If the rules of this set of power rankings allowed for non-players to be included, I’d have Mario Mercurio at the very top. With teams needing 13 games to be eligible for the NCAA tournament and something on the order of 250 teams only having 3 or fewer games completed so far, his foresight in stacking Xavier’s schedule early is looking like a stroke of genius right now. DePaul is shut down (again) and they haven’t even played a season opener yet; Xavier is basically halfway to eligibility.
This is only about players, though you could make a case that the rules are arbitrary and I’m the one who made them, so changing them shouldn’t be an issue. I have chosen not to do that. Here, ranked from most replaceable to least, are the eleven guys who have suited up to play for the Muskies this year.
Off the board: CJ Wilcher
This isn’t meaningfully different than just being in 11th, but I’m not going to judge this guy off of 3 minutes fresh off of quarantine. He had the spuds to hit the floor shooting; he’s going to make his way onto and up this list soon enough.
10. Dieonte Miles
He protects the rim, hits 75% of his two-point field goal attempts, and doesn’t turn the ball over much. The one thing he doesn’t do is board it, and I think that’s what’s keeping him off the floor right now. He basically only plays the 5, and Xavier has three guys who are more capable rebounders and don’t give anything away offensively currently in the frontcourt rotation.
9. Colby Jones
He’s going to move up this list soon, I think. For now, he hasn’t quite proven it, but he looked every bit like the real deal against UC. Two buckets, four boards, three assists, and a steal: he’s a stat sheet stuffer. As his legs come under him, I expect his minutes to climb. He’s so versatile.
8. Adam Kunkel
This stings a bit, because boy can this young man shoot. A year ago, he’d have been on top of this list as the only dude who could hit water if he fell out of a boat. His feet get up under him really quickly and his release is lightning quick. His turnover was silly, but he clearly understood it and adjusted. His stroke was as advertised, though it’s not clear UC saw those adverts.
7. Bryan Griffin
He has to be on the way to more minutes, right? UC had no answer for him on the block or on the (defensive) glass, and he has been staggeringly efficient in limited time this year. How on earth did a D2 team with this guy on it only win 5 games? X has efficient scorers who crush the boards in good supply, but Griffin is both the most efficient and the best rebounder.
6. Kyky Tandy
I’m not that worried about his performance over the weekend; he’s still a certified bucket getter. People have been analyzing his body language post-game, but I just don’t think he’s that expressive of a guy. Just because he only scored two points and wasn’t bouncing off the walls after the final horn doesn’t mean he’s not engaged. Leave the armchair psychology to fanbases trying to rationalize why losing this game like 75% of the time isn’t that big a deal to the players; Kyky is just fine and is the most dangerous bench weapon in the league.
5. Dwon Odom
His overall line against Cinci wasn’t super impressive, but his bloodless performance down the stretch sure was. He is prone to some freshman moments, but he certainly seems blessed with a short memory. Give me dudes who are fearless and aggressive and I’ll live with the occasional questionable mistake on the back end.
4. Nate Johnson
This guy would have fit right in on the original Zip Em Up Muskies. How Gardner Webb got so lucky is beyond me. He’s shooting over 50% from behind the arc, is bouncy enough to get his around the rim, and has shown himself to be a plus defender. It’s also super clear that he wants it. I’m loving what he has brought to this roster.
3. Jason Carter
I really wanted to put him higher. Assigned to guard UC center Chris Vogt, to whom he gives away 5 inches and 33 pounds, he wasn’t overtly dominant: Vogt scored 8 points on 4-5 shooting. He did do his job, though; Vogt had a usage rate of just 7%, grabbed just 1 rebound, and had a limited impact on the game despite his ridiculous efficiency. It was a vintage Jason Carter performance: superficially unimpressive, but undeniably integral to Xavier’s efforts.
2. Zach Freemantle
It’s hard to replace someone who can take possessions in one end and spit buckets out there other, and that’s what Freemantle does. He’s a three-level scorer who has a nose for empty space on the floor and teammates determined to find him when he gets into it. Some turnover issues and an uncharacteristically miserable start from the line are dragging his ORtg a bit, but he’s been a go-to guy for X.
1. Paul Scruggs
You don’t need me to explain this to you.
I’m gonna anyway. He was brilliant in the Shootout, shaping the game to his character. Always present, but never obtrusive. Always getting where he needed to go, but never forcing. When it came down to brass tacks, his execution was clinical. His three-point numbers are going to take some time to come back to his averages and he has picked up some senseless fouls, but there’s no doubt that Xavier doesn’t have anyone else who brings what he does to the floor.