Xavier is going to be landing back in Cincinnati sometime today, providing you’re reading this the day I wrote it. Their tour of Spain was, in terms of pure results, an unqualified success. They were 3-0 and ran three different rosters of adults off the floor. A couple of the games stayed close for a bit, but none of them were particularly competitive at the pointy end. Despite the games not being particularly testing, there are some conclusions we can draw from them (I think).
First, Naji Marshall is ready to be the man. His season was a little up and down last year as he was hampered by injury and illness, but he had points at which he carried the team. In Spain, he picked up where he left off at his best last year. It’s rare to find a player who can legitimately do everything, but Naj flirted with it on the Iberian peninsula. He was the team’s best shooter, led the team in assists, boarded reasonably well, and defended one through five. He’s going to take over a lot of games this season.
Quentin Goodin looks like a different dude than he did last year, and it’s not just because he changed his hair. He was driving to score and finishing well. His 4-12 from deep was... okay, and he left some points at the line, but he looked better around the rim than I can remember seeing him in a Xavier uniform. I think he’s on the way to a huge senior season.
The freshmen were a mixed bag, as freshmen will be. Kyky Tandy had decent overall stats, but he showed in game 2 why people are so excited about him. He had 14 points on 4-7/4-7/2-2 shooting, and he ripped off most of them in one effervescent stretch. He legitimately couldn’t be guarded, and he made sure the dude assigned to him knew about it. He’s brimming with confidence; he reminded me in skill set and attitude of a young Mark Lyons.
I had heard Zach Freemantle was really advanced, but you never really know about reports like that. Having seen him play against adults, I’m starting to believe it. You don’t need to be John Wooden to figure out he can play, but what I really liked was that he consistently popped up in good positions. He has the basketball IQ to know where he needs to be and the graft to go there time after time even if it doesn’t always pan out. He’ll score a lot of buckets that you’d attribute to being lucky if you didn’t know better.
Dionte Miles looked good. He had 3 blocked shots and ran the court really well; I’m not sure he’s a lock for a redshirt at this point. Dahmir Bishop struggled to get it going, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. His jumper looked good but wasn’t falling; I’ll attribute it to playing in really hot gyms with funky lighting. He’s going to be fine.
So is Paul Scruggs, who was statistically unimpressive. He only shot 12 times; only Miles Hanson and Leighton Schrand attempted fewer field goals. He was second in the team in assists and didn’t appear to be hurt or uninterested, so I’m not super concerned.
Bryce Moore was quiet on offense, but he’s going to ruin a lot of days as a defender. Just a dog.
Tyrique Jones and Jason Carter are going to be buck nasty as a combination. I was really impressed by Carter’s skills in the open court; he can legitimately rip down a board and run the break himself. He was a monster on the glass, leading the team in rebounding despite having to leave the last game early with a cut on his head. Tyrique was legitimately unguardable at times. His FT stroke looks a lot better, though the results weren’t.
On the whole, the team looked good, though that’s what these tours are designed for. Everyone looked engaged defensively; the effort was a lot more like last March than last November. Even with a couple of guys missing through injury, there were just a lot more bodies for Travis Steele to rotate in.
Speaking of which, the tempo was higher as well. The team consistently got out and ran, and all of the bigs have functional end-to-end speed. Dionte Miles got a lot of his points by being the first tall dude down the floor, and the guards were doing a good job rewarding him. Everybody looked like they were having a dang good time and legitimately enjoying playing with one another. I’m excited for this season.
Here are the full stats from the trip to Spain. Whether you got a chance to watch or just following along in the box score, hit us with your first impressions of the team in the comments section.