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Moving Forward, pt. 2


It's no secret that Xavier was going to be on the back foot for this season thanks to the departures of Tu Holloway, Kenny Frease, Andre Walker, and Mark Lyons. With Dez Wells dismissed - and under questionable circumstances - the team that went to the Sweet Sixteen last year suddenly bears almost no meaningful connection to this season's squad.

There's not any good way to spin it. Gone is the entire starting five from last season. The leading returning scorer is Travis Taylor, who often confounded the Musketeer faithful with his inability or unwillingness to score seemingly easy buckets. Trying to fill the shoes of the departed players will be newly-eligible Isaiah Philmore, JuCo transfer Chris Cantino, and freshmen Jalen Reynolds, Semaj Christon, James Farr, and Myles Davis.

It's not pretty, is what I'm saying.

In terms of scoring, the picture isn't pretty. Almost 80% - 79.5%, to be exact - of Xavier's 2,487 points from last year have left the building. Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons are the two biggest obvious reasons for that, but you don't lose four out of every five points you scored without having a full team effort. As you can see from the handy pie chart, even Taylor's slice of the production was more of a sliver, and it only goes smaller from there. For Xavier to replicate their offensive output from last season, someone is going to have to step up and make a massive contribution. Hopefully Isaiah Philmore is really, really good right away.

Slightly less depressing.

Things are slightly less depressing on the rebounding side of things. Only a fool would doubt the effort of Travis Taylor, the athleticism of Jeff Robinson, or the presence of Justin Martin on the glass. While those things did not always all show up at the same time for X last year, they did do enough that 453 of Xavier's 1,275 boards from a season ago are returning. Of the 65.5% of the team's rebounds that left, most of them were hauled in by Big Kenny Frease and Andre Walker. Of the six players suiting up for Xavier in live play for the first time this upcoming season, only Semaj Christon and Myles Davis don't come in with reputations as at least serviceable rebounders. This in one area in which Xavier might be fine this season.

That's not necessarily pretty.

Predictably, the story with assists is pretty ugly. Xavier dished out 464 assists last season; the players responsible for 400 (86.2%, if you prefer) of those will not be back this year. Nobody who averaged more than an assist per game last season returns. Of the returning players, only Dee Davis and Brad Redford had more assists than turnovers, combing for 41 assists and 38 turnovers. There is a silver lining to this rather dark cloud, though, and it comes in the form of Semaj Christon. Christon was one of the top-rated point guards in the nation when Xavier signed him, and he has done nothing to cast any doubt on that since that time. It's a big ask for a freshman to come in and play a better-than-solid point guard, but Dee Davis can't do it all by his lonesome.

If there's a point here, it's this: Xavier's roster is gutted, but the season is going to be played anyway. In all likelihood, it's going to be a rocky year for X. Fans will be faced with options coming from one of two places: they can either be bitter and resentful about the past, fret about Mark Lyons and fume about Dez Wells, and generally spend the season thinking about why it should have been different, or they can buckle in, see what Coach Mack can do with this group, and watch a talented but inexperienced group take its lumps and grow as a team. I know which camp I'm in. Since they're not calling the season off, there's no point in not trying to make the best what's left of it.