Xavier is experiencing a roster turnover not usually seen outside of Madden sessions with 16 year olds. While Coach Mack hasn't actually traded anyone, his roster for this season barely resembles the one that limped off the court in Dayton last March. Joel laid out the groundwork Monday, and we're going to spend the rest of the week taking a slightly more in depth look at Xavier's incoming talent.
It's all well and good to wait on one freshman to develop into a player of the course of a couple of years, and Xavier has had great success with that business model (see: Jason Love), but with seven new players there's not enough left on the roster to carry that much development and remain competitive. What that means for this year is that several of the incoming class are going to have produce right off the shelf.
- Who has the best chance to start right away?
If you go just by the stats from Brazil, which I'd caution against, it looks like Remy Abell figures to start right away for the Musketeers. Those stats are the product of an exhibition schedule and an MIA Dee Davis though, and may not have a great bearing on what you'll actually see come November. Larry Austin Jr. logged only a minute less playing time than Abell did (and only nine minutes fewer than team leader Myles Davis), but most of that came because Dee couldn't go.
That seems to leave Remy Abell and Trevon Bluiett as the most likely members of the incoming group to start right away. Which of them suits up for the first few games could be an indication of where Coach Mack is going with the team. Bluiett is a scorer who spurned the advances of UCLA to sign for Xavier. He can shoot, get to the rim, and score off the offensive glass. If Coach Mack is looking for a like for like swap to replace the offensive production of Semaj Christon, it's Bluiett that he'll turn to.
Replacing offense might not be a big concern though, with Jalen Reynolds looking very ready to step up and Matt Stainbrook, last year's most efficient starter, figuring to have a larger role. That would leave a starting spot open for Remy Abell. Abell is also a capable shooter (45.8% from deep in a smallish sample at Indiana) and brings a defensive toughness that Coach Mack has always stressed. Abell is also coming in as a junior with two years in the Big Ten already under his belt.
The third possibility is that both Abell and Bluiett start from the off. Reynolds, Stainbrook, and Dee Davis are sure things. Currently occupying the fourth starting spot is Myles Davis. If his shot isn't falling or if Bluiett or Abell are able to match him shot for shot, their superior athleticism and rebounding ability will give them an edge over the sophomore. If both players step up, there could be two new faces in the Xavier lineup when the season tips off.
- Who has a skill that plays right away?
JP Macura. All of the incoming players are, obviously, talented, but that doesn't mean they have the one party piece that will garner them instant time. Macura does. There is always a need for a team to have a defensive stretching specialist who is a danger to shoot any time he crosses the half court line. Anyone who remembers Xavier's loss at Creighton last season will recall Ethan Wragge's game changing barrage that ended with what was essentially a 27 foot runner. Macura isn't that tall, but he's every bit the pure shooter. At 6'5" he'll have some leeway to get his shot away that Brad Redford didn't have, and he'll have much the same effect on the crowd.