Through four games, Xavier has collected four wins, which our staff statistician tells me is the maximum number possible at this point in the season. We could give everyone the same level of credit because it’s a team game, but that’s not the point of this particular column. Instead, let’s sort according to how replaceable each player’s contribution has been, starting with the most replaceable and right on to the least. If you’ve read this column before, you already know the drill and probably skipped this part anyway. I don’t know why I bother with an introduction; I guess it just seems like the appropriate thing to do.
9. Dontarius James
3 of 21 plus 5 of 23 is 8 of 44. That’s what Xavier has shot over the past two games from beyond the arc, and that’s a mark that Coach Steele apparently doesn’t feel like Dontarius James can improve upon. Or maybe he can, but he does something else so poorly that the juice isn’t worth the squeeze. Either way, he has sat out the last two games as Xavier rained bricks from behind the arc.
8. Dahmir Bishop
I like a lot of the things Bishop does - he hustles over the whole floor, boards well for a guard, takes pretty good care of the ball - but he’s ultimately an offense-first guy who has an ORtg of 56.2 and an EFG% of 25%. He’s not alone on the team in not being able to make jumpers, but he’s a guy X looks to to be able to remedy that roster-wide nightmare. He’ll get there, but he hasn’t yet.
7. Quentin Goodin
The good news is he’s second on the team in assist rate. The bad news is that it comes at 17.7%, which isn’t great or even that good. He’s pretty clearly pressing on offense, but last time out he was able to pick his spots better and dished out 6 assists to 2 turnovers. He was 2-8 from behind the arc, but he had some really clean looks at it and had a couple go most of the way down and rattle out. It’s just all breaking the wrong way for Q right now, but there are some encouraging signs to be had if you’re looking for them, which I am.
6. Bryce Moore
The best way to measure Moore’s impact on the game is in someone else’s stats. Missouri State star Keandre Cook, for instance, came into the game against Xavier averaging nearly 20 PPG and being the focal point of the Bears’ offense. Moore hounded him on and off the ball and clearly had him out of sorts. It’s not all down to Bryce, but Cook shot 3-9 and scored just 13 points while turning the ball over 5 times against X. In a one-possession win, that’s a huge contribution by Moore.
5. Zach Freemantle
I’m really impressed by a lot of things Freemantle has done as a freshman. He actually leads the team in ORtg right now and has been both reliable and opportunistic on the offensive end. He has a bit of work on defense, particularly in playing it without fouling, but there have been long stretches when the offense is sputtering during which I’ve looked to Freemantle to hopefully find something. He doesn’t need his number called or good execution by the team; he does a really good job of turning half chances into two points.
4. Jason Carter
This is really close in my mind between Carter and Freemantle, but Carter gets the edge just for his ability to stay on the floor and my presumption that he will one day soon make a three without banking it in. His 8-8 from the line speaks to a good stroke, he just seems to have the same problem everyone else on the team has in that he can’t get a three to fall. I’ve been surprised a bit by his ability to defend; he has just bee really solid in general this year.
3. Naji Marshall
His ball distribution and security have been top notch. Not many teams have a 6’7” upperclassman that you can trust to take the ball from one end to the other to initiate the offense or find a bucket, but Naji is when he’s at his best. He has everything but a jumper on offense, but he keeps chucking from deep and that’s dragging down his efficiency. Everything else he’s doing is fine, but he has missed 18 threes in 4 games, which is a lot of empty possessions.
2. Paul Scruggs
Very good at basketball. If Xavier is in position to need a bucket, this is the guy I want with the ball in his hands. He’s 11-13 from inside the arc this year, and he seems to have grasped the fact that that is a lot better than standing outside the arc chucking. His ability to post a smaller guard adds a wrinkle that should help Xavier if opponents make the mistake of not stationing all five defenders within twelve feet of the rim. He’s also defending really well and leads the team in steal%.
1. Tyrique Jones
He had a down game last time out, but he’s still the straw that stirs the drink. The fact that Xavier’s offense sputtered to a halt when Mo State took him away speaks to how important he is. He’s also crushing the glass at both ends and posting a block% of nearly 6%. When X starts shooting better, he’s going to be unstoppable on the post. Right now, he’s merely the reason that the Muskies are getting so many clean looks to miss.