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Looking Ahead: The Program

What the future looks like for the Xavier Musketeers organization as a whole heading into the summer.

Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

There's no doubt that this was a big year for the program as a whole. Coming off of a down year and simultaneously making the jump to the Big East set Xavier up for either a big step forward or a very shaky year. While it would have been foolish to say that he was on the hot seat, Coach Mack was finally coaching a team full of players that he brought in from full recruiting cycles; he saw finally out of the shadow (at least in terms of roster construction) of Sean Miller's abrupt departure.

A hot start and - hiccup in the Bahamas aside - a good non-conference season helped calm the fears from the 17-win campaign. Xavier was a surprise contender in the Big East for much of the year before falling off the pace, but the team's hard-fought third-place finish was a lot better than many of the pundits predicted, and being at the helm for that certainly re-established Coach Mack as one of the top young coaches in the nation.

Going forward, the first step for the program has to be securing Coach Mack's future. He is once again the subject of rumors regarding every meaningful vacancy that comes up. Some fans (and some writers here) have occasionally questioned Coach Mack's decisions, but there's no doubt that X could do a lot worse at the head coach position. If the school can't hold onto a local guy who can recruit and direct like Mack, it will always be seen as a stepping-stone job.

Under Mack, however, the team is taking off. The move to the Big East seems unquestionably like the right one, as Xavier is going to battle with high-level teams and Butler night in and night out. I'm not sure how much conference affiliation helps recruiting, but it couldn't have hurt as Xavier signed highly-rated recruits like Trevon Bluiett (who also had offers from UCLA, Arizona, Indiana, and Michigan), JP Macura (who also had offers from Creighton, Iowa State, Miami [FL]), and Kansas State and Makinde London (who also had offers from VCU, Vandy, Tennessee, Miami [FL]). The haul of recruits coming into the system is impressive enough on its own, but the least of schools beaten to their signatures makes it all the more so.

While Semaj's jump obviously hurts the roster, it is a feather in the cap of the program. If you're not so talented that John Calipari is willing to pay someone to take your SAT for you but you still harbor meaningful NBA aspirations, Xavier has set itself up as a legitimate destination. I don't know if the kids grow up hoping to be Derrick Brown or David West or Jordan Crawford, but I know they'd all like to be cashing checks like those guys. Xavier is a place to come that can verifiably put you on that path if you're good enough. Worst-case scenario, you're leaving with a degree.

I think the program is in a better place than it was last year at this time, and it's set to take another step forward this season. Perennial NCAA advancement is the goal for any basketball program, and the Musketeers have a long history of exactly that. I'd say there's no reason to believe that won't continue for the foreseeable future, as long as we keep Coach Mack around.