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The understated excellence of Sean O’Mara

His fellow seniors have hogged the headlines, but Sean O’Mara has quietly gotten the job done when called on.

NCAA Basketball: Providence at Xavier Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

It is perhaps the perfect measure of Sean O’Mara that during the crowning moment of his career, the other team didn’t notice him until it was too late. With Arizona spread covering Malcolm Bernard, Trevon Bluiett, and JP Macura on the wings and Quentin Goodin’s man not hedging enough, O’Mara was an afterthought until Lauri Markinnen was sealed too high and Xavier was on the way to the Elite Eight. In 21 minutes, Sean scored eight points, none of which were more important than the two he gathered when Arizona couldn’t conceive of him catching the ball.

That’s been the story of Sean O’Mara. He arrived at Xavier as a skilled big man who could count Oakland, Eastern Michigan, and Lehigh amongst the other schools offering for his services. As a freshman, O’Mara demonstrated a deft touch around the bucket and an inability to not touch people while trying to play defense. Competing with Matt Stainbrook, James Farr, and Jalen Reynolds for playing time he managed only 4.2 minutes per game and only scored in nine games.

As a sophomore, Sean simply became more of what he was (including that penchant for fouling). After shooting 56% as a freshman, he shot 61% in his second year. He also increased his free throw shooting from 47.4% to 60% and hauled in an impressive 19% of the defensive rebounds available to him. More impressively, Sean demonstrated he could score on anyone on his day. After posting 76.8 offensive efficiency in conference play as a freshman, he jumped all the way up to 108.9 as a sophomore. Twice he managed nine points in less than 15 minutes of play against a conference foe.

Last season, O’Mara simply continued to get better. In 14 minutes per game, he posted an efficiency of 117.6 and shot 61% from the floor. In nearly twice as many attempts as the year before from the line, he increased his free throw percentage to 68%. In short, Sean became a legitimate threat on the floor. On both ends Sean’s rebounding rate was in double digits and his foul rate dropped to “just” five per 40 minutes of floor time.

Sean also showed the ability to control a game. In what would become a recurring theme, he put 11/5/1 on Angel Delgado in a win over Seton Hall. O’Mara’s regular season high of 14 came in a loss to Marquette during Xavier’s six game slide, but Sean dropped 10 on Butler in a must win Big East tournament game, a career high 18 on Maryland in the first round of the NCAA tournament in a game that he and Trevon Bluiett took over in the second half, then 11 more against Florida St’s freakishly athletic front line in the second round.

Xavier v Arizona Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

This year Sean has just gotten better. In 15 minutes per game he shoots 63% from the floor and an incredible 81% from the line. That has meant that Sean has been Coach Mack’s big of choice down the stretch, and he has rewarded that faith with his lowest turnover rate yet and an offensive efficiency (126.3) that would be tied for highest in the nation if O’Mara had enough minutes to qualify. After posting nine double digit scoring games in his career, Sean has added 10 more in this year alone. Only once this season, in an up and down contest against St. John’s, has Sean not played double digit minutes.

Against Providence on senior night the announcers referenced Xavier’s three headed monster in the post. Tyrique Jones dunked and flexed and Kerem Kanter surely made Nate Watson contemplate a different line of work with a dizzying array of post moves. True to his unassuming form though, it was Sean O’Mara who had the best game of any of them. Blostered by 6-7 from the line, Sean went for 10/6/4 and threw in two steals for good measure. Quietly, Xavier’s understated big man provided another line in a rapidly growing resume of excellence.