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Without Jake Walter, Xavier will have to be clever up front

The departure of 2018 C Jake Walter leaves the Muskies with some minutes to fill on the post.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Xavier vs Florida State
Xavier needs a big dose of a healthy Tyrique Jones.
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Freshmen are starting their classes at Xavier today and 2018 C Jake Walter is not among them. The seven-footer no longer has connections to the Xavier program, stemming from an incident that we won't really comment on because (a) it's still under investigation, (b) it allegedly happened while he was a minor, and (c) we're laden with class. Suffice it to say that he and I have about the same chances of ever playing basketball for Xavier.

Walter's departure leaves Xavier in a little bit of a bind, as they're down to just two traditional big men in Tyrique Jones and Zach Hankins. Chris Mack almost always ran a platoon system at the post: Seankerique O'Jonter each got just over a third of the available minutes, and pairings of O'Mara and RaShid Gaston (2017), and James Farr and Jalen Reynolds (2016) saw each member grab about 45% of the minutes, with the rest falling to lesser lights on the roster. Matt Stainbrook is the distinct outlier in the Big East era as a traditional big man who soaked up minutes on the post.

Rejecting for a moment the idea that there is already a 28-minute-per-game big on Xavier's roster, Coach Steele is left with two options. The first is to run Tyrique and Hankins (Tyrach Jokins?) as a platoon on the post. That would mean rarely playing them together and surrounding them with a pace-and-space sort of lineup.

The other is to run Jones and Hankins for as many minutes as possible each in order to keep effective size on the floor. This is not a team that projects to be deep in secondary rebounders, so there's certainly a case to be made for getting both the bigs out there to work the glass.

It seems like the obvious choice is the first one. Xavier's strength is on the perimeter, with veterans Kyle Castlin and Ryan Welage joining returnees Quentin Goodin, Paul Scruggs, and Naji Marshall as starter quality options and Elias Harden and Keonte Kennedy representing unknown but potentially valuable pieces. It's hard not to imagine the most successful iteration of this team leaning heavily on that unit, especially those first five guys.

Whatever the solution ends up being, losing Walter is a problem for X. He would have filled 10 or 12 minutes a game that would have let Jones and Hankins rest without seeing the Muskies overrun on the glass. Travis Steele has already demonstrated his chops as a recruiter; he will have plenty of chances to prove himself as a strategist this year.