Tournament basketball begins this week for Xavier. After 30 non-conference games, here is how the roster stacks up in terms of most irreplaceable players. Let's get stuck in right away.
13. Eddie Ekiyor
Here's the thing: we already have an Ed on the roster. Did you know that Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards was actually a very accomplished speed skier who was afraid of ski jumping? He told the London Guardian in 2007 that he wasn't afraid of heights, but he was always fairly sure his next jump would be his last. That has been this week's episode of Eddie Facts.
12. RaShid Gaston
To my knowledge, there have been no famous ski jumpers named RaShid.
11. Makinde London
Makinde hasn't been getting that many more minutes than RaShid and The Eagle lately.
10. Sean O'Mara
This guy will be a big part of the game plan inside next year, so it's not extremely encouraging to see his minutes dwindling toward the end of this year. Coach Mack seems to prefer Kaiser's game right now (and who can blame him?); O'Mara looks to be third on the center depth chart and off the bottom of the depth chart at the power forward.
9. Larry Austin, Jr
Larry continues to do what he does, and Coach Mack continues to prefer what Myles Davis does when Sumner is out. It's probably telling that he only got 5 minutes in a game in which Edmond was limited to 12 by foul trouble. I would have thought that Creighton would have been a matchup that cried out for Larry's defensive work; I would have been wrong.
8. Kaiser Gates
It's hard not to like what we're getting out of Kaiser right now. He posted an ORtg of 253 on a usage rate of 6% against Creighton; that's obscene, and it doesn't even account for his 8 defensive boards. Everybody and his mom is going to have this fella on their breakout players lists next year. For now, he's the best bench weapon on the team that didn't get consideration for conference sixth man of the year.
7. Jalen Reynolds
Unless you're a legitimate pessimist, this year has to have been a disappointment in regards to Jalen's production. He continues to take a step backward for every step forward he takes; maybe some new officials in the tournament will do him some good.
6. Remy Abell
At some point in time in the next 2-3 weeks, Remy is going to need to answer the bell with man defense for Xavier. The team can replace everything else he does, but they have exactly nobody who can get on a primary scorer and erase him like Remy is capable of doing.
5. James Farr
James has played his last game at Cintas, but what a year he has had for the team. His explosion this season has been as necessary as it was unexpected. You just can't find a guy who boards it like he does, and to see him taking apart a seven-footer on the post and then laughing about how easy it was for him was an incredible transformation from his first three years at Xavier.
4. JP Macura
I was surprised and pleased to see JP named the Big East Sixth Man of the Year. His value comes from the sheer breadth of his skill set. He can score from deep or inside the arc. He can get all the way to the rim to finish or distribute. He hits his FT. He's fearless. He makes life miserable at the top of the 1-3-1. He flies to the offensive glass. He gets in opponents' heads. Even if a couple of things he usually does well aren't happening for him, JP is going to find a way to help the team.
3. Trevon Bluiett
The volume at which Tre is asked to use possessions sometimes blunts his efficiency, but he's still the guy the team turns to for instant offense. The respect he gets for his jumper opens up the floor for him and his teammates a little bit, and his 16.8% assist rate in conference play attests to his growing feel for when to attack and when to find a cutter or spot-up shooter. He kind of faded out of the season last year, but he looks solid down the stretch this year.
2. Myles Davis
Creighton hits a three to go up 24-17. Myles Davis hits a three. Creighton scores to go up 32-39. Myles hits a three to tie it. Creighton turns it over to start the second half. Myles hits a three. Creighton cuts it to 13. Myles hits a three. The loathsome Geoffrey Groselle hits a layup to cut it to 86-79. Myles hits a three. The seven assists didn't hurt, but watching someone rain down five threes in a game that ended up being the closest game of the year is fairly inspiring. Never leave me, Myles Davis.
1. Edmond Sumner
I'm tying Xavier's uninspired finish against Creighton directly to Sumner's foul trouble. He fouled out with six and a half minutes to go. Xavier was cruising at that point; they promptly gave away almost the entire lead before holding on at the end. Creighton's press was more effective than it would have been with Sumner on the floor. More importantly, Xavier plays with a crispness with Ed that they lack when he is on the bench. If Xavier wants to make a deep run, the player they can least afford to lose is Edmond.