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.
Ben Stanley! Adam Kunkel! These guys are great gets for Coach Travis Steele as they bolster a team that lost some serious front line production and is always desperate for three point shooting. Both Stanley and Kunkel have the ability to push for significant playing time now and can elevate this team from the lower levels of the Big East to a potential Sweet 16 that can punch higher on a good day. Both are experienced, both play with some serious swagger, both are the kind of players that good programs have around.
Ben Stanley and Adam Kunkel. It’s nice to lay in pieces for the future, but Xavier could have used reinforcements now. Instead, two precious roster spots are going to transfers that aren’t eligible, leaving Xavier without a rotation junior on the team. The Musketeers enter the season relying on a callow class of freshman, talented sophomores,* and a senior squad thinned by the loss of Naji Marshall. They aren’t thin, but they lack experienced depth. In the Big East, that’s not ideal.
Which of those introductory paragraphs do you like best? Which do you think is real? Would you believe me if I told me they both are? Xavier plays a game in three weeks. 21 days. Coach Steele does not know his rotation at this point. He doesn’t know who can play, who might start, who he has off the bench, if he has an elite shooter to stretch defenses, if he replaced Tyrique Jones in a meaningful way, or even how many uniforms he has to get through the wash. If this sounds absolutely absurd, that’s because it is. The basketball arm of the NCAA has had no games to oversee since the second week of March. They have missed three weeks of this season. Literally all they have had to do all sodding year is decide who can play and when. They haven’t done that.
That is crass incompetence. Most of the other transfers requesting an exemption either have one or know. Neither of Xavier’s juniors know. That leaves, as illustrated, Xavier’s coaching staff in a serious bind. How can you plan for a season with a junior high team when three weeks before the first game you don’t know who is playing? You can’t, obviously. How the NCAA expects a high-major to do that defies explanation. Literally, actually. No one has bothered trying to explain this.
Right now KenPom has Xavier as the 65th best team in the nation. That’s without Stanley and Kunkel. The implications there are pretty obvious. Bart Torvik has Xavier at 54th, also without the two transfers factored into the equation. Add in two experienced rotation players and things change, and quickly. It’s not hard to imagine Xavier moving into the 30s in both systems with both players available. That moves them from scrapping for bubble cast offs into the conversation as a sure thing.
With 20 ays to go before Xavier’s first game they are fielding a team bereft of one entire class. Will that be the case going forward? That decision rests with the NCAA, who seem to be in no hurry to make it.
*Xavier’s walk ons are all juniors. We generally preview the team in terms of scholarship players and assess it from there. Walk ons are vital, most of the staff here spent time as walk ons. We aren’t devaluing those guys, they just generally aren’t part of what we preview. Also, they would hurt our anti-NCAA screed, and no one wants that.