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Xavier Season in Review: Malcolm Bernard

Malcolm Bernard came in without much fanfare and left having provided the indelible image of Xavier’s season.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-West Regional-Arizona vs Xavier
Bernard frequently came from nowhere in the NCAA tournament
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to everyone who participated in our Banners on the Parkway postseason player report cards. We'll be breaking down each player's grades for the rest of this week and on into next week, where we'll reveal the top finisher according to the community. We'll also be assigning and explaining our own grades of each player. We'll start with the player who got the lowest community ranking and work our way up to the MVP.

Malcolm Bernard Votes % of votes
A 88 17.90%
B 337 68.60%
C 55 11.20%
D 5 1%
F 6 1.20%
Community GPA: 3.01

Of Xavier’s two off-season transfer acquisitions, it was RaShid Gaston who garnered the majority of the attention. Malcolm Bernard came as a psuedo-point guard from Florida A&M who wasn’t a great shooter and didn’t look to handle the ball much. What Bernard could do was defend. Supposedly that would be the skill that would get him playing time for Coach Mack.

Almost from the start of the season, it was clear that Bernard would be more than that. Last season Bernard attempted 52 three pointers and made a pretty horrendous 21% of them. This season, he took 117, more than thirty more than the previous three years combined, and shot 39% from behind the arc. While his ballhandling didn’t show a great deal of improvement, the defense came as advertised. In the NCAA tournament, Bernard was everywhere, unwilling to let the dream that he was so obviously living die. On four separate occasions, he raced the length of the floor to deny an easy bucket with either a steal or a block. When the chips were down, Mal came to play.

Offense: B

This grade may seem incongruous for a player who averaged 6.6 points and 1.5 assists per game, but bear with me. What Bernard was asked to do on this team was make open shots when he got them and not turn the ball over a crippling amount. 58% of Malcolm’s shots were three pointers, and 89% of those were assisted. By making 39% of those (and leading the team by a healthy margin) Bernard stretched defenses and left lanes open for Quentin Goodin, Trevon Bluiett, and Edmond Sumner. Yes, he turned the ball over too much for a guard, but in the nine games after he implored the team to save the season before Senior night, he only turned it over nine times. Finally, he saved his best for (nearly) last, going for 13/6/0 on 5-6 from the floor and 2-3 from the line in that beautiful win over Arizona. He also provided the highlight of the year for Xavier fans.

Defense: A

This was not a vintage Xavier defensive team, but that wasn’t Malcolm Bernard’s fault. He frequently drew the toughest man to man assignment, including Allonzo Trier down the stretch against Arizona, and fought him to a draw. Defensive statistics in college basketball are still in their infancy, but Bernard led the team in Defensive Box Plus/Minus and was third in Defensive Win Shares despite almost always having the toughest assignment on the floor. Perhaps more than that, Malcolm became the hand clapping, yelling agitator that the team missed with the mysterious disappearance of Myles Davis. As the season wore on, Bernard became louder and more demonstrative for a team that needed it.

Overall: B

The temptation here is to go with an A, because Malcolm did everything he was asked to do very well without ever creating much of a fuss. He was a stalwart in Xavier’s lineup all year long and rare indeed was the game where he seemed most at fault for a loss. Only he relatively low offensive output keeps him from jumping to the highest grade but he, like Sean O’Mara, was a horse when Xavier needed him for their miracle March.