Hello, Wisconsin fans! My dad was a high school basketball coach throughout my formative years, and he loved Bo Ryan, so I've spent a lot of my time ruminating on the ins and outs of the Wisconsin Swing. Bo is gone and I don't live with my dad anymore (cue the "mom's basement" jokes), but the Badgers remain a formidable and familiar foe. If you haven't watched a lot of Xavier this year (or spent time at the dinner table breaking down Coach Mack's baseline out of bounds plays with a parent), you might not know X very well. Let me help you out a bit.
(all stats as of the beginning of the tournament)
|4||Edmond Sumner||Fr.||G||6'6"||183||11.3||3.4||3.5||.408||.316||.741||Ed is a slashing combo guard who can attack and finish with either hand. His shooting is set up by his athletic ability; defenders have to respect his first step off the dribble. He's almost impossible to stop with a head of steam. He is growing as a defender, but he remains a work in progress on that end.|
|15||Myles Davis||Jr.||G||6'2"||188||11.1||3.6||4.2||.405||.387||.851||The steady counterpoint to Sumner explosive abilities. Consistent outside shooter with range well beyond the arc. Sneakily piles up assists by playing good basketball. He does whatever the team needs on the offensive end. Emotional leader.|
|10||Remy Abell||Sr.||G||6'4"||197||6.1||1.6||1.5||.395||.324||.770||Dynamic defensively. He'll guard the opposition's best perimeter player when Xavier goes man. At his best in transition on offense; runs the floor without the ball very well. Will cede a lot of minutes to fan favorite JP Macura when Xavier goes zone.|
|5||Trevon Bluiett||So.||G/F||6'6"||208||15.5||6.2||2.3||.429||.399||.770||A threat from anywhere on the court thanks to top-notch footwork. Can be streaky, but not shy about shooting himself through a slump. Can be relied upon to guard near the bucket better than on the perimeter. Good rebounder for his size.|
|1||Jalen Reynolds||Jr.||F||6'10"||238||9.4||6.4||0.8||.507||.333||.657||Should be Xavier's best post player, but has trouble getting out of his own way sometimes. Definitely not a favorite of the officials'. He is super athletic and plays with a fairly overt mean streak. Good rebounder, good defender in the middle.|
|Larry Austin Jr.||So.||G||6'2"||179||1.9||1.2||1.2||.404||.000||.625||A very solid backup point. Makes about one ridiculous turnover every time out, but otherwise does well running the team when Sumner is resting. A tenacious defender. Very athletic.|
|2||James Farr||Sr.||F/C||6'10"||244||10.8||7.8||0.5||.552||.125||.719||The best rebounder in the nation over the course of the season. Once fancied himself a jump shooter, but has rebuilt his game around staying close to the bucket on both ends. Defends the rim well. Can still knock down the occasional jumper, especially from the left baseline.|
|13||Makindé London||Fr.||F||6'10"||220||1.6||1.3||0.4||.360||.389||.500||Whip thin and hyper athletic, but still growing into his game. Can really shoot it when he gets his feet set. If you see him while the game is still in doubt, something strange is happening.|
|22||Kaiser Gates||Fr.||F||6'8"||217||3.1||2.7||0.2||.406||.316||.571||We're really excited about this guy's potential. He's a solid defender already and could be an excellent one in the future. Has a lot of mobility and shoots the ball with a ton of confidence. Is still fairly foul prone right now.|
|54||Sean O'Mara||So.||F/C||6'10"||247||3.3||1.9||0.3||.597||.000||.600||Plays like the former offensive lineman he is. Difficult for opposing big men to move out of the paint. Has good finesse game in the post. Scores efficiently, but fouls a ton.|
|55||J.P. Macura||So.||G||6'5"||203||9.6||2.7||2.1||.466||.350||.807||His overt antagonism hides a truly gifted offensive player. Leads X in ORtg in conference play thanks largely to a dazzling array of floaters and creative finishes around the rim. Flies to the offensive glass. Creates havoc at the top of the 1-3-1. Not afraid of anything or anyone on the basketball court. Opposing fans hate him.|
Xavier's offense is poor when the ball sticks and guys try to take the defense on solo, but the offense hums when the ball is moving. Coach Mack sets up good actions to get guys open, but often the course of the offense will get the ball to someone in a position to attack. Xavier's best offensive player is whoever gets the ball in position to make a play, as evidenced by quiet nights from Myles Davis and Ed Sumner in Friday night's win. Once the ball gets on the glass, Xavier has some solid offensive rebounders to go get the misses.
Xavier's defense focuses on crowding out the lane and forcing opponents to take long jump shots. The Muskies will do this out of a pack line man or the 1-3-1 zone the Muskies feature about a third of the time. The zone extends a little farther and forces more turnovers, but the man is easier for Xavier to rebound out of. Players who can drive the gaps and put the defense into rotation generally give the Muskies trouble, as do reliable shooters in the corners. The Muskies do a good job of making life difficult for traditional big men.
Other things to consider
- Xavier has had seven players lead the team in scoring at least twice and had ten players score in double digits at least once this year.
- Coach Chris Mack won the USBWA's Henry Iba Award for National Coach of the Year, which is awesome, but not the Big East Coach of the Year Award, which is lame.
- This is the highest seed Xavier has ever had and we think we've really got a chance to do something special; please don't ruin this for us.
- Xavier senior Remy Abell is in his fourth season of college basketball; he has never missed the Sweet 16.
- The Muskies have been to three Sweet 16s in Coach Mack's 6 full seasons.