We're back! Not only is Xavier playing again, and not only is Cintas full for the first time since before most of us had ever donned a surgical mask, but the only power rankings that matter have returned for another year. Let's get into it!
But first, a word of either reminder or explanation, depending on how long you've been reading our website. We're a pretty analytical crew here, which makes these rankings something of an outlier. This is a personal, subjective ranking of how replaceable each member of the roster is. It's not necessarily a measure of who is best, but a measure of who the team can least afford to lose. It's based on player production, who else on the roster can fill the role, my subjective assessment of how doomed I'd feel hearing a sideline reporter break the news that the player wasn't going to return, and a non-zero dose of recency bias. Okay, here goes.
Off the board: Zach Freemantle, Ben Stanley, Kyky Tandy
These guys all have health issues keeping them sidelined, so it wouldn't be fair to rank them. Get well soon, fellas!
8. Dwon Odom
My #athletic #son. I'm hugely high on this guy, so it bums me out that he and I are tied in assists this season. Travis Steele has used him fairly sparingly this year (rotation-low 24 minutes in two games), and his production has been similarly sparse. Has Steele ever had an athletic point guard whose range didn't threaten anyone have a hugely promising freshman campaign and then never live up to that early potential? That wouldn't happen to Dwon, would it?
7. Nate Johnson
Shooters shoot, which I accept. Shooters also need to make, and Nate is 3-15/2-8/0-0 so far this season. He rebounds well for a guard and is a good defender, but Xavier sucks at shooting and his job is to mitigate that. This team needs him to space the floor.
6. Adam Kunkel
Shooters, et c. from above. I think Kunk does a lot of things that don't show up in the box score, and he's also more of a playmaker than Johnson. His EFG% of 31.8% is better than Johnson's, but neither is good. X needs these guys to hit shots and they aren't right now.
5. Dieonte Miles
Know what helps a team that can't shoot? Offensive rebounding. Dieonte does a good deal of that, and half of his made baskets have come on putbacks (per hoop-math.com). Another thing that helps is making FTs, which Miles does not. He's a good rim protector and solid on defensive rebounding. A little more offensive refinement will have him rocketing up this list.
4. Jack Nunge
I'm surprising myself here. I wanted to put Nunge higher, but - for reasons I'll discuss below - I haven't. He is an excellent presence at the rim, both in blocking shots and just shutting off the lane. He is Xavier's lone post scorer right now and a very good defensive rebounder. He's not much on the offensive glass and he's not locked in from the line just yet. All in all, an excellent start.
3. Jerome Hunter
Have you ever been watching a Xavier game and thought, "Jerome Hunter might suck?" At least one member of our staff has, according to the archives of the group text. Let's get something out of the way: his 25% EFG% makes LAJ look like Pistol Pete. Beyond that, though, he has been superb. He's crushing the glass at both ends, sitting second on the team in both OREB% and DREB%. He's defending well and can guard... 2-5? 1-5 in a pinch? Of Xavier's 10 most efficient lineups per evanmiya.com, he's in 8 of them. It's a small sample, but it's what we have right now. Underrated (because he's shooting horribly).
2. Colby Jones
JP Macura with different hair. He's not quite the shooter JP was, but he has the same manic habit of popping up in the right places in a way you can't if you don't have an advanced feel for the game. That's probably best exemplified in the fact that he leads the team with a 14.4% OREB%. On a team that often can't hit the ocean with a cannonball, those second chances change games. He has committed 7 fouls in 64 minutes of play this year, which isn't good. Otherwise, he has been really good this season. Almost as good as...
1. Paul Scruggs
First on the team in points, assists, and steals. Third in rebounds. His turnover rate is a bit high and he's shooting maybe a few too many threes, but he's clearly the heart and soul of this team, as he has been for a while now. The team can replace some of his production and probably some of his leadership, but if he has to skip a game to finish a paper or study for a big exam, Xavier could be in trouble.