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Filling a Mark Lyons Shaped Hole

Like him or not, Xavier is a far lesser team without Mark Lyons.
Like him or not, Xavier is a far lesser team without Mark Lyons.

Update: 2:30pm- The Arizona Daily Star is now reporting that Mark Lyons has not made any decision. According to Lyons "They definitely wanted me back and me and coach (Chris Mack) had a meeting about it,” Lyons said. “But I’ve gotta think about what‘s best for me and my family so I’m trying... I still don’t know what I’m going to do yet. I’m trying to graduate. I was thinking about it, and the word got out that I was thinking about it, and they ran with it.” Lyons also went on to say that he wants to play point guard in his final season and that Coach Mack is offering him that opportunity at Xavier.

Update: 11:05am- ESPN Insider is reporting that Lyons and the school have not reached a decision regarding Mark's future. Reports indicate that the staff and Lyons have been in meetings but the fact the coaches are all on the road has prevented any sort of resolution. Arizona , Kansas, and UK are already queueing up for the the talented guard, should he leave. As always, we will keep you posted as stories break. Read below for the possible impact of losing Lyons.

Mark Lyons has both his proponents and his detractors. Some people say that the junior swingman shoots, runs, and talks too much. His defenders say he brings defensive tenacity, fearlessness, and swagger to the table. What everyone can agree is that Lyons has been a large part of the Xavier offense for the last two years. With his tenure at Xavier now suddenly a thing of the past, there is a large hole for Coach Chris Mack to fill at both ends of the floor.

Taken empirically, Mark Lyons was as close to a star as someone playing with Tu Holloway can be. Lyons usage rate of 24.9% trailed the preseason All-American by only .6%. Lyons shot rate of 27.9% was highest on the team by a mildly staggering 3.5% over Kenny Frease. The more familiar triple slash numbers of 15.1/3.2/2.8 on a .425/.397/.761 combined with 1.3 steals per game and the best A/TO ratio of his career put paid to the idea of Lyons as nothing but a conscienceless gunner. Those numbers also paint the picture of a shooting guard on the verge of being one of the best in the game.

If reports are true and Lyons is really on the proverbial next bus out of town, the Xavier Musketeers are in a bad way. Semaj Christon and Myles Davis are both scoring guards, but it would be outlandishly optimistic to expect either (or even both) to match that kind of output. Dee Davis had a solid freshman year, especially on the defensive end, but gave no indication that he would ever be a major scoring threat. Mark taking his muscle flexing, trash talking show out of town would mean that Xavier had lost 48 points per game from last year's squad. Replacing Tu and Kenny was going to be difficult enough, replacing 67.6% of the team's scoring is a nearly insurmountable task.

If this sounds grim to you, that's because it is. Again, Lyons wasn't without his detractors, and they all seemed to focus on his attitude. What they missed was that the pugnacity and arrogance that made them dislike #10 made him almost impossible to stop. With Xavier on the ropes against Dayton and looking NIT bound, it was Lyons that turned the game with a personal 7-0 run. Lyons never fully emerged from the shadow of his backcourt mate, but he made his own mark scoring this season, getting 19 or more on ten separate occasions. With Xavier lacking effective backcourt depth, Lyons played 74.6% of available minutes. Possessed of the same vein of indefatigable will as Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons simply never quit.

This leaves Brad Redford, Dee Davis, and Justin Martin as the blooded guards for the 2012-13 season. Martin was enigmatic all year, Redford will play exactly as much time as his shooting earns him, and Dee Davis already figured to have a starting spot. Of the incoming guards Semaj Christon figures to make the biggest impact after a standout year at Brewster Academy. Christon's ability to distribute the ball rather than rely simply on his own scoring will get him minutes early. Not far behind is Myles Davis, a jumpshooting specialist from Notre Dame Prep. What neither of those freshman will bring is any sort of college level experience. Veteran Brad Redford's 1251 minutes of total college experience are barely more than Lyons played this year alone. Filling Lyons shoes from the group of five that Coach Mack has to work with will be a formidable challenge.

It's hard to say at this point exactly what transpired that led to Mark Lyons leaving Xavier. What is certain is this: Lyons was abrasive, brash, and occasionally uncontrollable, he was also far and away the biggest reason to be optimistic about the 2012-13 season. A Xavier Musketeers team already forced by graduation to replace its heart and soul will now also have to replace the never silent assassin that joined him in the backcourt. These could be dark times indeed.