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Is Zach Freemantle actually Xavier’s breakout player?

Andy Katz called Paul Scruggs a “breakout” candidate. He’s sleeping on Xavier’s big from New Jersey.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Georgetown Brad Mills-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.

In Xavier’s final game last season, a bizarre game played in the limbo caused by the looming global pandemic, only two players really rose to the occasion. Naji Marshall’s 15/8/8 was undermined by 0-8 behind the arc and four turnovers, Paul Scruggs couldn’t go, and Kyky Tandy’s late bid to take the game over was undone by poor shooting. Tyrique Jones led the team in scoring with a monster game, but it it his front court mate in that game that led the team in three pointers made, blocks, and steals.

Andy Katz tabbed Paul Scruggs, an established starter with an excellent resume, as a potential breakout player. He missed Zach Freemantle. Freemantle played his heart out in Xavier’s lone postseason game last year, but that was only the cap to a solid freshman year, not some sort of one game fluke. The wispy mustached big from Teaneck, NJ showcased a wide variety of skills as he became part of Coach Travis Steele’s rotation.

A season line of 7.5/4.3/0.6 belies the impact Freemantle had last year. As the season wore on, Zach grew into a more pronounced role on the team. In Big East play he averaged 23.5 minutes and started 14 of the 19 conference games that Xavier would play. Freemantle’s block rate of 3.6% was second on the team, his turnover rate was an excellent 13.3%, and his offensive rebound rate of 8.4% was impressive, if overshadowed by Tyrique Jones. To go with all that Big Frosty demonstrated that he could shot the ball as well.

Free throw shooting was a weakness for Xavier all year. The Musketeers finished 319th in the nation from the line. That wasn’t down to Freemantle, who shot a qualifier leading 78.9%. (Bryce Moore edged him for team lead by shooting 81%, but in only 11 attempts). Three point shooting was also a serious problem for the Musketeers, but again that wasn’t down to their 6-9 freshman, who knocked down 35% of his attempts. “Big Frosty” became a known moniker after Zach also demonstrated a knack for making clutch shots by bagging a game winner against St. John’s as time wound down.

That body of works bodes well for a sophomore year. Yes, Freemantle has some work to do on the defensive glass. Some of his deficiency there can be explained by the fact that Tyrique Jones was hoovering up everything in there. Freemantle’s shot selection could also use some work. Last season fully half of his shots were two point jumpers and that factored into his less than stellar 46% mark from the floor. Still, there’s a lot to be said for a floor stretching big who can also bang at the rim and is completely unafraid of anything that the Big East can throw at him. Xavier’s potential breakout star? Look no further than #32.