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Is Xavier a Final Four contender? Will one or both of Sumner and Reynolds return?

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We talk about the Musketeers' chances of advancing three weekends deep and who might come back after this season as opposed to going on to cash checks.

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Joel

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope yours were like mine, except with less vomiting.

We've played our last non-conference game of the season and are undefeated and ranked sixth. How do you feel about the team? Final Four potential? Big East champions? Or maybe something less?

Bryan

I would say this team's ability to take a punch on the road against possible tournament teams should have us looking to at least the second weekend. These guys are good enough to get into a position where they outmatch anybody they see the first two games, regardless of how they matchup. Beyond that, it becomes about more than just talent, but I think anything short of a serious run at the Final Four should be seen as falling short of this team's realistic expectations.

Joel

I think I'm with you. We can have a couple of guys completely no-show and still have plenty of viable weapons. I guess I'm having trouble adjusting to what we are. From small times I've been filling out a bracket every year, and I've looked for a certain kind of team for a Final Four pick. Someone who has played and won tough games. Someone who doesn't just rely on one dude. Someone who can score in different ways and can defend different ways of scoring. We are that kind of team right now, and I think 18 Big East games and conference tournament will only hone that edge. It's weird wrapping my mind around major conference basketball, but I'll take it.

In other news, Ed is exploding before our eyes and it seems self-evident at this point that he's not going to be here for four years. Along those same lines, Jalen hasn't played himself onto many draft boards through 12 games. Is there a scenario in which its possible that Jalen comes back next year?

Bryan

I am more concerned with Ed leaving after the season, because he is a legit 6'6" point with explosive athleticism who can score in a variety of ways. Jalen is a super talent and going on 25, but I am just not seeing where he is creating a lot of NBA buzz at this point. That being said, BE play will probably slow Ed down with better, more physical guard play while Jalen has had his best stretches in conference play, so this may all flip by the end of the season.

Joel

I'll be honest, I think Jalen's future is in Europe. I don't think he was ever going to get a lot of NBA love just because of his age, and throwing up an ORtg of 65 at Wake (for example) isn't exactly blowing minds. I don't think he's going to be on the NBA radar after this year, and I don't think another year at X is going to change that. He's not going to increase his professional stock overseas with another year at X, right? Basically what I'm saying is that there is no real reason for him to come back, is there?

Bryan

Keep his promise to get us to a Final Four? He does seem to love our fan base, and for what it's worth we love him right back, so I would be sad to see him go, but realistically I think we all can see where it might be his best option. Elsewhere, the only other person who I can see possibly going early would be Tre, but I think Ed is a much more immediate threat. Myles is here to stay, and I can see LAJ, JP, O'Mara, Makinde, and Kaiser following the Xavier path to four years of improvement and, hopefully, a place in the expanding folklore of the program.

Brad

I think the idea of Ed leaving this year is a bit alarmist. He's playing well and he's had some amazing highlights, but he's not quite there with decision making and filling out his body yet.

I don't know what to think about Jalen. He has an NBA body and athleticism, but he just can't stay in the floor very long at all at this point. I'm not sure how he'll fare in Europe without face up game to speak of.

Joel

The NBA loves potential though, and Ed oozes it. I think the only way he leaves after this year is riding the wave of media attention that comes with a three-weekend tournament run. If we have one of those and it costs us another season of Sumner... okay.

Jamel and Takeoff Trav are both cashing checks in Europe, and their combined effective range when they left Xavier was about the same a Matt Stainbrook's vertical leap. I think the money is there for Jalen in Europe whenever he wants to go.

Brad

Back to the original question, I'm still leaning on my Sweet 16 answer from the start of the year. The next step up is Elite Eight, and I still think that depends on matchups. I do think we have reached the point where something really odd keeps us out of the Sweet 16. I'm not sure there's a lesser team that can exploit a matchup well enough to beat us. It's March though.