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 18 seed, the 2013 Xavier Musketeers!
Chris Mack was in his fourth year at the helm at Xavier, but there was also a sense that this was his first true year as head coach. After three years of riding Sean Miller’s recruits (mostly Tu Holloway) to three tournament berths, this was the first year without that security blanket to cover him. To say it went poorly would be an understatement. At times, Mack looked like a lost puppy on the sidelines and would need the halftime break to make any adjustment.
Often times fans remember Mack’s last three seasons at Xavier and forget that there was a season where the NIT wasn’t even an option for his team. He ended up getting it together and made adjustments on the fly and landed good recruits that he turned into great college players. It is important to remember his growing pains on the way to becoming a great coach though.
While Mack had his issues this season, he is not entirely to blame for how bad this season ended up being. Seniors Tu Holloway, Kenny Frease and Andre Walker all graduated, while Mark Lyons transferred to Arizona and Dez Wells, well let’s not talk about that. Suffice it to say that the cupboard looked empty. The four biggest contributors were gone and the biggest returning contributor only played 36.4% of his available minutes.
There was bright spot coming in though, Semaj Christon looked like a star straight away and ended up leading the team in scoring with 15.2/2.9/4.6. Semaj’s usage rate was alarming, but it kind of had to be. While his jump shot was pretty poor, he was just about unstoppable on the drive. The other main contributor was Travis Taylor who saw his role increase significantly to being the second option on offense. He gobbled up defensive rebounds like they were going out of style. His season peaked with the OT win over a good St. Louis team in which he had a line of 19-19-1.
Outside of those two guys, things got spotty at best. A sophomore Dee Davis showed good flashes and shot the ball well, but struggled with turnovers the whole season. Justin Martin struggled with his outside shot but still shot well inside the arc. Jeff Robinson was still the same hot and cold player he was the year prior and struggled with mental lapses like fouling while in the lead. Isaiah Philmore was decent all around but should have never hedged on a ball screen and Brad Redford still bombed from 3 and didn’t do much else.
If you thought the 2019 season was a tough transition then you clearly removed this train wreck of a season from your memory. The non-con didn’t even go well and X sat at 7-6 after it with losses against Pacific (128 in Kenpom), Wofford (246), Wake Forest (137) and a blowout in the Shootout. Xavier was 112 in the Kenpom going into conference play where they began 4-0. After that, they went 5-7 in the rest of conference play and picked up a nice win over Memphis in a non-con game.
The highlight of the year was the home win over Saint Louis in OT. At the time, Saint Louis was 19 in the Kenpom and they ended up being a 4-seed in the big dance. On Senior Day, it was senior Travis Taylor who came up huge for the Muskies, getting 19 point and 19 points along with 6 blocks. Semaj was the go-to guy again and shot 6-12, including 2-2 from 3, and led all scorers with 20 while dishing out 7 assists. Redford hit 11 points and the rest of the team contributed to a smothering OT performance.
Xavier concluded the regular season with a conference record of 9-7 and overall of 17-13. The A-10 was not the Big East and finishing 9-7 was basically useless, X needed the auto-bid to have a chance. They didn’t get it. As was the story for most of the season, Semaj ate possessions, Taylor ate boards and the team just seemed to sputter the whole way. It all ended when Isaiah Philmore missed a sitter at the rim to lose to Saint Joseph’s.
It’s easy to forget about this Xavier team since they didn’t make the tournament or win the Shootout or do anything that Xavier usually does. It was a rebuilding year to be sure. The coach was learning and adapting to a whole new team, former role-players had to fill starting positions and a freshman had to be the main offensive weapon. It seemed like doom and gloom at the time, but the program did nothing but build as it entered the Big East and hit new heights under Coach Mack.