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Season in Review: Paul Scruggs emerged as a true scorer

An injury hampered him at the end of the season, but Scruggs showed he could be a premier scoring threat.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Marquette Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Xavier basketball was rolling to a nerve-wracking end to the season, then a global pandemic hit the brakes so hard I went right into the windshield. We’ve shaken ourselves off a bit here and will continue, somewhat belatedly, with our breakdown of one of the weirdest Xavier seasons on record.

As the season started I hypothesized that Paul Scruggs would benefit as a scorer from the outside shooting of a resurgent Naji Marshall (28.6%), KyKy Tandy (35.5%), Bryce Moore (28.6%), and Dah Bishop (11.8%). That proved to not be the case at all. Despite that, Scruggs emerged as a genuine scoring threat, even if he didn’t lead the team in scoring. Could he have? That merits a deeper dig into the numbers.

Paul Scrugss shot the ball 10.5 times per game, Naji Marshall near as makes no difference 14, and Tyrique Jones nine. Of those three Scruggs was, somewhat surprisingly, the least efficient, finishing the season with an offensive rating of 100.4. That dip came almost completely from one area, and that wasn’t all Paul’s fault.

Xavier at the start of the year was supposed to have Quentin Goodin as the steady hand at the point with KyKy Tandy and Dahmir Bishop as competent backups. That would leave Paul Scruggs off the ball and in the position where he could best be a threat. Even with the injury to Tandy, that plan worked (at least so far as Scruggs was concerned) until January 11th. At that point Scruggs had seen his offensive efficiency dip below 100 just five times, and only seriously once. Scruggs had gashed Wake for 30 and Florida for 24 and was shooting the ball very well.

Quentin Goodin was not. The senior point guard was, frankly speaking, inconsistent and his benching with first an injury and then ineffectiveness forced Scruggs to play the point. As this isn’t NBA 2k, despite what some Twitter fans would have you believe, players can’t just jump from position to position. Scruggs efficiency and scoring immediately took a major hit. In the 12 games after he took over the point Scruggs had an offensive efficiency over 100 only five times. The junior went from excelling off the ball to struggling significantly when forced on it.

That manifested itself mostly in a turnover rate that jumped to 23.4%. Scruggs game isn’t suited to bringing the ball up the floor and initiating offense. What it is suited to is scoring, and scoring in bunches. Scruggs had been out of double figures twice in his first 15 games, he didn’t hit that mark five times in the next 12. On the ball, he simply couldn’t score in the way he was used to or that the team eventually needed.

There is obviously much more to Paul Scruggs than scoring the ball, but in response to the question at the start of the season and this article as to whether he could lead the team in points, the answer proved complicated. Scruggs showed he could be a dominant and consistent scorer when the offense could run through him on the wing. On the ball, his best skills were blunted. If Xavier brings back a true point next season, Scruggs will go back to being a serious scoring threat.