The Xavier Sweet 16* features all 19 Xavier teams from the KenPom era in one bracket where Twitter polls will decide the winners. Here's your 17 seed, the 2019 Xavier Musketeers!
The 2019 team featured Travis Steele in his first season since taking over for Chris Mack. Some of Steele's best work was done in the off-season, as he secured transfers Zach Hankins, Ryan Welage, and Kyle Castlin to fill out a roster that had been left dreadfully thin as Mack hit the door.
Steele suffered from a lot of the growing pains you would expect in a first season, and the team often struggled to find an identity. As Steele settled in, the team found a stride and quieted some of the questions that had been circling the bench in the middle of the season.
Gutted by the departures of Trevon Bluiett, JP Macura, and Kerem Kanter to graduation and Kaiser Gates to the D-League, Steele and his staff cobbled the roster together on the fly. With recruiting misses from the end of Mack's tenure hampering the bench, the team suffered for depth and packed star power. What they did have was a cadre of guys who knew their roles and excelled in them.
Forward Naji Marshall (14.7/7.2/3.4) did a little bit of everything on both ends despite struggling with back problems and illness early on. Paul Scruggs (12.3/4.9/3.3) was the team's most efficient perimeter threat, and Quentin Goodin (11.0/3.2/4.8) had arguably his best season as a Muskie.
The team's real strength was up front though, as Zach Hankins and Tyrique Jones combined for 22 and 13 per game and smothered the paint down the stretch as Xavier was hitting its stride.
Role players Ryan Welage (60 made threes) and Kyle Castlin (made winning plays, had THAT block of Ty-Shon Alexander) rounded out the roster.
X began the season at a fairly optimistic #53 in the KenPom, but that evaporated under a 2-3 start that included tougher-than-necessary wins in the opening buy games and a loss on a neutral site to a bad SDSU team. At the end of the non-conference schedule, the Muskies were 8-5 and without a good win.
Things got ugly in a hurry after that. After winning the Big East opener, Xavier lost 8 of 10, bottoming out with an ugly loss to DePaul at Cintas. Steele shuffled the starting lineup to go with two big men right off the jump, and things turned around. The team sealed up the glass, locked in on defense, and won 6 of 7 to finish the Big East at 9-9.
Postseason play was a roller-coaster for the Muskies. A run to the BE Tournament final was almost developing when Brian O'Connell blew a call in a tie game against Nova at the end of regulation in the semis. That fouled Naji out and doomed Xavier to an OT loss. X landed in the NIT and handled Toledo easily at home before falling in OT at Texas.
For a year spent transitioning from one of the best in Xavier history to an almost entirely new staff and roster, this one wasn't a total failure. X rallied from what appeared to be an early grave to put together some inspiring performances and set up a future behind Travis Steele.