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Xavier 2015-2016 Player Preview: Jalen Reynolds

Matt Stainbrook left a big hole for X to fill in the middle, but another breakout performance from Jalen Reynolds would do just that.

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

There has perhaps not been a player in Xavier history that has shown as tantalizing of flashes of potential as Jalen Reynolds has for Xavier over the past two seasons. Reynolds has shown an ability to absolutely dominate an opponent beyond that of almost any player in college basketball, while still maintaining the flaws and lapses that put roller coasters to shame for sheer unpredictability. His major leap onto the scene was as a freshman at St. John's where he posted 17 and 16 in a vital road win, signalling his presence as a player to watch, although similar performances eluded him for the remainder of the season. Last season he seemed to haphazardly alternate between unstoppable and invisible, best illustrated in the pair of two point performances in late January, which he promptly followed by scoring 53 points over the next three games.

His Jekyll and Hyde act stems from the single issue that Jalen has struggled with the most over the last two seasons: fouls. Reynolds can't be guarded by anyone on the court at any given time, but doesn't need to be if he is relegated to the bench. Last season, he committed 6.1 fouls per 40 minutes played, down from the 7.6 mark he posted as a freshman. Part of the issue is that Reynolds high energy style of play is simply given to producing fouls, and to cut down the fouls would also be to curb his aggression and motor on the court. Part of the issue is that referees, especially in the Big East, have a hair trigger when it comes to dealing out a technical foul to Reynolds, already a passionate player who now operates on a short leash. However, part of the issue is that Reynolds often puts himself in places on defense by being slow in rotating where he sets himself up as an easy target to attack for an opponent looking for an and one. That would be the part Xavier fans hope he will control this season.

Best Case Scenario

Reynolds is an extremely gifted athlete and showed a solid range of low post skill last year. With a sense of responsibility about keeping himself on the court, his foul rate drops another 1.5 fouls per 40 minutes and he is able to be a steadying force underneath for Xavier. If this happens, his natural explosiveness will make him one for the best bigs in the nation and he will make people take notice for the whole season the way he did when he dispatched Georgia State in last year's round of 32.

Worst Case Scenario

Pretty much the opposite, I guess. Jalen can't clean up his play and ends up averaging around 20 minutes a game again. Without his athleticism and explosiveness, Xavier's other bigs are stretched too thin and the interior becomes the team's Achilles heel.

Most Likely Scenario

I am pretty bullish on Reynolds at this point, although it will be interesting to see how he operates alongside Farr and O'Mara, with whom he seems slated to share the frontcourt with most frequently. I am not sure he will get under 5 fouls per 40 minutes, but another reduction in that number should see the rest of his production increase. I think X fans will look at this year as a breakout success for the big man, and the rest of the conference will come to rue playing against him.