First of all, there’s one thing we need to get out of the way about this trip abroad: it’s going to be a disappointment. Why? Because there is no way this trip to Spain con possibly produce an image as iconic as Larry Austin Jr. shirtless on a horse. With that out of the way, let’s talk ball.
The last time we saw the Musketeers they were suffering the effects of simply not being quite good enough in enough depth to consistently compete at the highest level. An inspiring late season run came up just short, and X bowed out of the NIT to eventual champion Texas. This season, Xavier has added depth, and a lot of it. That brings us to the first question the Spanish trip may answer.
Is there a redshirt on this team?
Last season Dontarius James may as well have redshirted, but he didn’t. That team wasn’t anywhere near as talented as this one figures to be. While a James redshirt seems unlikely, that at least one player decides to save a year isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. Dieonte Miles, who stands 6-11 but could possibly stand to add to his 208 pounds, and Zach Freemantle are candidates should Coach Travis Steele decide against going 13 deep this season.
Where will Bryce Moore fit in?
Moore doesn’t profile as a pure point guard, but he can handle the ball and initiate offense. He also doesn’t profile as a pure scorer, but he can shoot the lights out when he’s rolling. Throw in a year missed with a torn ACL and exactly what Moore brings in something of a mystery. He figures to be a plus defender who can spot up, but will he be able to take some of the load of Quentin Goodin or score enough to let Paul Scruggs run the point from time to time?
What to do with all this height?
All of the sudden, Xavier is huge. Tyrique Jones remains 6-9, but he doesn’t remain Xavier’s tallest player. Dieonte Miles is 6-11, Zach Freemantle is 6-9, Daniel Ramsey is 6-9, and Jason Carter is 6-8. Even swing men Naji Marshall and Dontarius James are 6-7. It’s easily within the realm of possibility that the Musketeers run out a lineup in which the 6-4 point guard is three inches shorter than any other player on the floor. The newcomers also come with the athleticism to make their height play even taller, but it’s reasonable to assume that sometimes X will have to take a break from just sprinting up and down the court. A few games abroad give Coach Steele a chance to see if the half court offense can make use of a lot of new post presence.
What will the rotation be?
This isn’t getting sorted in Spain, but the seeds could be sown. Xavier is deep everywhere, which creates the (good) problem of figuring out how to deploy everyone. There are guys on this team who have earned touches with their play in the Big East, and guys joining the team who can crack their chin on the rim. Somehow, Travis Steele needs to get the best from everyone. It’s possible the rotation gets deep and X becomes a team loaded with 25 minute players. Coach Steele could also go the other way and lean on his experience while using KyKy Tandy and the rest of a heralded class as quick strike weapons off the bench to change the flow and momentum of games. Starting at noon from Barcelona, we’ll find out.