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 14 seed, the 2014 Xavier Musketeers!
After staying safe and cozy under the inherited security blanket of Tu Holloway, Chris Mack was fighting his way back in from the cold this year. On the back of a 17-14 season that saw no postseason play, he was going to have some uncomfortable questions to answer if he couldn't make the team's Big East debut season a success.
Mack was really honing in some of the philosophies that would define his tenure at X, particularly on defense. This team would concede the arc in a spectacular, almost profligate fashion but lock down the defensive glass. Transitioning into a league with Ethan Wragge, Doug McDermott, and Villanova, this was a risky strategy, but one that Mack leaned into. On offense, he was shifting gears from the ball screen dominated sets of the Holloway era to a more flowing style that would prove to be the groundwork for some of Xavier's most entertaining squads.
Semaj Christon (17.0/2.7/4.2) did it all for this team. He almost never came off the court, had an assist rate over 25% and a TO rate below 17%, and was efficient if not prolific from three. I think sometimes the mediocrity of the teams he played on makes us forget what a great player he was. He was supported by Matt Stainbrook (10.6/7.4/2.2), still carrying a bit of baby fat from his time at Western Michigan but showing the touch and savvy that would endear him to Muskie fans for two years.
Dee Davis (7.7/1.8/4.7) was his steady self on the point, and Justin Martin (11.7/5.2/1.0) tantalized with his languid talent on one wing while Isaiah Philmore (9.3/5.0/0.5) was all graft, no guile on the other.
A trio of future Xavier legends were dipping their toes into the deep end, as Myles Davis (41 made threes, none bigger than the one against Georgetown) and Jalmes Farrnolds (8.4 and 7.7 in limited run) were starting to literally make names for themselves.
Xavier started 5-0 with wins in 4 buy games and one over a Tennessee team that would finish 10th in the KenPom and lose by two in the Elite Eight. In fact, the non-conference was a dream, with 10 wins on the continent marred only by an 0-3 showing in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
The Muskies stayed hot to open conference play, with a 5-1 start capped by erasing a 17-point deficit with 15 minutes to play to beat Georgetown by 13. Only a 14-28 performance from deep by Creighton in Omaha kept our boys from being undefeated. Three straight losses were the start of a 5-7 finish to conference play that left Xavier at 20-11 and right on the bubble.
A 1-1 showing in the Big East Tournament was enough to secure a place in the play-in game, but Dayton wasn't friendly to the Muskies. Trailing NC State by 6 at the half, they cut it to a single possession once, but at 12-2 run behind TJ Warren let the Wolfpack pull away.
Needing to right the ship after a disappointing season and show they belonged in the Big East, Xavier did exactly that. The finish from 15-4 to 21-13 was disappointing, but Mack and his team had done enough to keep the program moving forward, and the foundation for the next great Xavier team was being put into place.