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 8 seed, the 2015 Xavier Musketeers!
Chris Mack was hitting his stride as an offensive coach, ditching the endless supply of ball screens for something more open and flowing. This was the first of his run of four consecutive top-30 offenses at Xavier, and it was a team that was 14th in the nation in both 2P% and assist rate. These guys shared the ball from all five positions and harvested easy baskets for it.
On defense, Mack was still a work in progress. He had his commitment to sealing off the glass, and this team conceded the arc like all his teams did, but he was still almost an exclusively man coach. He just didn't have the personnel for it, and they ended up 212th in the country in defensive EFG%. Dominating the glass only gets you so far when you can't force misses.
This was a really balanced team, with 6 guys scoring at least 8.4 PPG, but it was led by center Matt Stainbrook (12.3/6.9/2.4), whose efficient scoring was complemented by exceptional passing for a big man. Speaking of exceptional passing, Dee Davis (9.0/2.4/6.0) had an exemplary season as a pure point and ran shop on UC in the Shootout.
Myles Davis (10.6/2.4/2.1) was nails from the line and hit 63 threes, and freshman Trevon Bluiett (11.0/4.2/1.9) started from day one and performed well, though he hit a bit of a wall down the stretch. Jalmes Farrnolds was emerging to average more than 11 boards per game, and Jalen on his own was good for 9.9 PPG.
Remy Abell (8.2/2.0/1.2) shot 41% from deep and was the team's best defender. Finally, JP Macura was already himself as a freshman, hitting 34% of his threes, flying to the offensive glass, and generally making every opposing fan base decide to start hating him right away rather than waste time looking for a specific reason.
In preparation for Big East play, X had just the 94th-toughest non-conference schedule. Unfortunately, they didn't handle it as easily as one might have hoped. Hiccup losses - neutral sites to UTEP and Long Beach State, at KenPom #139 Auburn in 2 OTs - were offset by nothing because there wasn't much there. Heading into Big East play, Xavier's best win was home to an Alabama team that would go on to get a 6 seed in the NIT.
Xavier's conference season started with running Georgetown out of Cintas, but that joy was quickly squelched by a loss to KenPom #150 DePaul. That's pretty much how Big East play went. The Muskies' longest winning streak was 2; their longest losing streak was 2. They were never more than a game over or a game under .500 in conference play. They looked like they were headed for 8-10 in their last game of the year at Creighton, but a heroic 26 and 9 from Matt Stainbrook gave them a one-point win and a .500 conference record.
Sitting squarely on the bubble when Big East Tournament play tipped, Xavier battled through an overtime win against Butler to slide to safety. That game was tied at 53 with 2:30 left in regulation and the teams traded empty possessions until the final horn. They followed that by beating the brakes off of a really good Georgetown team, spanning the half with a 23-4 run and never having a win probability below 80% the rest of the way. That run ended with Nova, because of course it did.
It was enough to get Xavier a 6 seed, though, and they did not disappoint. They took Ole Miss's diminutive scoring guard Stefan Moody out of the first round game, holding him to 14 points on 5-18 shooting. A 16-2 run early in the first half put the game to bed as the Stain Train went for 20 and 9 on 8-10 shooting. The next game was against a Georgia State team that everyone loved for its feel-good story of RJ Hunter playing for his dad. Hunter played well, but Dee Davis was better, dropping 15 points on 3-3 shooting. Davis was aided by Myles Davis making 5 threes en route to 17 points and a clinical 21 and 6 on 8-9 shooting for Jalen.
In Xavier-Arizona, round 1, the Muskies couldn't get over the hump. X fought hard, but Arizona had Final Four talent that year and Xavier just couldn't get the stops they needed down the stretch. A year later, the tables would turn.