The upcoming season for Xavier will be a unique one in the recent history of the program, owing largely to the departure of Tu Holloway. With his leaving - as well as Kenny Frease's graduation and Mark Lyons' defection to Arizona - Xavier will be left with a vacuum at the top the likes of which they have not recently faced. Since the turn of the century, the Muskies have seen more than one great player come and go, but none have left the program in the lurch quite like Holloway's graduation has done this year.
David West obviously jumps out as perhaps the best - and certainly the most successful at the next level - of the recent departures. He was the Player of the Year while he was at Xavier, and the team's hopes had been largely pinned on his abilities his senior season. Despite the stratospheric numbers that he put up, though, he didn't leave a gaping hole in the team. Anthony Myles stepped into the middle of the floor and filled in admirably, if not as effectively as West had. Meanwhile, seniors Lionel Chalmers and Romain Sato were ready to step up and carry the team, which ultimately made it as far as any recent Musketeer squad has in the NCAA tournament.
Chalmers and Sato both had brief looks at the league before heading overseas, and they gave way to the brilliant ensemble casts of the middle of the decade. Justin Doellman, Justin Cage, Josh Duncan, Drew Lavender, Stanley Burrell, BJ Raymond, CJ Anderson, and Brandon Cole (with a smattering of role players besides) distinguished themselves as one of the greatest groups to come through Xavier. They were responsible for some legendary moments - BJ Raymond's tournament three, Burrell throwing the X - while not being reliant on one transcendent player.
The next NBA talent to come through the squad was Derrick Brown. He was an efficient, above-the-rim scoring machine as a freshman who evolved into a complete offensive player by his junior year. Leaving behind a team that would have been potentially dominant, he chose to forego his senior season for a chance to be drafted in the second round. Fortunately for Xavier, Jordan Crawford was coming off his transfer year and ready to step in. The Muskies have had better players come through the program, but none of them have been born to get buckets quite like Crawford. His emergence eased the pain of Brown's departure.
Of course, Crawford left after a single season, bringing us full circle. For two years, Musketeers fans could count on steady performances from Holloway with the odd mind-blowing crunch time performance thrown in for good measure. Now the team is left without four of last year's starting five, leaving the program surrounded by more questions than perhaps any other year beginning with "20".
This is not a dire situation, though. Semaj Christon may step up as a big-time player from the word go. Isaiah Philmore might dominate the paint, or Travis Taylor might be who we thought he was going to be last year. Dee Davis may run the court better than anyone since Drew Lavender, or one of the other freshman may show up on campus ready to do more than just contribute. Any number of amazing things might come out of this season, but for now, it's as unknown as it has been in a long time.