Our Season in Review will be running over the course of the next week. Stay here for a look at all the news surrounding Xavier basketball this year, the breakdown of the season, a review of our predictions, and a look ahead to next year.
The Final Four is set and, once again, that means that Xavier's basketball season is over. As Florida, UConn, UK, and Wisconsin prepare to play for the national championship, Xavier prepares for life without the player who has tried to carry the team for the last two seasons. This season didn't start in melancholy though, things actually came to life pretty well.
Teams are built in the offseason, and Coach Mack wasted no time last year. The first to join up was Edmond Sumner, followed by Remy Abell, a transfer from Indiana, then JP Macura, Makinde London, and Sean O'Mara joined up. That was already a good deal of talent coming in, but the addition of all-everything guard/forward Trevon Bluiett made it that much the better. Before the 2013-14 season kicked off, Xavier had already set themselves up for future success. The incoming class is Xavier's highest rated of all time and sits in the top 15 in every reputable scouting service ranking.
2. A quick start
Xavier carried recruiting momentum straight onto the court, if that is possible. Gardner-Webb came and went with barely a hiccup, and then Xavier beat a Tennessee team that finished the year in the Sweet 16. If the G-W was to be expected of any team with even mediocre talent, the win over the Volunteers wasn't. That win was the first indication that this season was not doomed to be a repeat of last.
Xavier then rolled through Morehead State, Miami (Oh), and Abilene Christian without hardly breaking a sweat. None of the games were within 20 and none of them ever really threatened to be much of a contest. Xavier was heading into Thanksgiving on a roll of dominating basketball, sitting at 5-0 and having already added a quality win. The trip to the Bahamas was sure to add another couple of marquee games and, quite possibly, some more resume boosting wins.
3. Complete disintegration
The first mention of the dreadful officiating ("Dee Davis ended up with a Hawkeye literally laying on his back a conference of the weakest minds in basketball was unable to see a foul. This reffing crew was a complete abomination, and they deserve any reasonable verbal vitriol that was hurled their way.") that clouded the college game comes in our recap of the Iowa game, but that was hardly the story. Xavier blew a 15 point second half lead, went 18-28 from the line, and 6-24 from behind the arc. Semaj missed the last 12 minutes of regulation and all of overtime with cramping, and an opportunity for a big win went out the window.
The Banners staff was stricken with a 24 hour flu that caused a combined 12 pounds of weight loss (avoiding the holiday bulge!) and Xavier's performance against a Tennessee team they had just beaten didn't do anything to help food stay down. According to the recap "The Musketeers were just complete and utter garbage down in the Bahamas and got comprehensively destroyed by a Volunteers squad they had beaten earlier in the year." Brandon Randolph and James Farr combined to play 47 minutes in the game, and combined for 14/11/3. The next night they both started and combined for 55 minutes. They never each played 20 minutes in the same game the rest of the year.
That last game against USC turned out to be Xavier's worst loss of the year. Xavier only beat one team (DePaul) the rest of the year that was as bad as the Trojan squad they somehow contrived to lose to by six. A late, desperate, rally led by Semaj Christon came up short when Justin Martin summed the trip up nicely by throwing a pass directly to an opponent. Xavier had completely self-destructed in the span of just three days. Now 5-3 and with UC and Alabama looming, the Musketeers had to right the ship quickly, or risk sinking altogether.