From the desk of Tom Eiser:
NEW YORK --- The Xavier University men’s basketball team has been picked third for the 2017-18 BIG EAST men’s basketball regular-season race in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches’ Poll behind Villanova and Seton Hall. In addition, 6-6 senior guard Trevon Bluiett was selected to the preseason All-BIG EAST First Team and 6-5 senior guard J.P. Macuraearned preseason All-BIG EAST honorable mention honors. The announcements were made today as part of BIG EAST Basketball Media Day at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Team Returns Plenty Of Talent From Elite Eight Run
Xavier, 24-14 overall and 9-9 in the BIG EAST regular season a year ago, is coming off an NCAA Tournament Elite Eight run. Head coach Chris Mack has a consensus preseason Top 25 team for the 2017-18 season. He has six returning letterwinners from last year’s squad led by the senior duo of 6-6 Trevon Bluiettand 6-5 J.P. Macura, who were both named to the five-member 2017 All-West Regional Team. The third senior will be 6-10 Sean O’Mara, one of the heroes of last season’s Elite Eight run off the bench. Junior 6-8 forward Kaiser Gates came on strong late in his sophomore year and is expected to battle for a starting spot. Graduate transfer Kerem Kanter, a 6-10 forward who played at Wisconsin-Green Bay, is expected to be a major contributor as well.
The two other returning starters are 6-4 point guard Quentin Goodin and 6-9 post man Tyrique Jones, who started as freshmen. Xavier also adds a star-studded recruiting class that includes Elias Harden, a 6-5 guard from Pebblebrook High in Mableton, Ga., Naji Marshall, a 6-7 forward from Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., and Paul Scruggs, a 6-3 guard from Prolific Prep in Napa, Calif., who played as a junior at Southport High School in his native Indianapolis.
Bluiett And Macura Honored
Bluiett, First Team All-BIG EAST and All-BIG EAST Tournament two years in a row, was second in the BIG EAST in scoring at 18.5 ppg., third in 3-point field goals made per game (2.5) and 10th in rebounding at 5.7 rpg. Macura was second on the team in scoring (16th in BIG EAST at 14.4 ppg.) and first in free-throw percentage (ninth in the BIG EAST at .785). Bluiett is 15th on XU's all-time scoring list with 1,585 points, while Macura is 48th with 1,054 points.
Xavier made the 2017 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight, defeating No. 6 seed and Big Ten runner-up Maryland, No. 3 seed and ACC runner-up Florida State and No. 2 seed and PAC-12 Champion Arizona to reach the West Regional Semifinal. Xavier has now made it to at least the Sweet 16 six times in the last 10 years, one of only nine schools that have been to at least six since 2008. Xavier played in its fourth-straight NCAA Tournament and its 11th in the last 12 years; only eight schools have been to at least 11 of the last 12 tournaments.
Bluiett, a First Team All-BIG EAST Conference selection at the end of each of the last two seasons, was second in the BIG EAST Conference in scoring as a junior at 18.5 ppg. Bluiett was second on the team in rebounding at 5.7 rpg., which ranked 10th in the BIG EAST. He ranked third in the BIG EAST in 3-point field goals made at 2.5 per game, including a career-high and school-record tying nine at Cincinnati. Bluiett was named to the All-BIG EAST Tournament Team for the second-straight year after averaging 19.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists for Xavier's three games at Madison Square Garden this past March.
Macura, the only Xavier player who started every game in the 2016-17 season, was second on the team and 16th in the BIG EAST in scoring last season at 14.4 ppg. He led the team in free-throw shooting at 78.5 percent, which ranked ninth in the BIG EAST.
Macura and Bluiett have combined for 2,639 points in their Xavier careers, which ranks third among active duos in the nation. The 2017 NCAA Tournament brought out the best of Bluiett and Macura, who were both named to the five-member NCAA Tournament All-West Regional Team. Bluiett averaged 21.3 ppg. for Xavier's four games in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, while Macura averaged 13.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game.
Bluiett The All-America Candidate
Bluiett has earned a spot on numerous preseason All-America teams, including second team selection by NBC Sports andAthlon Sports and third team by Street & Smith’s, Blue Ribbon Basketball and College Sports Madness.