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.
It was hard not to heap expectations on Kyky Tandy last season. He was a consensus top 100 player, he could shoot and handle the ball on a team bereft of both of those skills, and he dunked the ball over a seven footer so ferociously that he injured his own chin on the rim. None of these are things that do a lot to lessen expectation on a young man making the jump to college.
What can is injury, and that did for Tandy. Kyky missed Xavier’s first seven games due to lower leg injuries that hampered his explosiveness all season. Once he was on the floor, results were mixed for awhile. Kyky ripped Green Bay apart and was solid against TCU, but vanished in the Crosstown Shootout and in the loss to Wake Forest. In conference play Tandy became a consistent rotation player even if he never started a game. Games of 18, 14, and 12 points and nine games in double figures underscored his scoring and star potential when healthy.
This season Tandy comes in healthy and with a season of Big East play under his belt. The same expectations that he came saddled with as a freshman also come with him. The ability to score, leap, and handle the ball is still there. The opportunity to be the lead player on the team is as well. Paul Scruggs returns, but Xavier’s top two scorers and leaders in usage are gone. Tandy is now figures to start alongside Scruggs in some sort of hybrid point/off guard role.
The pieces are in place for Tandy to make the jump to being Xavier’s key man. For starters, the team still needs shooting. Freshman CJ Wilcher comes with a reputation as shooter, but needs to prove it at the college level. Paul Scruggs is a known quantity and Nate Johnson figures to add some outside help if he adjust to the Big East level. What Tandy can do that the others don’t is find his own outside shot. Tandy was a very respectable shooter last season and shot more unassisted three pointers than anyone on the team other than Naji Marshall.
Kyky can also get his going to the rim. While his two point shooting percentage last season was not great (42.4%), he excelled at actually getting there. No Xavier play save Scruggs created his own shot at the rim more often than Tandy did last season. With a year of seasoning under his belt and his bounce definitively back (he recorded a 48 inch vertical jump this fall), it stands to reason that he will be more equipped to finish better at the rim this year.
To truly rack up star level numbers a player has to use the ball a lot. Last season, Kyky didn’t. His usage rate of 19.1% landed him squarely in the middle of Xavier’s rotation players. Naji Marshall, though, posted a 26.7% usage rate to lead the team. That was higher than Trevon Bluiett or JP Macura ever managed and higher than anyone since Semaj Christon in the season Xavier lost to NC State in the play-in game. Tyrique Jones wasn’t far behind at 25.5%. All of that usage has to go somewhere. Zach Freemantle figures to take some of it, but Paul Scruggs is already at 21% and isn’t a heavy ball usage player.
So what does all that mean? It means that there is a vacuum to fill in Xavier’s offense. There is talent coming on board, but the player most likely to step into the role of offensive leader is already on the team. Kyky Tandy’s star turn awaits, all he has to do is step up and take it.