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 1 seed, the 2016 Xavier Musketeers!
Chris Mack was building off of a good season and Sweet 16 appearance with most of the players returning for an encore. The offense saw another uptick in efficiency with the main difference being that this team played much faster. A jump from 65 to 72 in tempo department just goes to show how much quicker this team played and how Mack played to his players strengths.
On the defensive end, Mack switched between his beloved packline and a 1-3-1 zone that allowed the team’s athleticism to cause chaos. This was showcased in an early season win where the 1-3-1 baffled Michigan and led to Xavier walking away with a victory. All around, Mack put in an offense that allowed for quick ball movement, a defense that compensated for the lack of man-to-man defenders and enough free throw drills to get Jalen Reynolds to shoot 65% from the stripe; just an A+ job all around.
With most of the players from the previous year returning, hopes were high that X could put together a special season. Trevon Bluiett (15.1/6.1/2.2) dropped most of the baby weight and his shot and footwork became lightning quick, Myles Davis (10.8/3.6/4.1) continued to be a sharpshooter and the emotional leader on the court and JP Macura (9.4/2.6/2.0) continued his quest to become every opponent’s least favorite human ever. Jalmes Farrnolds came back for another go-around of cleaning the glass and dunking on everything that moved. Remy Abell (6.4/1.5/1.6) accepted his role of glue guy on offense and was a bloodhound on defense, hassling opposition guards relentlessly.
Edmond Sumner (11/3.4/3.6) took a redshirt in ‘15 and became the starting point guard in this season. He was lightning fast, had incredible bounce (just ask Octavius Ellis) and shot the 3 well enough to keep the defense honest. Larry Austin Jr. (1.8/1.1/1.1) spelled Sumner at point guard and rarely (never) hunted his own shot, but used his minutes to keep the tempo up and keep things firing. Kaiser Gates and Sean O’Mara made cameo appearances but would have to wait another year for their moments in the spotlight.
A couple buy games were brushed aside before an away demolition of Michigan, then came the Thanksgiving tournament. X had rarely played their best, or even mediocre, ball over the November holiday, but steamrolled every opponent they saw before humiliating Dayton 90-61 in the final. X kept rolling into the Crosstown Shootout where Myles Davis went off and Ed posterized “rim protector” Octavius Ellis en route to a victory. An away comeback against Wake Forest concluded a 12-0 non conference schedule.
Conference play started at Villanova where things went as expected on the scoreboard, but Ed Sumner sustained a head injury under the rim. X quickly regrouped for a 4 game win streak before losing to Gerogetown at home. This led to a top 10 matchup at Providence where JP ignored Mack’s signal for a timeout and buried the game with a 3. Things kept rolling right along with a loss at Creighton as the only blip on the radar. On February 24, X hosted Villanova and, for the first time, beat the Wildcats. This game is loaded with too many memories to pack into this article, so I’ll leave a link at the bottom. This momentous victory was immediately countered by a loss at Seton Hall, but X righted the ship on Senior Day to beat Creighton and end the regular season 26-4 overall and 14-4 in Big East play.
X began the Big East Tournament with a blowout win over Marquette but fell in the next round to Seton Hall and a red-hot Isaiah Whitehead. No matter, the Muskies still pulled a 2-seed and rode Jalmes Farrnolds to a victory over Weber State. The good times ended there though, X could never pull away against Wisconsin before Koenig’s 3 went in as time expired, ending Xavier’s best ever season far too soon.
It’s easy to just remember the way this season ended and forget of how good this Xavier team really was. They were fast, unselfish, deep and tough to the core. This season was still packed with great memories like JP’s 3s against Nova, his dunk at Hinkle, Ed throwing down dunks on Marquette, or Jalen Reynolds growling at anyone foolish enough to get near him. Despite the sour ending, this team gave us many great memories and they will be forever beloved by Xavier Nation.