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Xavier's big man conundrum

What do we do with all these tall guys?

Don't look so glum guys. We'll get it figured out.
Don't look so glum guys. We'll get it figured out.
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Replacing Matt Stainbrook in the starting lineup for Xavier is superficially simple, if not strategically easy. Slide James Farr to the five, put Jalen Reynolds at the four, boom, done. Reality, as is often the case, presents a slightly more complex picture.

Basketball is not so much about getting the most possible talent on the floor at one time as it is about getting the right combination of talent out there. Consensus is that Jalen Reynolds will be starting for Xavier, but how Coach Mack fills in around him will be interesting to watch. Xavier's best offensive lineup unquestionably has Trevon Bluiett at the four and some combination of Macura/Davis/Abell running around a point guard.

The problem with that small lineup is that it leaves a big rebounding burden on the de facto center, and if there's one player on the team that you want handling the rebounding it's probably James Farr. Throw him in there with Jalen and suddenly you're dominating the glass, but you run into Xavier's old nemesis the stretch four and you've likely downgraded your potential offensive production.

Part of the defensive issue presented by having two traditional posts on the floor can be alleviated by running the 1-3-1 from the word go. Having Jalen in the middle and Big Game James under the rim leverages their respective strengths and masks their weaknesses, but it's not clear that Coach Mack wants Xavier to be a zone team.

Then there is the question of what to do on offense. Having Farr and Reynolds on the floor at the same time hurts spacing, and neither of them has demonstrated the deft ability to work high-low with another big man that helped Matt Stainbrook remain effective in those situations. And we haven't even touched on Sean O'Mara, Makinde London, and Kaiser Gates yet. If Xavier runs with just one traditional big, where are the minutes for those three guys going to come from?

Today is April 29th. There are still six months between us right now and Xavier's first meaningful minutes of the year. It seems clear that both Trevon Bluiett (as the team's leading returning scorer) and Jalen Reynolds (the team's best returning post player) both need to start. How Coach Mack works that situation and deploys the rest of the team's forwards will be a good early indicator of his first guess as to what sort of team he has on his hands for the 2015-2016 season.