For the first time since the Muskies trudged off the floor at the end of their loss to NC State, Xavier is back in action against a US college on US soil. Xavier played four games in Brazil back in August - coverage and video highlights here - which should help the team have a leg up on things heading into the season. Finally, our long summer is over and our boys are back to business on the new Cintas Center floor.
Xavier's opponent tomorrow will be Northwood University's Michigan campus (Northwood also has campuses in Florida and Texas). Northwood is a Division Two school that went 18-13 last season and just lost 94-70 to Indiana yesterday. The Timberwolves played them tough for a while, even leading for most of the first half, before Indiana took control and then pulled away.
Northwood lost their top scorer last season in F Wes Wilcox (18.5/7.5/2.4) and also saw Darvin Ham (not that one) and his 12.4 PPG move on. Returning players include dead-eye guard Dylan Langkabel, who averaged 14.0/3.8/2.1 .438/.374/.902 shooting last season, and 6'7" C Will Bowles, who averaged 12.6/8.2/1.4 and 1.9 blocks per game last season. Yes, their center is 6'7". Guard Khalid King and his 9.5 PPG on 40.6% shooting from deep round out the interesting returnees.
One incoming player that has a lot of people excited is G Maurice Jones. Jones played two years at USC and - despite standing only 5'7" - was their team MVP as a sophomore, when he averaged 13.0/2.7/3.5, albeit on a horrendous .336/.302/.665 shooting line. Still, he's quick and fearless and figures to be a big part of what Northwood is trying to do this year.
Three things to watch for:
-Checking the arc. Northwood took almost 37% of their shots from behind the arc last year, and they took 42% of them from deep against Indiana. Xavier's inability to close down the arc - they were dead last in 3PA% defense in the Big East last year - hurt them in conference play. I hope to see the Muskies demonstrating that they can force teams to shoot contested threes this year.
-Working through the jitters. I played my first organized game of basketball in about a decade last week and I was surprised by how jittery I was to start off. Multiply that by about a billion and you're somewhere in the neighborhood of how the freshmen will feel when the ball goes up tomorrow. Best of luck to all those guys.
-Stay healthy. DON'T GET HURT!