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Can Kyky Tandy help this team?

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Xavier’s top recruit from last season has struggled to find his way this year.

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Xavier Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Kyky Tandy arrived at Xavier with a lot of hype. He was at least a four star recruit in every service and had landed comfortably inside the ESPN top 100. Viral highlights of his high school exploits filtered on to Twitter every week. At one point he banged his chin on the rim dunking. He was a sure thing so far as recruits go.

Tandy’s first season started rocky. An injury kept him out of Xavier’s first seven games and his start was slow after that. By the time Big East play got rolling, though, he was coming into his own. Kyky averaged 6.7/1.3/0.9 for the year, but had games where his talent was obvious. He scored 18 against Georgetown, played 30 minutes against St. John’s, and was the 10th best three point shooter in the Big East during conference play.

Things have come less easily for Tandy this year. After a five game stretch to start the season where he scored 18, 4, 24, 18, and 10, Tandy hasn’t been back in double figures. After shooting 13 free throws against EKU, Tandy hasn’t been back to the line once. In conference games Tandy has shot the ball 16 times and only seen five of them go through. In Xavier’s last six games, Kyky is averaging ten minutes played. That’s less than Dahmir Bishop played in his 10 games last season.

One of the reasons that Kyky hasn’t played as much this season is that his defense simply isn’t up to the task of the time. He doesn’t look disinterested so much as he seems to struggle covering a player coming off a screen action or making the right rotation. With a coach as insistent on solid defense as Travis Steele is and with the help that Xavier needs on defense, playing like a weak link isn’t the way to get on the court more.

Tandy’s value has largely been predicated on his offense. As Xavier has gotten deeper this season, Steele now has more options to give him what Tandy can. Nate Johnson has locked down a starting position thanks to his shooting and his relentless defense. Dwon Odom runs the point and it is hard to argue that anyone could improve on his 29% assist rate and 18% turnover rate as a freshman. Colby Jones is becoming the Swiss army knife that the coach said he would, Adam Kunkel provides shooting and energy off the bench, and Paul Scruggs is, obviously, irreplaceable.

That doesn’t leave a lot of room to find minutes. Tandy has to demonstrate that he does something better than one of those players consistently enough to get on the court. Defense likely won’t be it unless the effort and intensity at that end increases very significantly. That leaves offense. What does Tandy add that another player can’t? He isn’t going to take over the point, Scruggs and Odom are ensconced there. Jones’ slot has to stay with someone with more size. That leaves, essentially, a spot for a shooter. Adam Kunkel isn’t shooting well, but is chewing into that time. What that leaves are the ten minutes that Tandy is getting.

The reason that bench shooter is the role available to Tandy is because he has not yet in college shown the skill set that made him so dangerous in high school. Kyky is a career 41% shooter inside the arc. That is bad. This season he has taken lower percentage of his shots at the rim than any player on the team other than Adam Kunkel. His field goal percentage of 53.8% at the rim is also second lowest on the team. Tandy’s 23.5% mark on two point jumpers is worst on the team. He is, in short, incredibly ineffective inside the arc. As mentioned previously, he hasn’t been to the line in over two months.

There is no encouraging news at the end of this. For the time being, Tandy isn’t playing because he isn’t adding value. Unless he finds a way to do that, his Xavier career may mirror Dahmir Bishop’s in more ways than just minutes per game.