You've probably heard by now that Eddie Ekiyor is no longer enrolled at Xavier. If you haven't, well... spoiler alert, I guess. You know now. With Ekiyor's departure, Xavier is now down to ten recruited scholarship players plus former walk-on Tim Stainbrook. Depth might be a concern.
It also might not, for a couple of reasons. One is Coach Mack's increasing flexibility in terms of his lineup. Between the power forward and center positions, there are theoretically 80 minutes of playing time per game for traditional big men to take up. Mack - along with a lot of college basketball coaches, really - has been trending away from using traditional bigs for the entirety of that time though. Last year's big man Jalmesean O'Farrnolds took up just under 47 of the 80 big man minutes in a regulation game last year. This left plenty of room for the second factor in this equation...
Flexible personnel. Trevon Bluiett led the team in minutes last year, splitting time between the three and the four with an emphasis on the four as the season hit the stretch run. Kaiser Gates looked like a big wing in high school, but he transitioned flexibly to being a flex forward for the Muskies. Makinde London never quite made the developmental leap we were hoping for, but he certainly wouldn't have been classified as a pure post last year.
How does that all translate to this season? Ekiyor's departure leaves the Muskies with three traditional bigs, all of whom have at least some question marks surrounding them. RaShid Gaston is the most certain of those, but he'll be translating his game from Norfolk State to the Big East. Sean O'Mara has sometimes looked like the future in his time at Xavier, but you need to be able to go more than 90 seconds between fouls to establish yourself in a game. A friend of the site who watched the team softball game reported that "brick s***houses are built like Tyrique Jones," but there's always hesitation to rely too heavily on a freshman big man.
Where Mack and the Muskies have a little wiggle room in all this is with guard depth. Xavier has five players I'm going to call guards here: Sumner, Goodin, Davis, Macura, and Bernard. Ed is the obvious choice at the point, but either Myles or Goodin can be used to push him down onto a wing. JP has the length to play the three with no problem. Malcolm Bernard comes in with the reputation of a guy who has the size and toughness to guard anywhere on the perimeter, further adding flexibility to the lineup.
The obvious hope is that the frontcourt just clicks somehow, with O'Mara's footwork and vision playing well with the toughness of Jones and/or Gaston, or maybe Jones and Gaston teaming up to physically dominate opponents in the painted area. Should that not play out as planned though, Mack has the flexibility in game planning and personnel to comfortably push Bluiett or Gates to the four for long stretches of time and only rely on productivity from one traditional big.
...as long as everyone stay healthy.