Last time we did this, Xavier was undefeated and - except for Zach Freemantle - healthy. Things change, and both of those facts did. Some serious tummy trouble tore through the team in New York, and the Muskies needed a gutty effort (pun!) to escape with a 1-1 record.
We also learned something about how the roster shuffles out. With Freemantle still sidelined - though he has since been cleared to resume basketball activities - and four regular rotation players missing at least one game to hug the commode, Travis Steele had to deploy his remaining players in heretofore unimagined combinations. At the end of all of it, we have a better idea of who is in Steele’s Circle of Trust. As always, the Power Rankings are the most accurate reflection of reality we have available.
Off the board: Ben Stanley, Cesare Edwards, Zach Freemantle
Despite Edwards and Stanley getting some run in the Virginia Tech game, I still don’t think we have enough data to slot them in (which I guess is just a different way of saying they slot in right at the bottom). Freemantle still has 0 minutes played on the year, though hopefully that changes sometime in the very near future.
9. Kyky Tandy
Kyky got the minutes our Twitter mentions were clamoring for, and he made a solid showing of it. He drilled his first three-point attempt and had another waved off for a foul off the ball, and he looked locked in on the defensive end in a way that we’ve been hoping to see for his sake as well as our own. When it came down to winning time, though, he was still relegated to a bench role.
8. Dieonte Miles
I love Dieonte’s potential, but his actual on the floor game isn’t quite matching up with that so far. He has a tendency to get into some early foul trouble, which keeps him from settling into the flow of the action. He’s a reliable post scorer when he gets position, and he’s doing well on the offensive glass, but he doesn’t offer the solidity on the defensive end that Jack Nunge does. He’s also 4-12 from the free throw line, which... not good.
7. Adam Kunkel
There’s a lot to like about Kunkel’s game: he’s shooting well from three, he’s savvy when he attacks off the bounce, and he rarely turns the ball over. He has the confidence to commit to that facial hair choice. He’s an underrated defender, which is different than saying he’s a good defender. His position here is about the rest of the roster. While he’s an awesome player and a great bench weapon, he’s in the constant push-pull of Xavier’s guard depth in terms of replacement value. If he’s out with (another) bad case of the barfs, a healthy roster offers a lot of other dudes who can stand in the gap.
6. Jerome Hunter
People hate this guy’s game and I can’t figure out why.
Just kidding: it’s because he shoots a lot (third on the team with a 22.9% shots rate) and poorly (a .195/.100/.900 shooting line). He’s shooting more than 8 times per game and making fewer than 20% of them. That obscures a lot of good work he’s doing defensively and on the glass at both ends. He’s in almost all of Xavier’s best lineups per evanmiya.com, but man is that shooting line - coupled with his apparently neon green light - frustrating to watch.
5. Dwon Odom
“Who on Xavier,” my kid recently asked me, “am I most like?” The correct answer, of course, is none of them because he’s 7 and has pretty serious scoliosis. The parental answer is Dwon Odom, because he’s a ball of explosive energy and I don’t know how any reasonable person could hope to keep up with him. In KenPom tier A+B games, he has a 125 ORtg and is shooting 80% from inside the arc. His distribution and turnover numbers are still worse than last year’s, but he has been unplayable at times in attack mode, and that’s before you account for his destructive presence on the defensive end. I think he’s settling into his role.
4. Nate Johnson
The top four here are tough; I think each of them has a reasonable case for the top spot. This is harsh on Nate, because he practically played Va Tech on his own, but it’s like that sometimes. His shooting is back, and he’s more athletic than I think he gets credit for. Last year he was kind of a 3-and-D guy; this year he’s shooting 62% from inside the arc in addition to his 44% mark from deep. He doesn’t rebound much, but come on. He has a job, and he does it really well.
3. Colby Jones
Xavier is undefeated in games in which Jones doesn’t play, so I don’t know why I have him this high.
That’s obviously silly. If Jones were consistently hitting threes, I’d assume he would be playing in the NBA at this time next year. He rebounds really well at both ends, can guard anyone but a true post, and is reliable enough on the ball to play through. He plays with crazy savvy and has a really solid nose for the ball. He’s like if JP were stronger but not as good a shooter. The sky is the limit for this guy.
2. Jack Nunge
First on the team in ORtg, third in OReb%, first in DReb%, a top-100 shot blocker, a 75% shooter from inside the arc, a consistent and reliable presence at the free throw line. He’s shown he can be good for 30 minutes a night if called upon, though I’d wager Coach Steele would prefer not to have to ride him that hard. He’s so reliable on both ends and at the line that he can’t not be part of Xavier’s crunch time lineup.
1. Paul Scruggs
I know he didn’t exactly show out in New York, but he’s still the guy this team can least afford to lose. He leads the team in assist rate and it isn’t particularly close. Maybe most importantly, when he plays well, the team does too. When he doesn’t, Iowa State happens. He’s a good defender and I’m inclined to think he’s more like his shooting line last year than what he has shown so far this year. He’s also the beating heart of the team; they’ll go where he takes them.