongside Semaj Christon) have been mostly positive, and he has the size and skills to play in the paint. Reynolds is also a great rebounder, with explosive leaping ability and a long wingspan.

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Will this guy be in Xavier's blue next year?
One other interesting note at this position is the scholarship left open by the transfer of Griffin McKenzie. Xavier is in - with a host of other schools (ed. note: but no longer Duke) - on transferring UConn center Alex Oriakhi, who would be eligible to play immediately. Oriakhi is a slightly undersized true center, and he is a menace on both ends of the glass and defending the paint. There are a lot of high-profile programs pursuing Oriakhi's signature, but the same was true of an increasing number of Xavier players.

Fearless prediction: Depending on the readiness of the incoming freshmen to play right away, Xavier's frontcourt could be a mess next year. The players who have been with the team have serious question marks attached to them, and it's tough to ask a player to not only contribute big minutes as a freshman but to do it in a position at which the physical size of the opponent's body is so important. If Coach Mack can land Oriakhi, he anchors the middle and the rest of the players fall into place around him. If not, watch for the four and five positions to be a revolving door of similarly built and equipped players until someone steps up and seizes the minutes.

Of course, any number of things could happen between now and the beginning of next year. For all the news fit to report that affects the Xavier program and NCAA basketball at large, bookmark us and come back often. We'll spend the summer following recruiting, analyzing what the returning players need to do to progress over the summer, and previewing Xavier's opponents for next year. We'll also cover anything that breaks that might be interesting or pertinent to Musketeer fans. Keep it locked right here all summer long.