Tonight marked the final time one of the defining classes in Xavier basketball history took the floor at the Cintas Center. That much is indisputable. Looking at where the trio of four year players Xavier fans saw perform on campus for the last time tonight is now is only valuable when you look at where they, and Xavier basketball as a whole, were.
Flash back to November of 2014 and Xavier was a program that was primed for a rise. No longer shackled to the mid-major label that came with Atlantic 10 membership, Xavier had embarked on a somewhat turbulent maiden voyage through the Big East, scraping into the NCAA Tournament as one of the final teams in and bowing out at a hostile UD Arena to TJ Warren and NC State before the tournament proper had even begun. The early departures of Semaj Christon and Justin Martin left questions to be answered for X, but the production of this first crop of Big East talent would have to make or break the program for the foreseeable future.
On that November night, Northern Arizona would come into town as Xavier fans got their first glimpse of Trevon Bluiett, JP Macura, and Sean O’Mara in real game action and the three starry-eyed freshmen began their journey into Xavier folklore. Bluiett was the star that night, going for 18/5/2 and making it look effortless in the process. Macura came off the bench and, he would throughout his career, defied his reputation as a pure gunner by getting to the hoop a couple of times and attempting to create havoc on defense (which would see him whistled for 3 fouls in 18 minutes).
O’Mara was severely off the pace, contributing a sole and-1 on offense and fouling out in 6 minutes of play to open a season of frustration and challenge for the big man. No one could have predicted the impact these three guys would have on Xavier basketball at that point but, as we look back over their performances between Northern Arizona and tonight, it is hard to deny that this may just have been the most important class in the history of Xavier Basketball.
Their importance doesn’t lie only in the numbers, although they are impressive. 100+ wins, 4 trips to the NCAA Tournament, 3 Crosstown Shootout wins, 2 preseason tournament trophies, the list of accomplishments goes on and on for this trio in their four years at X. However, I suspect their impact will be felt even more if the trajectory on which they have set Xavier Basketball continues. Xavier is in the middle of a dogfight to win the Big East and be the #1 seed at Madison Square Garden next week. Their taste of success in last March’s Elite Eight run only fueled hopes that this could be the group that finally gets Xavier to the Final Four.
Many bracketologists project Xavier as a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and the AP ranks the Musketeers #3 in the nation in the latest poll. Bluiett, Macura, and O’Mara are names that will never be forgotten by Xavier fans, but tonight was not the end of their Xavier careers and there are still goals for them to chase.
Xavier isn’t the scrappy program that is shaking off the mid-major label that it was when they arrived, it is now one of the best programs in one of the best conferences year in and year out. Thanks to the journey these three took us on, that won’t be ending tonight or anytime soon. In fact they ushered in a new beginning.