This is, by nature, a subjective ranking, but there are some times when objective fact is just so overwhelming that it supersedes any sort of opinion-based feedback. Some things just make themselves inevitable. Don’t blame me, I’m just reporting facts.
Last time we did this, I told you all what I loved about each member of the squad. While none of that has changed, we’re back to the cold, hard science of my whim regarding how I feel about each guy, plus a dash of analytics and some recency bias. You know the drill, or maybe you don’t. I don’t know enough about your respective lives to assess how much of your brain space this semi-regular post takes up. Enough chatter, let’s get into it.
12. Kyky Tandy
This guy has no manner of luck at all. Every time he gets a chance to get any momentum going, he either gets sick or gets injured. This week, he had to miss the Shootout with the flu. What a bummer.
11. Cesare Edwards
Other than a significant hair deficiency that he remedies, it’s hard to see where Edwards can slot into the current front line. Nunge and Freemantle can play, Miles and Hunter add a certain hardness, and Ben Stanley is wired to score. Edwards can do a bit of all those things, but not to the level that cracks the rotation just yet. His time will come.
10. Ben Stanley
Same problem as Edwards, just one line up the roster. Unlike Edwards, he doesn’t have the size to fill in at the five, but he does have a D1 resume as a big-time scorer. I would be very interested to know how far back from his knee injury he actually is.
9. Dieonte Miles
In just 15 minutes per game, Dieonte is blocking 1.6 shots. Unfortunately, he’s also committing - or at least being called for - 2.4 fouls per game, or 6.5 per 40 minutes. Until he cleans that up and maybe starts making a few more FTs, he’s going to have trouble picking up more minutes.
8. Jerome Hunter
He’s a very good defensive player, but his offensive limitations are starting to get more and more difficult to overlook. Per Evan Miyakawa, he’s the best defensive player on the team. Unfortunately, he’s the 8th-best offensive player, ahead only of Dieonte Miles. With Jack Nunge playing good defense and Zach Freemantle capable of putting the biscuit in the basket, I’d imagine Hunter’s footprint will continue to become easier to replace.
7. Adam Kunkel
One of two consistent shooters on the team, Kunkel also has excellent ball security and a certain flair off the bounce. He isn’t hitting from the mid-range quite like he did last year, but his contributions from beyond the arc are arguably more important. His manic energy is a weapon off the bench.
6. Dwon Odom
When Travis Steele talks about having more than five starters, I’m sure he has Jack Nunge and Zach Freemantle coming off the bench in mind, but Dwon Odom is the guy I think of first (partially because I forget Nunge and Freemantle aren’t starting already and assume they will be soon). His 10 assists to 3 TO over the past week raise some hope that his ball control from last year is coming back. He’s shooting 61% from inside the arc and has a remarkably reliable pull-up jumper for a guy whose three-point shot isn’t inspiring glowing reviews in either form or outcome. Most importantly, he is an incredibly destructive defender. He can pick up almost any guard full court and make it a nightmare to initiate offense.
5. Nate Johnson
This is tough, because he’s the best shooter in the country. Despite a mere 1-4 from deep in the Shootout, he’s still hitting at 47.5% from behind the arc. He’s also leading all guards (depending on what you consider Colby Jones) in defensive Bayesian performance rating. He defends really solidly and rarely fouls, and he’s cash from beyond the arc. He could be a perfect 3-and-D guy, but he has the game to be a lot more than that. Several opponents have found out firsthand.
4. Zach Freemantle
Coach Steele spoke in a recent presser about how many more options a team has when they can play two skilled bigs at the same time. Freemantle is obviously a very talented offensive player, but it’s his ability to defend at the four and clean the defensive glass that makes it possible for him to play alongside Nunge. Some of the play between the two during the Shootout was enough to have Xavier fans very excited about having them both rolling through the Big East season.
3. Colby Jones
Colby is an absolute stud, but Xavier got about 95 seconds of him in the first half of the Shootout and didn’t have any trouble rolling the Bearcats. One thing Jones does so well is fit himself into whatever the game requires; even Dickey Simpkins couldn’t help but notice that Jones didn’t force himself into the Shootout when finally given a change to participate. He put together a modest 8/4/1 with a usage rate of just 15%; it was a credit to his restraint and feel for the game.
2. Paul Scruggs
Just a casual 14/5/5 with only 1 turnover in the Shootout, as well as scoring the first basket and setting the tone the whole way through. When he is out, Xavier isn’t the same team on the floor. His stats are good, but it’s his leadership that makes him essential.
1. Jack Nunge
What can you even say? He gets it done on both ends of the floor, blocking shots and cleaning the defensive glass before dominating the paint and grabbing 11% of Xavier’s misses on the offensive end. Evan Miyakawa has him as Xavier’s best player, KenPom has him on top in ORtg, and Bart Torvik has him first in BPM. For a dude coming off the bench, he’s doing pretty well for himself. The focus he demands from opponents on both ends makes everyone else’s life a bit easier.