The basketball season is just past the halfway mark and, if you are a born optimist like we all are, things are looking up for Xavier. 3-2 in the last five and up to 11-7 overall, the Musketeers have started Big East play well and are a complete collapse against Seton Hall away from being 4-1. That’s all good. What isn’t is a 2-3 start, a bad loss to SDSU, getting blown out in the Shootout, and only one top 50 win. With that as a backdrop, it’s time to assign a letter grade... wait, this is 2019. Grades are so determinist. Everyone gets a phrase.
Where would we be without you:
Paul Scruggs: Tied for Naji Marshall for the team lead at 13.2 points per game, Paul Scruggs earns our highest
mark positive feeling inducing phrase because he’s shooting 51% from the floor and has an efficiency of 114.1. He’s a bloodless 80% from the line, a whirling dervish on defense, and frequently the loudly screaming heart of the team. As advertised? No, Paul is better.
Zach Hankins: From Charlevoix, Mi to the GLIAC, to finally landing in Xavier, Hankins is a basketball grinder that was hard to predict coming in. After all, how does DII play transfer to the Big East? Most DII guys probably can’t do it, but Hankins has shown a willingness to bang and some finesse around the rim to propel himself to being the 28th most efficient player in the nation. 10.4/4.9/1 on a casual 71% from the floor makes Hanky irreplaceable.
I do one thing, I do it well, then I move on:
Ryan Welage: Welly is here to do one thing, and that is jack threes. His 95 attempts (39%) from outside the arc dwarf his 27 from inside. Announcers dwell on the fact the man likes to get a good night of sleep, but his three point shooting is vital on a Xavier team that features no other marksmen.
Born to flex like Cardi B:
Tyrique Jones: ‘Rique is Xavier’s enforcer. He somehow lost 20 pounds and became tougher and meaner. The fourth best offensive rebounder in the nation is playing seven minutes more per game and has kept his efficiency at a sparkling 119 despite adding to both his usage and shots rate. He’s also a walking mean mug who flexes over wrecked opponents with both regularity and panache. Anyone wondering if Xavier has lost their need look no farther than Tyrique.
I miss you:
Naji Marshall: Naji was supposed to be the star of this team. He came into the season with an illness that cost him eight pounds and either hasn’t recovered or is just having a dreadful year. Marshall is playing 14 more minutes per game now, but his numbers are down in every category except defensive rebounding (where his 21% is genuinely monstrous) and a small tick up in steal rate. Alarmingly, Naji’s offensive efficiency is down from 110.7 to 92.8. If he gets rolling, this is a different team.
Quentin Goodin: Q is an avid reader, apparently, so we want to assure him that we love the fact that he’s become probably the best passing point guard in the Big East. Q has a 30% assist rate coupled with a 19.2% turnover rate. That’s elite. What isn’t is a 27.3% mark behind the arc and 44.3% inside it. When Q is passing, he’s amazing. If some shots fall for him, he becomes unstoppable.
He seems like a nice guy:
Kyle Castlin: Tommy Boy uttered that phrase about his competition, but it seems more fitting for Castlin. You can frequently tell how players view a teammate by how they react to his success, and it’s clear this team loves Castlin. (They probably also love storming comebacks). Kyle isn’t a great shooter but he sports 110.2 offensive efficiency because he takes care of the ball (13.4% TO rate), shoots well inside the arc, and gets to the line well. He’s a glue guy, and he’s clearly a much loved one.
Seems to actually be alive:
Elias Harden: You can cancel any APBs you may have issued, it appears that Harden is alive and well. Xavier’s third best three point shooter can be confused for not knowing whether he fits in Travis Steele’s plans or not. Eight times this year, Elias has played double digit minutes. Four times this year he hasn’t played at all. He also sports three games in which he played 3,3, and 1 minutes. Fresh off an energetic and vital 24 minutes against Georgetown, he played six against Butler. Who knows.
Keonte Kennedy: Kennedy is quietly averaging 14.2 minutes per game. Against Illinois he flashed some potential with 8/4/0, but he’s not shot well enough to take minutes from Welage or Harden and hasn’t defended well enough to fully take Kyle Castlin’s spot. Perhaps more ominously for him, he’s managed double digit minutes just once in the last five games after a stretch of 11 straight games with at least ten minutes played.
Dontarius James is still on this team.