Welcome to the personnel portion of our 2018-19 season preview. We will be running down the players and coach who will represent the Musketeers this season and try to retain the Big East crown. We hope this helps you know what to expect for the upcoming year and, as always, enhances your experience following Xavier basketball this season!
Paul Scruggs was absolutely brilliant at times last season, most strikingly so in Xavier’s two post season losses, where he reached double figures in both games, and could make a legitimate claim to having been the best player on the court in the overtime loss to Providence. It speaks to the strides he made as a freshman after his season cratered with 4 turnovers in 8 minutes at Providence in the early days of 2018 that he would become a trustworthy contributor by the end of the season. That being said, Xavier will be asking the guy who rallied from the early jitters that blight so many freshman seasons at this level to take another leap forward in his second trip through the Big East and help set the tone on a team in transition.
Best Case Scenario
Scruggs struggled with his three point shot for a long stretch of last season, hitting just 2 of his first 19 attempts from deep (10.5%) before going 12 for 27 (44.4%) the rest of the way. With his length, quickness, and ability to finish at the rim, Scruggs will be a nightmare matchup for opponents if he can continue to make them guard him beyond 20’. On defense, he becomes the stopper Xavier needed last year for guards like Shamorie Ponds, Jalen Brunson, and Kyron Cartwright. If Scruggs is going, it figures to take some of the scoring load off of Naji Marshall and keeps the Xavier offense running like a well oiled machine, helping the team achieve beyond expectations this season.
Worst Case Scenario
Recency bias tells us that Scruggs is at least a functional contributor for a Big East level team, but there was a point last season when that looked like a fairy tale. Scruggs shot 0-8 from three in December, posted 1 ORTG above 100 in the month, and had a 12 to 14 A/TO ratio. In other words, he was bad and his confidence was clearly flagging because of it. He got his confidence back in a stretch at the end of January where the best defense Xavier played was Creighton and they had 3 games against St. John’s and Marquette, who essentially did not play defense last year. In the worst case scenario this season, the shooting goes south again, torpedoes the confidence in his distribution abilities, and he has to figure it out with much more responsibility and pressure on him than last year and a program in transition around him.
Most Likely Scenario
I think hoping Scruggs will cash out 44% of his threes this season is a bit bullish, but there is reason to think he will do much better than the 30% he mustered last season. Scruggs also came leaps and bounds in his ability to impose himself on a game last season, something Xavier will need him to do much more frequently this year. I don’t know that he will be in the All Conference conversation, but I do think there will be nights this year where Scruggs will be the guy that gets Xavier over the top and carries them to victory.