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Are Xavier's role players failing?

As Xavier looks to right its 5-3 ship, they'll need the guys not named Semaj or Matt to play well. Has it been the role players letting Xavier down thus far?

Too often, Isaiah Philmore has not come up big.
Too often, Isaiah Philmore has not come up big.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Every good team has role players. They are the guys that grab offensive rebounds, lock down an opponent on defense, dive on the floor for loose balls, make threes, or just set monster screens. No role player does all those things, or he'd be a star. The stars are out there to do the big things, and teams need them too, but even LeBron doesn't win games without Mike Miller, even John Calipari has to pay the occasional glue guy. Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons had Dante Jackson, Romain Sato and Lionel Chalmers had Anthony Myles, and Gary Lumpkin and Lenny Brown had TJ Jackson.

It is those glue guys who Xavier so desperately needs right now. Semaj Christon is the star and he is, ignoring the free throw stripe, doing his job. Matt Stainbrook is the other major cog, and he's been at least as good as advertised. Around those two fit the rest of the team. Looking only at players who get at least 20% of the available minutes in a game (we'll fudge a bit for Erik Stenger's 19.7%), we now have eight games worth of data to determine if Xavier's role players are doing their jobs. Here, as sorted by playing time and some pertinent stats, they are:

Brandon Randolph- (64.6% Minutes, 5.9ppg, 3apg)

Role: Relieve Semaj from some ball handling duties, create chances with speed, knock down some open shots, play solid defense.

Grade: B-.

Randolph has done a solid handling the ball and his nine turnovers in eight games is testimony to that. Brandon has also done a good job getting his teammates involved, putting up nearly a 3:1 A/TO ratio. If you believe defensive rating numbers, Randolph has been the worst defender on the team, but perimeter defenders who don't steal a lot tend to be underrated there, and Randolph hasn't looked awful.

What he has not done is knock down open shots to open the lane for he and Semaj to attack. Coming into the season the question was whether Brandon could shoot enough to open the lane for his quicksilver first step. It turns out that he really cannot at this point. 36.4% on two point jumpers and 7% from deep isn't getting it done.

Myles Davis- (53.8%, 41% 3PT, 61% EFG)

Role: Knock down open threes, don't be a liability on defense or off the bounce.

Grade: A.

There's not a lot of nuance in Myles Davis right now. What he steps on to the court to do is make threes. He's doing that to the tune of 41%, which is plenty good enough to make any team playing him take notice. Myles also needs to make sure that he stays on the court enough to let his skill set play. As you can see by the number next to his name, he has so far. Myles Davis is not part of the problem.

Justin Martin- (48%, 99.5 ORtg, 13.3% TO Rate, 7.9 ppg)

Role: Play an all around game, take care of the ball, rebound a bit, score a bit, be a useful option at the three.

Grade: C.

Justin Martin tore Iowa apart for 20 minutes on Thanksgiving. In those 20 minutes he scored 11 points by making a three, slashing the lane, and converting from the line. In the next 25 minutes, as his team faded, a huge lead disappeared, and things went so horribly sideways, Martin scored four points. I have no idea what Martin is doing most of the time, and that Iowa game was a microcosm of it. He's truly an enigma.

For instance, that 13.3% turnover rate is currently best on the team. The ball is safer in the hands of JMart than it is anywhere else on Xavier's team. Ponder that for a moment. In 2012, Martin grabbed 16.8% of defensive rebounds, and 7.4% of offensive rebounds. This year, those numbers are down to 13.8% and 3.7%, reflecting a sizable drop in rebounding from Martin as a forward. So far this season, Martin is driving 20% more, and finishing at the rim about 20% worse, than he did last year. Couple that with a 29% mark from deep and you have yet more frustration.

Dee Davis- (45.8%, 35% 3PT, 25.5% Assist rate, 34.4% TO Rate)

Role: Run the team smoothly, get the ball to scorers, make open shots, take care of the ball.

Grade: D.

Dee was a large part of the reason that Xavier lost three straight games in the Bahamas. He has shot the ball well from deep, but that number is somewhat tarnished by the fact that he's 3-13 in games not played against teams named Miami. The assist rate for Dee is nice and high, but the turnover rate is almost incomprehensibly bad. Dee's been bad so far, and he's been bad in ways that hurt the team greatly. A ballhandler who commits a turnover more than a third of the time he touches the ball is a liability.

Isaiah Philmore- (45.5%, 7.8% OR rate, 12.4% DR rate, 19.8% TO Rate, 8.9 ppg)

Role: Rebound, score on putbacks, do the little things.

Grade: C.

If you look at the first three numbers up there, Philmore has been an abject failure this season. He's rebounding less, especially on the offensive end, and turning the ball over a lot more than he did last year. On the other hand, he's shooting 58% from the floor and scoring nearly nine points in only 21 minutes per game. What does all that mean? That we're getting a mixed bag from Philmore this year. The scoring is great, but if it doesn't come with better effort on the defensive glass, Xavier will keep losing games like Iowa and USC.

James Farr- (38.5%, 126.6 ORtg, 68.8% EFG, 18.5 OR rate, 25.8% DR rate)

Role: Undefined coming into the season, now to provide starter level production.

Grade: A+

There is no grade high enough for what Farr has done this year. 7.8/6.3/.3 on .600/.538/.700 is immense, doing it in just 15.6 minutes per game is otherworldly. If and when Farr starts getting the time that his play is demanding, he's going to jump from being a role player to one of the stars of this team. And therein lies the rub with Farr. Can he keep producing like this if he gets 25-30 minutes a game? The fact that is even a question we are considering right now tells how well Farr has done in his role.

Jalen Reynolds- (35.4%, 14.1% OR rate, 16.8% DR rate, 110.9 ORtg, 129.4 FT Rate)

Role: Change the game with athleticism on both ends, rebound, score inside.

Grade: B.

You aren't reading that wrong, Reynolds attempts more free throws than he does field goals. What keeps him from getting an A is that he shoots only 59% from the line. On the plus side, that's better than the team average! Reynolds is incredibly active and effective when he is on the floor, just as advertised. However, that comes with the caveat that Reynolds isn't on the floor all that much, because he just cannot stop fouling people. Since James Farr has reigned the hacking in, Reynolds leads the team with his 7.7 fouls per 40 minutes. That clip is unsustainable, but right now it keeps Xavier's third best rebounder on the bench all too often.

Erik Stenger- (19.7%, 20.2% DR Rate, 6.8% block rate, 69% FG)

Role: Provide constant, unceasing energy.

Grade: Incomplete

It's hard to grade a guy who plays less than 20% of the available minutes and has missed the last four games. What Stenger has done is play as hard as possible for as long as he can on every occasion that he's been called on. That he's post 5.5/3/5/.5 in only 16 minutes per game is a testament to how hard he worked on his game over the summer. Hopefully, he's well soon.

Summary:

That leaves Xavier grading out with two A's (M. Davis and Farr), two B's (Randolph and Reynolds), two C's (Martin and Philmore), a D (Dee), and Stenger with an incomplete. Role players absolutely have to carry their weight for a team to succeed, and while Xavier has gotten excellent production out of two guys, everyone else begins to trend downward. For the Musketeers to make some noise, their role guys have to pick things up.