2014 was a year of incredible ups and downs for the Xavier Musketeers. On the positive side, they returned to the NCAA Tournament after missing postseason play altogether the season before, and Chris Mack brought in seven new faces over the summer, snagging a nationally notable class in his first year as a Big East recruiter. Mack had so many scholarships to offer because of the early departures of Semaj Christon and Justin Martin over the summer, which was news that was perhaps not met with ecstasy by Xavier fans. Overall 2014 could be seen as a success, and here is where we will begin our walk down memory lane with the top 10 articles from Banners this season.
10. Wake Forest is not a Step Up for Coach Mack After Xavier's exit from the NCAA Tournament, Coach Mack was linked with the vacancy at Wake Forest, a job where Xavier legend Skip Prosser had gone after X. It may have felt like deja vu for X fans, as rumors swirled of a Matta and Miller-esque bolt in the night by Mack. Ultimately, he stayed and continued building at Xavier, but the whole exercise brought about a healthy discussion of the national profile of the Xavier Basketball program, especially in light of the new major conference status.
9. Matt Stainbrook Injured At Seton Hall on March 3rd, Xavier was coming off beating Creighton and was close to rubber stamping their resume for the NCAA Tournament. However, Matt Stainbrook strained his MCL, Xavier lost the game, and the future looked bleak for both player and team. Stainbrook would miss the regular season finale, a loss to Villanova, but was able to play in the first round of the Big East Tournament, where Xavier beat Marquette and pushed themselves off the bubble and in to the tournament.
8. Is it Time to End the Packline Defense? This article came a week after Marquette's Jake Thomas had taken advantage of Xavier's packline defense to barbecue the Muketeers for 18 points on 6-10(!) three point shooting. The discussion commenced as to how the packline was so effective for Virginia and so poor for Xavier. To date this year, the debate still goes on as Xavier's vulnerability from three point range remains their achilles heel on defense. A new emphasis on turning the opponent over has seen the Musketeers post much better defensive numbers this year, but the inability to stop three point shooters remains a concern.
7. Xavier v. Georgetown: Q&A Part 1 With a new conference came new opponents in 2014, and Xavier and Georgetown's first meeting gave fans of both sides the chance to get to hear from one another. Casual Hoya was kind enough to welcome us to Big East play by answering our battery of questions. Xavier would win that first meeting, but apparently all the good reading was before the game.
6. Your Guide to Xavier's Seven New Players With the roster being overhauled this summer, X fans couldn't wait to see their new stars on the court. This was actually part of a series which detailed the various strengths and weaknesses the new blood would bring to the table. Although Makinde London and Edmond Sumner are both redshirting and Larry Austin has yet to see significant playing time, a look back at this article shows that a lot of the hopes we had for these guys have been met thus far.
5. Xavier v. NC State: Preview This was undoubtedly the biggest game of the year (duh) and everyone wanted to know what NC State was bringing to the table other than the ACC Player of the Year. As it turned out, they didn't need much more than TJ Warren's efforts, but X fans flocked to the internet to be as informed as possible about Xavier's First Four opponent. Although the season ended in Dayton, this article is a time capsule of sorts for the last stand of the 2013-14 edition of the Xavier Musketeers.
4. Pre-Duel Pleasantries: Alabama As I watched Alabama finish off UCLA about a week ago, I felt much more invested in rooting for the Tide than I typically do someone who isn't Xavier. A large part of that probably can be attributed to the way Bama's basketball fanbase portrayed itself in this article. There is some realistic, friendly banter to be found here, as well as some culinary discussion, because we always have culinary discussion. X went on to win the game, but the back and forth beforehand drew a lot of comments and lived up to the Pre-Duel Pleasantries billing.
3. Opening Day With Banners For any college basketball fan, the opening day of the NCAA Tournament is one of the greatest days of the year. Even though Xavier had been knocked out in the First Four, X fans still turned out to celebrate the opening of the greatest even in college sports by keeping up with Banners' coverage. Banners HQ (read:Brad's livingroom) was abuzz as early upsets and nail biters made this one of the more memorable opening days in recent tournament history. Ohio State lost, Adreian Payne dropped 41 on somebody, UC lost, and Ice Cube didn't have to use his AK, making this one of they best days of the year here at Banners.
2. Xavier will Play NC State in the First Four After a maddeningly inconsistent run in to end conference play, most people though Xavier had done just enough to merit inclusion in the field of 68 teams. Nerves turned to excitement as Xavier's name came up in the First Four, perhaps not where fans would prefer, but in nonetheless. Of course we all knew X was in, right?
1. NIT Bracketology and Primer Maybe we weren't so sure. This was the number one post of the year on Banners, due mostly to the fact that most places do not feature extensive NIT bracket coverage. Even though the NIT is not where anyone envisions their team's season going, roughly 15 thousand hearty souls came by to find out what came next for their teams. True fans stick in there through thick and thin, and although X had some moments that were more difficult than others, the fact that our pageviews went up nearly 500% from 2013 shows that you guys are true fans. Thanks for all your support and comments in 2014, and here is to X hanging another banner in Cintas Center in 2015!