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Will Paul Scruggs lead the Musketeers in scoring?

Xavier’s junior guard has gotten better each year with the team.

NCAA Basketball: Big East Tournament-Xavier vs Creighton Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Rather than a full on preview for each player on the roster this year we will be attempting to focus on one question that will determine how the player might fit on the team. The questions aren’t designed to carry either a positive or negative connotation, just really suss out how the roster is built. We’ll start with the freshman and build on to the players everyone knows.

Paul Scruggs can be unstoppable. You can ask Ohio, who he tore apart for 21 points on nine shots, or Villanova who he got for 14/6/2 on just seven shots in game Xavier absolutely had to have and again for 28/11/7 in the Big East tournament. All told, Scruggs put up an offensive efficiency of 105 in 33 minutes per game when, for long stretches of the season, he was the only guard the opposition had to worry about guarding. Left with room, Scruggs is prolific and deadly.

Last season Paul’s success came despite a team that never really succeeded at spacing the floor and getting the offense clicking. Tyrique Jones and Zach Hankins bailed the Musketeers out at times, but the struggles of Naji Marshall and Quentin Goodin frequently left Scruggs as the lone guard who could score. By the time Marshall got clicking late in the year, the sophomore who had shouldered the burden was starting to wear out.

The question inside the question of whether Paul Scruggs will lead the team in scoring is how Naji Marshall will get on. Last season Scruggs efficiency was 9.9 points higher, but used the ball 4% of the time less than Marshall did and shot almost 5% less than Naji. That lends itself to the impression (and fair play to all involved) that Marshall is Xavier’s top dog. Digging a bit more into the numbers also reveals more about Xavier’s lack of success last year.

In Scruggs freshman season, when he was a high energy player surrounded by perhaps the best team in program history, he took only 13.6% of his shots as two point jumpers, shooting 50% on those. Two point jumpers are basically the worst shot in the game in terms of efficiency. Last season, Scruggs took near as makes no difference 20% of his shots as two point jumpers and only shot 35.4%. As the pressure on Paul to carry the load increased, his shot selection got worse. This is likely both due to the fact that he had to do a lot of the scoring, Keonte Kennedy wasn’t going to chip in a great deal, and the fact that Xavier shot a miserable 33.1% behind the arc, 236th in the nation. Scruggs could penetrate, but rather than get to the rim like he could as a freshman, he faced defenders sagging off players they didn’t need to defend at the arc and was forced to pull up or try floaters.

This season that figures to change. Naji Marshall showed signs of refinding his stroke. Kyky Tandy and Dah Bishop can shoot it, and Bryce Moore is a more than serviceable threat himself. If Scruggs gets the ball with open lanes, or catches it open outside himself, he can do scoring damage like no one else on the roster.