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Balanced attack or no real star?

Xavier may not have a big gun this year. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Is this Xavier's star?
Is this Xavier's star?
Joe Robbins

Our article yesterday laid out Luke Winn's assertion that Xavier lacks a truly dominant player in any of the triple slash (points/rebounds/assists) categories. Winn was classy enough after we took a mild swipe at him to point out that his model sees Xavier as a balanced team, not necessarily one that can't score. So, which has historically been better for Xavier: star power or balance?

Star Power:

For the last two years, Semaj Christon has been the focus of the offense. His 30.2% usage rate in 2012 was 40th in basketball, and his 27% last year comfortably led the team over Matt Stainbrook. Xavier fans would like to forget 2012, but 2013 was another successful year for the program, and Christon was a large part of that. Worth noting is that his offensive efficiency jumped to 106.5 last year. Having a "star" who controls the ball is no good if that player isn't very efficient.

The last two teams that had such a dominant player were the 2011 squad with Tu Holloway taking 28% of possessions, and the 2010 team that saw Jordan Crawford take over 29%. Both of those players had an efficiency number over 110 and led teams that were easily inside the top 40 in KenPom. Crawford's 2010 squad was 17th despite not having another player over 25% usage (Jason Love was next at 21%). In short, single player teams can be very good if that single player is dominant. In the case of the 2013 Musketeers, a single player was crippled by that player not being good enough to merit the amount of possessions he used.


The most recent example of a very balanced team that Xavier has put together is the 2012 team that very nearly beat Baylor to make the Elite Eight. Tu Holloway (25.5% 111.8 efficiency), Mark Lyons (24.9%, 104), and Kenny Frease (24.1%, 98.3) all contributed greatly with Dez Wells (18.8%, 108) and Travis Taylor (19.5%, 96.6) not far behind. The 2009 team (CJ Anderson, Kenny Frease, BJ Raymond, and Derrick Brown) had four players use over 20% of the available possessions and the 2008 team that advanced to the Elite Eight had a shocking seven players (CJ Anderson, Derrick Brown, BJ Raymond, Stanley Burrell, Drew Lavender, Jason Love, and Josh Duncan) over 18% usage. Both of those teams, as well as the 2007 squad with four players over 20%, were successful into the tournament.

So which does that mean is better? Obviously, a Jordan Crawford type player is capable of taking almost any team to the next level. Crawford against Kansas State, and Gus Johnson's ensuing hysterics, are a great example of that. Balanced teams in Xavier's history, however, tend to be more successful. The 2004 and 2007 Elite Eight teams both boasted at least four players who used over 20% of possessions while they were on the floor.

What that means for this year is that maybe having a "star" player isn't necessary. Just as fans of the 2004 team will remember both Romain Sato from deep and Lionel Chalmers teardrops in the lane, fans of this season should be prepared to debate whether it is the deft touch of Matt Stainbrook or the raw power of Jalen Reynolds that is driving the team. Adding in Davis x2 from the back court and the explosiveness of Trevon Bluiett or the steady shooting of Remy Abell should lead to another team capable of beating opponents from all over the floor.