San Jose State is not near the Big East. This is true both geographically and metaphorically. Last season the worst team that Xavier played was Morehead State. The Musketeers cruised through that game at a disbelief inducing clip of 101-49. The Eagles finished 273rd in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. San Jose State was 301st and lost to the 272nd ranked team by nine. The Spartans played 11 games against Tier A or B teams and were within ten (9, to be precise) once. Xavier went 17-6 in such games last year.
All of this is to say that Ryan Welage is making a jump this year. In those 11 games last season, Welage was the focus of the San Jose St offense as, indeed, he was all year. His offensive rating in those games against good competition was 106.8, a respectable number. He shot 43% behind the arc and a glittering 88% from the line. Welage rebounded better on both ends in those games, and took better care of the ball. His shooting, however, was marginally worse. 11 games is different than an entire season, though. Welage has one chance to demonstrate that his game translates to the highest level.
Best case scenario:
Welage jumps in and lands on both feet. He showed last year that the moment doesn’t get too big for him in terms of execution, and that continues into this year. With other players around him (all respect to SJSU, Paul Scruggs wasn’t walking on to that floor), Welage is free to attack the defensive glass and rain three pointers. Make no mistake, the kid can shoot the ball. Free to pick his spots rather than try to volume score for a terrible team, Welage is a dangerous weapon in the hands of a very good offensive coach.
Worst case scenario:
Holding up for 11 games against decent teams while spending the rest of your time playing Air Force, Portland, Santa Clara, and Antelope freaking Valley is a lot different that staying ready for it against the Big East night after night. We’ve seen what can happen with Q, Edmond Sumner, and Trevon Bluiett over the last two years. Welage is tall, thin, and not battle tested. He may very well obliterate IUPUI, EKU, and Detroit, but that’s not the Villanova, St. John’s, Butler, St. John’s stretch that Xavier ends the season with. In the worst case, Welage simply can’t hack it at the Big East level.
Most likely scenario:
Welage is going to add weight and toughness at Xavier. That’s the Xavier way. He has plenty of other talent to play off of, and he’s never shown any sign of being afraid to play his game. There are going to be moments where he’s simply overmatched by Big East talent. If that weren’t the case, he wouldn’t have spent the last three years in the basketball hinterlands. On the other hand, it says here that there will be more weapons where he catches the ball on rotation and is headed back down the court before the cords finishing ripping. 8/4/2 and a 38% mark from deep is well within reason.
And I really like his hair.