It has been a minute since we did the Xavier Power Rankings, but the game remains the same. We're back again with another iteration of the only rankings that matter, breaking down the entire Xavier roster in order from most replaceable to least replaceable on the floor.
In addition to their contributions to my basketball-related happiness, I'm also informed that these players are actually full and legitimate human beings in their own right. Having watched this team play for nine games now, I'm kind of falling in love with it and what it can become. I'm still listing guys in the usual order, but I'm eschewing the usual paragraph of analysis about each to instead articulate what I love about each dude. Here we go.
12. Ben Stanley
I love this dude's energy despite tough circumstances. He transferred in from a school where he was unquestionably the man for an opportunity to prove it at a higher level. It hasn't gone well. First the NCAA did their usual tomfoolery with his eligibility status last year, then he was just warming to the swing of things when his knee blew up last year. Despite that, he has been a consistent hype man for his teammates even when things weren't ideal for him. It's tough to stay up for the people around you when life keeps dealing you kidney shots; the fact that he has done speaks well of him.
11. Cesare Edwards
I love this dude's potential. His jumper was his calling card coming out of high school, and he has immediately come good on it. He's 2-3 on two-point jump shots this season and cashed out his first three against Ball State. This guy is going places, and he has awesome hair.
10. Kyky Tandy
I love this kid's persistence. Perhaps no player in the recent history of the program has been the subject of more projection from fans who want to play armchair psychologist with his every move. Meanwhile, he just keeps showing up and putting in the work and occasionally retweeting people's speeches about the importance of taking on adversity rather than transferring away from it. I don't know Kyky personally and don't pretend to, but some of the stuff people use to fill in the gaps created by the radio silence he maintains tells me more about them than it does about him.
9. Dieonte Miles
I love that this dude played less than an hour all of last year and now he's starting every game. He came to campus as skinny rim runner; he has transformed his still admittedly slender body into a 231-pound bundle of muscle capable of doing the things required to compete in the paint in the Big East. He has an almost unassuming on-court presence until some comes within his massive wingspan and realizes there's no way to get the ball onto the rim with Dieonte anywhere in the area.
8. Dwon Odom
I love this guy's athleticism, but I love his enthusiasm even more. Like Ed Sumner in the complete opposite body, he plays the game with a smile on his face like a little kid whose parents told him he can shoot hoops in the driveway instead of doing homework today. He seems genuinely delighted for his teammates when they excel. Against Ball State, he left an easy dunk for himself on the table to instead leave the ball for Ben Stanley to slam home. The next time down, he celebrated a Cesare Edwards three like it was the final payment on his mortgage. The dude is a fire hydrant of positive non-verbals.
7. Adam Kunkel
I love the subtle leadership role Kunk has taken on this team. Paul Scruggs is the five-year face of the team and Jack Nunge is old enough to be your dad, but Kunk does as much as almost anyone to keep everyone engaged. When Kyky drilled a three against Va Tech, Kunkel beat everyone off the bench at the next timeout to greet Tandy with the kind of hug usually reserved for guys returning from deployment. When Colby Jones momentarily got lost on what defense Xavier was playing against Oklahoma State, it was Kunk who had an arm around his shoulder and a couple of encouraging pats on his chest. He's the kind of teammate who makes you want to play well and keeps you feeling like part of the team even if you only get a total of 3 innings pitched in your first three years on campus. Or the basketball equivalent, I mean.
6. Jerome Hunter
I love how this guy fills in every gap on the team. Xavier has about 8 guys capable of going for double figures in any given night; Jerome is their guy who is capable of defending 2-5, staying active as a help defender, boarding at both ends, and cashing out from the free throw line. Would I like to see more than 7 points of separation between his EFG% and his TO rate? Absolutely. Would I change much else about his game? Not really.
5. Zach Freemantle
I love that this guy battled for four months to come back from foot surgery and managed to get back up to speed without forcing himself back into the side. With a rotation that was set and - when not ravaged by the flu - working well, Zach managed to integrate himself without upsetting the proverbial apple cart. If you could design the player this roster was calling out for in his absence, it would look a lot like Zach. His dedication to working behind the scenes is paying dividends for the whole team.
4. Jack Nunge
I love this guy's approach to the game. He's got a little bit of an "I'll have her home by 10, sir" vibe to his look, but he's low key in the running for the Tyrique Jones Memorial Mean Mugger of the Year award. He sets out to own the area around the basket on both ends of the floor and looks like he takes it a little bit personally when an opponent challenges that. You don't defend the rim and the glass the way he does without a good deal of fiestiness, and he's not afraid to express that in the way he plays.
3. Nate Johnson
I love the soundness and consistency of this dude's shooting mechanics. The first move of this form is straight down, which in turns springs him straight up and into his shot. I don't know his exact shooting percentage with his feet under him, but it feels like it's about 80%. I also love how he's added a shot fake and one- or two-dribble pull up to his bag. Teams that run him off the arc concede a mid-range shot that he's 9-16 on this year.
2. Paul Scruggs
I love that all he wants to do is whatever it takes to win. Need a guy to dunk on EJ Liddell? Done. Need a guy to grab 9 defensive boards and only shoot 5 times? Sure. Need a guy to dish out 5 assists? Also right here. Xavier history is deep in guys who circle the team at stoppages and say the right things in huddles and then go out and back it up on the court. Paul has carved out for himself a place as a peer in that pantheon of Muskie legends.
1. Colby Jones
I love that this guy has, in the words of Adam Baum, a black belt in basketball. It's amazing that he's just a sophomore, because he so rarely sets a foot wrong on the court. Maybe his biggest weakness is three-point shooting... where he's got a 38.1% success rate this season but on just 31 shots. He is instinctive and relentless like JP Macura, but he's got the body of a slightly shorter Josh Duncan. He defends like a hound no matter who he draws. He distributes and cares for the ball like a point guard. He rarely seems to be taking a game over, then the game wraps and he's got 15/8/4 with 2 steals and the dude he was guarding shot 3-11. His methodical dominance is taking this team places.