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Where does Kyky Tandy help Xavier most?

Xavier’s sophomore is multi-talented on a team that needs both shooting and a point guard.

NCAA Basketball: St. John at Xavier Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Rather than a full on preview for each player on the roster this year we will be attempting to focus on one question that will determine how the player might fit on the team. The questions aren’t designed to carry either a positive or negative connotation, just really suss out how the roster is built. We’ll start with the freshman and build on to the players everyone knows. We know and you know the caveats that Covid brings, so this will be the only mention of it.

KyKy Tandy was Xavier’s biggest recruiting capture last year. A solid shooting guard with explosive jumping ability, he was supposed to be an instant impact freshman that could breathe some life into a Xavier offense that had struggled the season before. Instead, he got hurt. Tandy missed the first seven games of Xavier’s season and wasn’t quite at game pace when he came back. For most of 2019, Xavier fans were seeing a diminished version of the player they thought they were getting.

Then came conference play. KyKy hit St. John’s for 12, Georgetown for 18, provided the winning margin in a huge road win against Seton Hall, knocked down 38.4% of his three point attempts, and was almost always instant offense. Tandy was also almost completely fearless, even attempting to take over the game in Xavier’s lone Big East tournament appearance.

KyKy can do a lot, and he showed that last year. There was a game he knocked down four three pointers, multiple games where he dished out three assists, a game where he grabbed six rebounds, and a game where he didn’t miss on four attempts inside the arc. That’s a wide skillset for Coach Steele to apply. Where, though, is it best applied? Xavier is a team that, for the time being, lacks in proven shooting and lacks a pure point guard.

KyKy Tandy is an accomplished shooter. Last season he shot 35% behind the arc and the aforementioned 38% in Big East play. As is the case with most shooters though, Tandy prefers to do his three point shooting from a place off the ball. Fully 88% of his three point attempts came off a pass last season. Only 12% of the time did he create his own three point shot. On the flip side, 74% of Tandy’s attempts at the rim came off the bounce, a higher percentage than anyone on the team other than Paul Scruggs. That, somewhat counter-intuitively, also speaks to a comfort collecting the ball and driving rather than being the primary ballhandler.

Which isn’t to say that Tandy isn’t capable of initiating offense or at least bringing the ball down the floor. Tandy’s assist rate was only 9.4% for the year. Tyrique Jones was more likely to assist on a Xavier basket than KyKy was. That number is belied by Tandy’s excellent 17% turnover rate. Xavier fans will remember that Tandy spent a significant portion of the latter part of the season bringing the ball up the floor under pressure. In that role he rarely faltered, but he also rarely made the pass that set up a score. Still, it’s clear that the building blocks are there to use KyKy as the prime ballhandler if Coach Steele should choose to go that way.

KyKy Tandy is a weapon that most defenses are not equipped to handle. As a scorer he is probably Xavier’s primary threat either getting to the lane and getting his own shot or catching and shooting from the outside. On the ball, Tandy is at least a reliable set of hands on a team that greatly lacked that last season. How he is best used may come down to how Coach Steele sees his freshman developing and where he wants to put his most talented player.