Xavier loses twice per year to Villanova. This, evidently, has been etched in stone somewhere in the rules of college basketball. Despite that second loss, Xavier is still fourth in the country and, Wildcats excepted, looking like a match for anyone out there. That will be tested again in maintaining focus down the stretch run, and then again at the Garden where, hopefully, a run to the final lands Xavier a #1 seed. Here are the guys who are primed to do that.
#10 Elias Harden
The box score tells me that Harden saw time against Villanova but I’ll confess to having missed it. That’s essentially the story of Harden’s freshman year. There is no inside information backing this, but I’ll be surprised if Elias is on the roster next year.
#9 Tyrique Jones
It’s hard to know what to make of Tyrique. He’s missed time because of injury, he wasn’t terribly effective against Villanova, and he still fouls too much. On the other hand, he’s a monster on the defensive glass, his offensive efficiency is up a full nine points from last year, and his EFG% is 65.5%. He just needs to keep himself on the floor.
#8 Kaiser Gates
Kaiser is a shooter who currently can’t shoot. Only his ability to stay on the court with his defense keeps him above Tyrique.
#7 Paul Scruggs
Scruggs is so close to breaking through. An idiotic call against Villanova really hampered him, but Xavier’s defense is notably better when he is on the floor. In conference ply his EFG% is higher than JP’s.
#6 Sean O’Mara
O’Mara, like Jones, is this low on the list only because of playing time. Big Sean has the highest offensive efficiency on the team, is making 80% of his free throws, and has dominated in the post whenever Xavier can get him the ball there.
#5 JP Macura
JP simply hasn’t been himself recently. Shades of it are coming back, but the couple of week long funk he was in was bizarre to watch. Hopefully the heaving of heat checks against Seton Hall and his start to the Nova game are harbingers of a return to form.
#4 Naji Marshall
JP’s protege gets the edge on him this week. More and more, Marshall looks like the most fearless player X can put on the court. He’s the top defender on the team, and there is yet to have been a situation where he didn’t try to assert himself. Naji is clearly setting himself up to be the man when the seniors go.
#3 Kerem Kanter
The only thing Kanter can’t do is defend a quick stretch four. That exposed him a bit against Nova, but he’s Xavier’s jack of all trades big man who also happens to excel all over the floor.
#2 Quentin Goodin
Lost in the Nova loss was the fact Q played 37 minutes and went for 10/3/12 against a player now being touted as the national player of the year. If that had been a win, all the national media would be about how Goodin comprehensively outplayed Jalen Brunson.
#1 Trevon Bluiett
Second all time at Xavier in scoring, out of his little scoring blip, and back to obliterating defenses. Villanova game planned to take Tre out of his shooting game and he still went 3-6 behind the arc while adjusting his style to earn a 9-10 mark from the line. He’s just the best Xavier scorer most of us have ever seen.