I was on the phone with Bryan the other day, as is my occasional habit. With the cottonwoods having given up on photosynthesis for the year and the rest of the deciduous trees certain to shortly follow suit, our talk naturally turned to the oncoming basketball season. After I prattled on a bit about the possibility that Edmond Sumner answers all our point guard questions and he and I agreed that we should be better this year than we were last year, he told me that he's more concerned about the frontcourt than the point guard position.
I've ruminated on that a good deal since the end of the conversation. Here are my main concerns about Xavier's big men, heretofore considered the cornerstone of the squad:
Can everyone stay out of foul trouble?
Jalen Reynolds and Sean O'Mara each committed at least 6 fouls per 40 minutes of playing time last season. James Farr was restrained in comparison to those two, but he still tallied 4.4 fouls per 40 minutes spent on the court. Obviously that's a problem in that those three are the big men on the roster with any experience at this level. Even though they're obviously not going to play 40 minutes each game - not fouling like that, at any rate - those numbers spell foul trouble that will lead to Xavier's best players cooling their heels on the bench and an endless procession of opponents taking uncontested set shots from 15 feet away. You don't want to have long stretches of game time going by asking your reserve big men to hold down the fort and try to avoid sending the other team into the double bonus.
Can Trevon Bluiett guard the four?
That above problems can be addressed at some level with depth and flexibility, and Xavier theoretically has both in their ability to run out a small lineup. Trevon would be the stretch four in that case, and he acquitted himself well in that role in terms of scoring and rebounding last season. The real trouble comes when the other team throws a big man at Trevon and he's suddenly trying to keep someone 6'9", 240 from doing work with his back to the basket. If he can hold his own in those situations, Xavier's woes will be at least partially alleviated.
Can James Farr return to being an offensive threat?
Of course, a lot of Xavier's frontcourt problems can be solved by the return of James Farr to the offensive status he enjoyed for the first half of his sophomore season. Farr was a force inside and out through that first half of the year and was solid on the whole, posting an ORtg of 116.7. That number fell to 90.3 last year, which is obviously not good. If Big Game James can be relied upon to be a steady contributor on offense as well as on the glass, Coach Mack can comfortably pin the frontcourt to him for stretch where Jalen needs to rest or go a few minutes without picking up a foul.