Have you guys heard of the Ratings Percentage Index? It’s a metric that tells you how good a college basketball team is, give or take about 30% of its value. It’s almost as accurate as throwing a dart at an alphabetized list of team names!
Whatever the RPI’s faults, the Selection Committee still uses it as a big part of how they evaluate teams, and Xavier has a couple of big RPI games coming up this week. Seton Hall and Nova at home will both be solid tier 1 games, giving Xavier a chance to give its tournament resume a decisive boost in the race for a one seed.
Trying to make the dreams of the fan base happen this week will be real flesh and blood human beings who are barely into adulthood. I’m going to rank them in the semi-objective way we do here.
9. Tyrique Jones
Injury issues have landed Tyrique here this time around. He’s not any less of a wall of muscle in the paint than he ever has been, but he hasn’t been able to find his way to the paint lately thanks to first a hand issue and then a shoulder problem. With Sean and Kerem producing, Tyrique has the luxury of watching his team win while he heals up.
8. Paul Scruggs
What are 16 minutes of solid backup point guard play worth in conference? I’d say they’re pretty valuable, and they’re what Paul has been providing Xavier. He’s also becoming more effective in playing alongside Quentin Goodin, giving X a backcourt with a level of pace and power few teams can match.
7. Kaiser Gates
The numbers say shooting slump, but my eyes say impending breakout. Der Kaiser just hasn’t been able to get a bounce lately; he’s 3 of his last 20 from deep, but he has had several 7/8ths of the way down come back out on him. I want him to keep pulling. In the meantime, he’s getting involved in other ways, like grabbing 10 boards and dishing out 4 assists against Georgetown, or ripping down 5 big defensive boards in the second half against Creighton. Also, I have huge confidence in him defensively.
6. Sean O’Mara
He does everything you want a scoring post to do, right down to the fact that he’s a horse on the offensive glass. Only Tre and Kerem have made more two-point baskets on the year, and both of them have more minutes and much higher usage rates that Sean does. Maybe my favorite thing about him is that he’s 40-49 from the line; he’s a big man you can leave on the floor to hold a lead through winning time.
5. Naji Marshall
Naj is hard for me to rank. In my heart, I know this kid is going to be a star. He’s got growing to do - Marcus Foster put a ton of pressure on his defense on Saturday, and Naj responded with 4 fouls in 17 minutes - but the game is all there. Aside from the obvious things he does like score and defend, he does a ton of the little things. I know I’m breaking one of the cardinal rules of hack sportswriting here, but his hustle reminds me of JP Macura.
4. Quentin Goodin
The only thing keeping Q out of the top three - aside from Paul Scruggs being more and more competent as the season progresses - is that he hasn’t dragged the team to victory almost single-handedly the way each of those three dudes has. He all but did, leading X in scoring at Creighton and hitting the final two FT to ice it, but it didn’t feel like one we’ll be calling “The Quentin Goodin Game” years or even weeks from now.
3. JP Macura
Jonathan Paul broke out of his post-Seton Hall slump against Creighton. His 1-6 from beyond the arc isn’t going to get me to write a poem about him, but he was back to his most lively on both ends. The second most JP thing he did was stick back a miss with under half a minute left to put X up 2. The most JP thing he did was this:
2. Kerem Kanter
The Horizon League must play some ridiculous defense, because the Big East hasn’t had an answer for this dude. Kerem is setting career highs in ORtg, usage rate, EFG%, shooting from inside the arc, beyond it, and at the line, OReb%, DReb%, and free throw rate. Not a bad pickup in the grad transfer market.
1. Trevon Bluiett
He dropped 57 in Xavier’s two recent overtime wins. You do that, you can be forgiven for the occasional off day on the road. Brad begs to differ, but Brad’s not the one writing this post.