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Know Your Non-conference Opponent: THE Ohio University

Ohio U is keyed for another run at some postseason glory, and adding Xavier’s name to their win column would be a huge coup.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio at Georgia Tech
Gavin Block, shooter of lots of shots.
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The first institution of higher learning ever chartered by an act of Congress and the first one chartered at all in Ohio, Ohio U is hands-down the most prestigious public post-secondary school in the entire state. The Bobcats are coached by Saul Phillips. I know you’re asking, “Is it the Saul Phillips?” Yes it is; the former North Dakota State head man is now leading the line in Athens.

The Bobcats will be visiting Cintas this year, rocking up at the reasonable hour of 6:30pm on Wednesday, December 5th. I’ll have the day off but will probably have to DVR the game because of church. Maybe one of my kids will be sick though.

Ohio U is riding the usual lower-than-high-major circuit of having good runs and then falling back a bit. They last made the tournament two coaches ago, in 2012 under John Groce, who had them on the cusp of the Elite Eight before they fell to UNC in overtime. Phillips had them in contention in the MAC a couple of years ago, but last season was a step back at 14-17.

Key departures

Mike Laster, G (14.5/2.9/1.9, .477/.391/.707)
Kevin Mickle, F (8.5/3.7/0.9, .483/.278/.661)

Laster hit more threes than he did free throws, so this isn’t a guy who was putting the ball on the deck and breaking down defenses. He was a knockdown shooter, though, and he took care of the ball. Mickle was a solid bench piece, the kind of guy who should step into whatever life has for him next proud of what he accomplished in four years on campus. He never quite got that jump shot squared away, but he was a good rebounder for a dude who only got 20 minutes a game.

Key returnees

Teyvion Kirk, So., 6’3” G (15.3/6.1/3.1, .438/.400/.721)
Jordan Dartis, Sr., 6’3” G (13.1/3.6/2.1, .431/.424/.846)
Gavin Block, Sr., 6’7” F (8.5/4.2/3.4, .366/.327/.597)
Doug Taylor, Sr., 6’9” F (6.9/7.1/0.7, .566/.333/.532)
James Gollon, Sr., 6’5” F (6.8/3.5/1.3, .456/.385/.875)

Dartis is a prolific shooter with 225 made threes and a 45% career success rate to his name. Not a big assist guy, doesn’t turn it over, just shoots. Kirk is his counterpoint, a quicksilver guard who gets into the lane and makes things happen. He passed to the wrong team a bit last year and is looking to not do that so much this year.

When you’re a career .395/.342/.690 shooter, you might think twice about getting your shots up, but not Gavin Block. He has gotten worse as a shooter every year, but he keeps lifting. Taylor is the quintessential big body, cleaning the glass at both ends throughout his career and adding rim protection last year. Also, he’s a career 2-5 shooter from deep. Gollon fills in where the team needs him, but his shooting numbers last year hint that he could be poised for a breakout if Block will give him some shots.

Incoming players

Basically nobody. This team has veteran depth, and anyone stepping up to support it is probably going to come from last year’s deep bench. The three-man freshman class that OU brought in is going to have some time to mature before getting thrown into the fire.

Overall, I don’t love this matchup for Xavier. This is a strong, veteran team, cresting the way you need to set your program up to do if you’re not a high-major. They’ve got the kind of dynamic backcourt combination that would really give the Muskies trouble in years past. With the Shootout looming on the weekend, this mid-week fixture has all the markers of a trap game. This could be a good test for Coach Steele and the troops.