Who loves basketball season? I do, and I’ll bet you do, too. We’ll be working our way through Xavier’s schedule from stem to stern on here in the next few weeks to get you ready for the season, and I’ll be getting you started with the non-conference portion.
First on the slate is IUPUI, helmed by former Indiana Mr. Basketball Jason Gardner. The Jaguars will visit Cintas on November 6th at a time as yet unannounced.
Gardner is heading into his fifth season as the head coach, sporting a 48-77 record. He had improved the team’s winning percentage and KenPom ranking every year until last season’s 11-19 mark landed them at 284th in Mr. Pomeroy’s chart. His teams have been all over the place strategically, so it’s hard to pin down exactly what his game plan will be as he continues to find his feet as a head coach.
Aaron Brennan, F (12.4/4.5/1.6, .464/.345/.797)
TJ Henderson, PG (10.8/2.6/2.1, .416/.357/.833)
Ron Patterson, SG (10.3/3.2/1.8, .404/.365/.658)
Gardner lost his entire back court and his top three scorers, which I’m guessing doesn’t bode well for the general outlook coming into this year. Patterson and Brennan were both seniors, so their departures were expected, but TJ Henderson’s leaving is a real head scratcher to me. He left for the greener pastures of Marian University, an NAIA Division II school in Indianapolis. I’m all about NAIA sports, but having your leading returning scorer and usage rate guy leave to go down several levels is curious, to say the least.
Evan Hall, Sr., 6’7” F (7.7/6.1/0.7, .451/.000/.294)
Jaylen Minnett, So., 6’1” SG (7.1/1.2/1.2, .399/.405/.800)
DJ McCall, Sr., 6’6” F (7.0/4.2/2.0, .405/.250/.716)
Some interesting numbers here. Hall and McCall are both solid on the glass, with Hall especially posting strong rebound percentages at both ends. Hall’s Achilles heel is his inability to score from anywhere outside of very close range, including a ghastly 30-102 mark from the line.
Minnett had a good freshman year as a shooter, dropping in 48 made threes. The challenge for him will be expanding his game beyond that role; he only scored 56 points on anything other than threes over the course of 28 games last year and his assist numbers weren’t anything worth writing home about.
Ahmed Ismail, Sr., 7’2” C
Cam Justice, Jr., 6’3” G
Both of these guys are incoming transfers who sat out last year in compliance with NCAA rules. Ismail came by way of Manhattan College after two years at a JuCo. He didn’t exactly light the world on fire there, but he was a borderline dominant rebounder and he made a three.
Justice came from Vandy, where he was a reserve guard. He was a very respectable 21-54 (38.9%) from deep as a true freshman, but he fell out of favor as a sophomore and transferred after the fall semester. A former four-star recruit, he is looking to resurrect his career at IUPUI and could be a huge piece for them - or a potential grad transfer.
The bottom line on the panthera oncas is that they are Xavier’s first game for a reason. The preseason KenPom isn’t out yet, but Bart Torvik has them riding the line between bad and downright miserable this season. First-game jitters are real, and this should be one to ease into the season with for Xavier.