According to Bart Torvik, Xavier's non-conference schedule this year includes games against three top-50 teams: Ohio State, one of Va Tech and Memphis, and Oklahoma State. One home, one neutral, one road. Throw in some buy games and the Shootout and Xavier has a very solid slate heading into the Big East season. The foundation of the tournament resume will be built on OSU, VaTech/Memphis, and at (another) OSU. If we're talking about anything else in March something very bad or very surprising has happened.
Oklahoma State will be Xavier's only true road game in the non-con. The Cowboys had a good year last year, taking a 20-8 record to Selection Sunday and landing a 4 seed. They won in the first round against a game Liberty squad but found themselves on the wrong end of a 44-30 halftime deficit against Oregon State in the second round. They rallied valiantly, but the Beavers put up a bloodless 32-35 performance from the line to end their season.
Mike Boynton is the head man at OSU, heading into his fifth year on the job. His defenses have been the bellwether of his teams; when they can't get stops, they lose. Each of his last three seasons has landed in the top 50 in block%, for what that's worth. They tend to concede a lot of threes but at a low success rate and are just a tick above average on two-point defense. They force turnovers reliably without making it their identity and are generally just short of mediocre on the defensive glass.
On offense, his fingerprint is a little harder to discern. His teams turn the ball over a lot and - prior to the arrival of Cade Cunningham last year - don't shoot it very well. They tend to play slowly and get to the glass well. Boynton's teams generally don't shoot the three often or particularly successfully.
Cade Cunningham is probably the top name here. Both Mike Boynton and Fran Fraschilla will miss his 20.1/6.2/3.5 game line. He led the team in minutes and usage, was a solid defender, and presented an offensive threat from all three levels. He's pretty much the only core player leaving Stillwater this off-season.
Avery Anderson III is a 6'3" SG who averaged 12.2/4.0/2.0 as mostly a slasher. He also led the team in steals percentage and was cash from the line. Joining him in the backcourt is Isaac Likekele. He averaged 9.1/6.6/3.6 and is also not a meaningful threat from deep, having shot very well but on just 18 attempts. He led the team in assist rate his first two years but moved off the ball a bit to accommodate Cunningham. At 6'5", 215, he's a challenging matchup if he's running point.
OSU also returns the Boone brothers; we should talk about it. Kalib is a 6'9" center who crushes the glass on both ends, shoots 64% from inside the arc, and ranked inside the top 50 nationally in block percentage. Keylan - a 6'8" PF - rebounds a little better, shoots a little worse, and doesn't block shots nearly as efficiently. He also shot 16-59 (27.1%) from deep while Kalib shot 0-0 (0.0%).
Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe, whose parents make different decisions than I do, is a 6'7" forward who went for 9 and 5 as a freshman last year. He's a monster on the offensive glass and has struggled with foul trouble (4.3 per 40) and free throws (54.7%). He started 14 games last season. Pretty impressive output for a freshman.
Bryce Williams is a 6'2" guard enjoying his final year of eligibility. He put up 7/2/2 per game, but his efficiency was married by turnover issues and poor shooting. He's an excellent defender who posts solid block and steal numbers. Rondel Walker is a 6'4" guard who averaged 7/3/1 last year as a freshman. His offensive efficiency was solid in fairly low usage, he hit 32-97 from deep (33%), and he offered good defense without fouling. He may be a breakout candidate for this team.
Moussa Cisse is a 6'10" center who transferred out of Memphis. He dominates the glass at both ends and blocks a comical amount of shots. Also, 44 of his 80 made baskets last year were dunks. He fouls a lot and isn't great from the line, but he's a paint monster. Bryce Thompson is a 6'5" guard who joins by way of Kansas, where he averaged about 4 PPG in limited action.
Academic All-Big 12 big man Tyreek Smith joins from Texas Tech, where he averaged 2.6 and 2.4 in 8 minutes per game and Syracuse escapee Woody Newton - who shot 38.9% from deep in very limited action - rounds out the incoming talent.
I think this hinges on who you think Mike Boynton is. He is 51-49 on his career as a head coach without Cade Cunningham, and it is probably worth noting that he hired Cunningham's brother to his staff before he signed. There is a lot of talent on this roster, but there's no doubting that Cunningham was the fulcrum upon which it all pivoted last year. With him gone, there is a vacuum that it's incumbent upon Boynton to figure out how to fill. If he can do that, this is a tournament team. If not, his seat has to be getting warm.