First, as always, the news:
JUST IN: Xavier has announced that its three men's basketball players have been cleared to end their quarantine and Adam Kunkel's waiver has been approved by the NCAA.— Adam Baum (@AdamJBaum) December 5, 2020
The Musketeers will have Kunkel, Colby Jones and CJ Wilcher available on Sunday for the Crosstown Shootout.
I'm going to try not to focus on how senseless any of this is, so let's get that out of the way first. It makes no sense that Adam Kunkel had to wait to hear if he could hoop this year when the reasonable thing to do this season would have been for the NCAA to give every kid a waiver. It makes no sense that Ben Stanley still isn't allowed to suit up. It makes no sense that Gonzaga was allowed to continue playing games after they had a player test positive but Xavier had to sit two kids due to contact tracing concerns, though it appears Gonzaga is beginning to reap the whirlwind on that one.
Okay, that's out of the way and I feel better.
To me, the biggest piece here is Adam Kunkel. He shot more than 200 threes last year and made more than 38% of them. That's an absurd volume coupled with excellent efficiency. The dude can flat-out shoot the ball. Xavier is doing okay as far as shooters go this season, will be doing even better when Paul Scruggs finds his range, and is better still for adding Kunkel to the roster. He's a guy you can't afford to lose, as the 13 opponents he hit 3 or more threes on last year can attest.
Wilcher and Jones are something closer to wild cards. A freshman's first shootout is always going to be tough. To have it be a player's first collegiate game is an even bigger hill to climb. Couple that with the fact that Xavier has been adding new wrinkles to the offense and these guys have not only been inactive but quarantined and I'm not sure how much it is reasonable to expect. Both are incredibly talented kids though, and it's a good thing for Xavier to have them back on the active roster. Maybe one of them will surprise me tomorrow.
Speaking of surprises, it's also a footnote to keep in the back of your head that UC has no film of Kunkel at Xavier and no film of Wilcher and Jones in college action at all. It's not a massive factor, but it's also not nothing.
In just over a day, we'll know. In the meantime, this is a huge positive development for Xavier.