You can probably be forgiven for assuming that Xavier was the higher ranked of these two programs last year. That’s a fair assumption because, since time (or at least the KenPom Era) began, that’s been the case. Like a matador against a bull, the Musketeers have always come out on top over the Bison. Last year, though, that changed.
Lipscomb was the 45th best team in basketball last season. Xavier was 65th. Both teams lost to Texas to end their season, but Lipscomb did it in the NIT final. The Bison also went to Belmont and lost by two and Louisville and lost by four. They, in short, were quite good last year.
Casey Alexander wants his teams to play fast and play efficiently. They’ll move the ball on offense a lot, they assisted over 60% of made baskets last year, and last year they shot it well. On defense, the Bison tend to focus on one shot defensive possessions more than forcing turnovers.
Here’s where the reality of Lipscomb’s great season comes home to roost. Both leading scorer Garrison Mathews (20.9/5.5/1.9 113.9 ORtg, 28.4% USG) and second leading scorer Rob Marberry (14.8/4.1/1.9 126, 23.4%) are gone. Eli Pepper and Nathan Moran contributed another 35 minutes per game, and Pepper knocked down a cool 40% from behind the arc, but are also both gone this season. Of the 200 minutes available in a game, the Bison will be replacing fully 133 them thanks to the departure of Kenny Cooper (9.8/3.5/4.5 2.0spg) and two other transfers. Lipscomb is absolutely gutted, there’s really no other way to put it. Of their top six scorers, only number four returns.
There are essentially two. Of Lipscomb’s top eight players in minutes last year, only two are back. Michael Buckland, a 6-4 guard, played 26.5 minutes per game last season and went for 5.7/2.8/2.3 and 37.6% of his 89 three point attempts. The other returnee who play more than 12 minutes per game is Ahsan Asadullah. Asadullah is a 6-9 center who had a 106.9 offensive rating and cleaned the defensive glass at a 21.1% rate on his way to a line of 7.4/4.6/0.8. Thus concludes Lipscomb Bison who played as many minutes as Elias Harden last year.
As you may have guessed, there are a lot. Six freshman join the program, led by Kaleb Coleman, a 6-7 three star forward out of Florida. Coleman is a nice get for Lipscomb, but they also appear to have been his only serious offer. KJ Johnson, Jacob Hobbs, and Luke Howard are all two star players that will look to earn some of the immense amounts of playing time available. Junior transfer Parker Hazen is likely the more important add for the Bison this year. Hazen played for a year at Valpo before taking the juco route to eventually land at Lipscomb. Hazen was ranked the seventh best player in Indiana when he came out and figures to add depth at the forward position.
There’s no way to sugar coat just how much the Bison lost; it was essentially their entire team from last year. Lipscomb shot to noteriety last year, but they risk just as precipitous a plunge this year.