So how is everyone doing? Here, things still aren’t good. Xavier has crashed out of the tournament when just a week ago they seemed poised for a multi-weekend run, and now Coach Mack is once again a hot name on the coaching carousel. Despite that, let’s not surrender to the abyss just yet. Here are my reasons for continuing to progress towards next November:
Xavier hasn’t hired a coach since Thad Matta
Xavier brought in Matta from Butler back in 2001, probably engendering some of the bad feelings that remain between the fans of the programs today. Matta had three successful years at X before leaving for OSU, at which point Xavier fans greeted the promotion from within of Sean Miller with some caution. Miller had five successful years at X before leaving for Arizona, at which point Xavier fans greeted the promotion from within of Chris Mack with some caution. Mack has had nine successful years at X. I’d love to keep him around, but if the program doesn’t, Travis Steele is waiting in the wings to have his promotion from within greeted with some caution.
The Muskies have two star freshmen already on the team
Naji Marshall’s case basically makes itself; he averaged almost 8 PPG, shot .530/.349/.743, and flashed superstar potential. Paul Scruggs’s stat line is less impressive at first glance, but he posted a respectable 96.1 ORtg on the year despite a slow start and an ORtg of 101.4 in Big East games. He has the tools and the desire to be a good defender. A healthy summer (more on that below) should do wonders for his development.
Xavier’s back court is going to blow up
You heard it here probably not first. Quentin Goodin is a rising junior point guard who already has 53 starts under his belt and has averaged 5 assists per game as a starter. He’s distributing as well as any underclassman Xavier has had at the point in a long time. His running mate is and will be Paul Scruggs, who shot .493/.320/.750 in conference play. They combined to shoot 25-68 (36.8%) in Big East games, which isn’t bad for a couple of guys not noted on scouting reports for their range.
Both of these guys struggled in the offseason with injuries; Q had plantar fasciitis that kept him from shooting jump shots all summer and Paul was still coming back from an MCL tear that had sidelined him for much of the year in high school. The longer the season went, the better they both looked on the court. Having them both fully fit and beyond their injuries for a whole summer of working together will have them primed to lead X next season.
There are more open scholarships than gaps in the roster
When the dust settles on this season, Verbal Commits shows Xavier has having three open scholarships going into next year. You figure the team will run out a starting lineup that looks something like Q, Scruggs, Naji, Kaiser, and Tyrique with Evan Boudreaux and Elias Harden first off the bench. The freshman class of Keonte Kennedy, Dontarius James, and Jake Walter hasn’t had recruiting experts searching their thesauruses for synonyms for awesome, but let’s not punt on all three of those dudes just yet.
That leaves Xavier with a stout starting five and at least one really good bench piece. The Muskies need depth, but they’re not working from a position of desperation. The next Kerem Kanter or whomever is out there, or Xavier could move for a late commit from the recruiting class, but the cupboard isn’t exactly bare as it stands right now.