Sports are, at a very basic level, about results. Every sport worth watching (and tennis) have some way of keeping score so at the end of the contest you or your team has a win, a loss, or a draw. It is easy, then, to be tempted to condense sports down to a series of equations, spreadsheets, and numbers in order to determine who the best at producing said results, which people like OPTA and Ken Pomeroy have done an incredible job of doing. This is not a hit piece railing against the rise of analytics in sports, because that is a foolish thing to rail against, but rather embracing the spectacle of sport. The part that makes sports more than just numbers and results being generated. The part that spurs us to excitement and fuels our love for the games we watch.
I can tell you the exact moment I realized that anything was possible in the crazy world of college basketball, and that every time the ball was tipped I might witness something I never has seen before. It was in the 1996 Crosstown Shootout when Lenny Brown took the ball from the left wing, crossed his man over and took a pair of dribbles toward the center of the lane and then hung in the air at the free throw line to float in a runner to drop the #1 team in the country. The sheer amazement we get from moments like that can fuel a fascination that last a lifetime. Maybe for some it was seeing Bo Jackson run down an extra base hit and then just keep running up the outfield wall. Maybe it was watching Odell Beckham Jr reel in a seemingly impossible catch with some unsuspecting Cowboy cornerback draped all over him. Maybe it was some good golf thing that a golfer did and I missed because I hate watching golf. Whatever it was, these moments stick with us and become a part of the tapestry of what makes watching games fun. Because you don’t know what is about to happen.
Which brings us to this edition of the Xavier Musketeers. This is a group expected by most everybody to be a top-20 team in the nation and compete near the top of the Big East. What gets lost in that sometimes, is that this team has the chance to serve up some unforgettable moments. The “Core Four” are back with Tyrique Jones and Quentin Goodin having proven in their four years at Xavier that, if nothing else, they will dunk on you and your entire family if you are in the way. Naji Marshall and Paul Scruggs both bring the ability to absolutely take over a game (just ask Butler or Providence). On the transfer front Bryce Moore brings rugged defense, and Jason Carter is primed to make the leap from the MAC. And that isn’t even to mention Kyky Tandy, who dunks on people who are literally 10” taller than him, or Dahmir Bishop, who was all energy and deadly three point shooting in Spain this summer. Zach Freemantle comes in as a freshman who wants to mix it up in the paint with the best the Big East has to offer and Dieonte Miles runs the floor like a guard at 6’10”. Dontarious James and Daniel Ramsey we haven’t seen as much of, but they have the trust of a coaching staff that grew leaps and bounds last season and looks unstoppable on the recruiting trail.
When you throw all that together, you get a recipe for a team that will get results, no doubt. But you also get a team that is going to get you those results in a way that is going to capture the imaginations of another generation of Xavier fans. Sports are fun to watch because they are unpredictable, but if there is one thing to bet on with this group it is that they are going to make it fun to watch them get where they’re going.