I don’t want to be a downer, but I just learned that Pando is dying and apparently has been for some time. Aside from that, things are going great on this side of the keyboard as the Muskies came out of Maui on a one-game winning streak and then ran shop on Miami on their return to the mainland. A team is just made up of individual dudes out there doing their things, so we’re going to tear it down into its component parts and rank them on the same semi-arbitrary basis that we always do.
10. Dontarius James
Your friend and mine James Farr got 42 fairly forgettable minutes as a freshman and was the foundation of the team by the time he was a senior. In his honor, we’re going to go ahead and hold onto the Big Game James moniker just in case Dontarius makes that same leap in his time at Xavier. What I’m saying is that we don’t need to bury this dude because of slow early returns. Also, he’s 1 for his last 1 from deep!
9. Keonte Kennedy
We’ve grouped Kennedy and Elias Harden together for a bit, but they’re kind of differentiating themselves from one another a bit. If you like defense, KK might be your guy. He boards a bit better, is nationally ranked in steal percentage, and fouls a bit less. On the other hand, he’s shooting 4-11 from deep and somehow 0-3 from the line. He punched fairly needlessly in a game that was already decided against Miami, which obviously endeared him to us.
8. Elias Harden
He’s 8-17 from beyond the arc but just 1-8 on the mainland. Maybe that means something, but my hope is that it doesn’t. If he can splash out on a regular basis, he’s suddenly a really key part of what Xavier is doing. The Muskies are dying for a consistent shooting threat; if Eli can become that guy, he’s going to shoot up these rankings. In the meantime, he’s 2-6 from inside the arc and 1-4 from the line, which isn’t lighting the world on fire.
7. Ryan Welage
Since Auburn, he’s got 6 points on 2-8/2-7/0-0 shooting in 32 minutes of game time. He’s got 5 boards and 2 turnovers in that span. He’s a shooter and a scorer who isn’t really shooting and scoring right now. There’s not too much more to say about that, really. X needs him to score.
6. Kyle Castlin
Kyle Castlin scoring by game: 9, 6, 3, 2, 3, 6, 9. I like that because (a) it’s a palindrome and (b) he scores only in multiples of three in games that don’t go to overtime. He takes one out of every ten Xavier shots when he’s on the floor. He shot 5 times against Miami, a high in his Xavier career, and two of those were off of offensive boards. If he’s not basically forced to take a shot that doesn’t fall right into his lap, it’s not clear that he’s super interested in taking one.
5. Zach Hankins
Paul Scruggs is a better defensive rebounder than Zach Hankins. Scruggs is an excellent rebounder for a guard, but Zach Hankins is almost seven feet tall and a center. Beyond that, though, Hankins is a legit rim protector and a great offensive rebounder. He also knows what dude he is on offense: he’s shooting 75% at the rim and has taken a total of two shots that weren’t layups or dunks. I’d love to find out who told him that hair was a good idea though.
4. Quentin Goodin
On the one hand, Q is basically the only pure point guard Xavier has, which makes him tough to replace. On the other hand... it’s his sterling assist and turnover numbers that are propping him up right now. His ORtg is 102 on the nose, but he’s shooting a miserable .354/.365/.720 while leading the team in FGA per game. That’s a lot of empty possessions, and that just can’t happen. Everybody and his mom can rail about his shot selection on jumpers, but he’s just 12-29 at the rim right now. For a guy with his skills, that’s pretty glaring.
3. Naji Marshall
Naj was a force against Miami, simultaneously locking down the RedHawks' best player and dropping 17 on 7-10 shooting. He was near the epicenter of Xavier's turnover problems in Maui, but if he keeps tightening that up while continuing to play his all around game, he's going to have the season that plenty of people were ready to give up on after a couple so-so early performances.
2. Tyrique Jones
The best offensive rebounder in the nation. He's also easily inside the top 100 in DReb% and just outside it in steal and block percentage. His formidable athleticism and relentless attack mode in the paint are paying huge dividends for X right now. The only thing that can slow him down is the whistle, and he's getting called for more than 6 fouls every 40 minutes.
1. Paul Scruggs
Ty Jones dunks everything. Zach Hankins hits three of every four shots he puts up. Paul Scruggs, at 19-24 (79.2%), does better than both of them or anyone else on X at the rim. He's 20th among high-major players in shooting percentage at the rim, which isn't anything to sneeze at from a 6'3" guard. He has also picked his spots well from three (9-24) and is a menace on the defensive end in terms of both block percentage and steal percentage. Oh, and he boards like a big man on the defensive end. You could gild the lily and ask him to be a bit better at the line (68.8%) or be a little tighter will ball security, but mostly you should just enjoy watching him play right now.