Last season, which feels like a lifetime ago now, Xavier saw its defense become its calling card. The ability to lock down the opposition kept the Muskies in a lot of games and was the defense that Travis Steele promised in his first press conference. After a season of shaky defensive work it was good to see a genuinely elite defensive team just a year later, but this season will pose a considerable challenge on the defensive end. Specifically, the rebounding.
Good defense is only worth anything if you can kill off possessions and not give the oppostion second chances. Tyrique Jones and Naji Marshall were both instrumental in this category for Xavier last year. Jones pulled in 6.7 defensive boards per game and Marshall grabbed 5.2, both very good numbers. Outside of those two things look a little bleak as the returning doesn’t contain any elite rebounders. Paul Scruggs averaged 3.5 defensive rebounds and Jason Carter added 3.2, but all other returners averaged less than 3. Obviously, there is a hole that needs filled and Xavier will need someone to step up if this defense is to stay elite.
So, where will the rebounding come from? No one person will be expected to fill the Tyrique shaped void, nor should one person be expected to, but a few players could be very decent rebounders in their own rights. Zach Freemantle is up to speed in college basketball and isn’t scared of anyone in the paint even if his rebounding numbers last year weren’t jumping off the page. Dieonte Miles redshirted last season with the express purpose of gaining muscle to add to his long frame. His exceptional length and athleticism will be his assets when it comes to pulling in boards but he is still more of a rim protector.
Bryan Griffin comes in with the build of a good rebounder. He is very strong, has decent height and led D2 in rebounding last season with 14.5 per game. The jump to D1 will be difficult but Griffin has the strength and athleticism to bully opponents off the boards. Daniely Ramsey is a bit hard to predict as he played only once last season but he, like Griffin, has the build to be tough in the paint. Ramsey is also very strong and tall enough to be a legit post presence on both ends.
Good defense is worthless without rebounding and Xavier has a huge hole in that area going into this season. The returning cast offers a few players with the potential to be good rebounders and transfer Bryan Griffin is an automatic boost in that regard. Rebounding isn’t the most glamorous job on the court but its value cannot be overstated and Xavier will need it if the defense is to be elite once again.