When Xavier only plays once a month, it’s tough to get too much data for analysis. Fortunately, this is barely analysis and barely driven by data, so we’re more or less in the clear. Just as a quick refresher, this is a ranking of every player on Xavier, from most replaceable to least replaceable. A lot of it is based on output, but an equal portion is based on what options Coach Steele has to replicate the production should contact tracing or the need to study for a big test take a guy out of the rotation for a game. The final ingredient in the recipe is my own subjective opinion, as though the basis weren’t already subjective enough. Anyway...
Off the board: Danny Ramsey, Dieonte Miles
I haven’t seen enough of these guys to rank them, which I guess is a ranking in and of itself. Perplexingly, Coach Steele talked Miles up in the pregame presser before Butler, then rode Freemantle and Carter into the ground despite neither of them bathing themselves in glory during the game. I don’t understand, but I’m sure the coaching staff has access to information that I don’t.
10. Kyky Tandy
I really, really like this guy’s game. He’s got range and confidence - sometimes too much - and he has a knack for scoring around or over bigger guys. He’s also shooting 82% from the line. However, he has a total of 6 minutes played in 2021. Something is going on here that I’m not privy to, but it doesn’t look good for Kyky’s future at X. That’s a shame, because I think he has the tools to be a star.
9. Bryan Griffin
The team’s best rebounder by percentage and a 62% shooter from inside the arc. Every time he’s on the floor, he’s generally productive. That has added up to just 28 minutes this year, 2 fewer than Jason Carter got against Butler. He has been miserable from the line and the ball gets a bit sticky in his hands, but there’s no denying he crushes the glass.
8. CJ Wilcher
Irrational take incoming: I think this kid has something that neither of the previous big guards Xavier recruited before him (which I’m counting as Elias Harden and Dahmir Bishop for the purposes of this paragraph) had. I can’t quantify it, but to me he looks like a guy 7.2% of the available minutes now and will be sticking big shots on the regular for the Muskies before it’s all said and done. Call him this era’s BJ Raymond.
7. Colby Jones
There’s a lot of traffic in the 2-7 spots in this order; you could make a case for just about any of them. Colby takes the bottom spot in that stack right now just because we have the least information on him. He’s stepped into a starting role as a freshman on a team that’s going to finish in the top half of the Big East, so that’s obviously impressive. His shooting numbers aren’t great, though he is 1-1 from behind the arc in one-possession games with under .2 seconds left, so that’s good. He has some turnover issues, but he plays his role and doesn’t monopolize the ball, and he’s already a capable defender.
6. Dwon Odom
I could easily be compelled that Xavier’s best lineup has Dwon in it. The game just moves differently with him out there. His 6/3/4 as a freshman PG is solid, but his turnover rate is comically low - for anyone, not just a power conference freshman PG - and his court presence belies his inexperience. He’s keeping his head above water in the complete absence of a jump shot; if he can force opponents to respect him from range, he’ll be unstoppable.
5. Adam Kunkel
A big time scorer with ridiculous confidence; he’s leading the Big East in two-point shooting percentage and tied with Colby Jones with the team lead in game-winning three-point baskets in conference play. Not only that, but he’s a defensive eraser. His prowess as a rim protector was on full display against Butler, but he’s also second in the league in steals percentage. He’s got a feel for the game that brings to mind JP Macura and a toughness that stands him in good stead in the line of Xavier guards.
4. Jason Carter
Coach Steele loves him almost as much as a certain segment of Xavier Twitter doesn’t. He’s rarely (but not never) flashy, can defend 3-5, and works hard on the glass at both ends. His three-point shooting has left something to be desired - namely success - and I kind of wish he’d stop shooting them on a team with so many viable threats. He’s a complete glue guy that doesn’t get enough credit for the work he puts in.
3. Nate Johnson
He’s probably not the best transfer Xavier has ever landed, but the fact that people are tweeting out the question with a straight face speaks to how much of a beast he has been this year. He has been such a lights-out shooter that he suffered a three-game slump in which he shot 2-13 from behind the arc and is still over 52% from deep on the year after his recent recovery of form. Nine times this year he has made multiple threes in a game. That three-point number draws a lot of attention, but he also defends well without fouling and does his job on the defensive glass.
2. Zach Freemantle
Freemantle is prone to long dry spells - I think that might have something to do with the rotation and the long gaps between games - but he’s a consistent presence on the glass and a focal hub for the offense when he’s in the post. His propensity to fall in love with his jumper is really only an asset when it’s falling, but he’s a high-usage and reasonably efficient big man. Xavier has other bigs who can do a lot of the dirty work, but Zach’s the only one who can anchor a block for 30 minutes a game and demand the defense’s attention the whole time.
1. Paul Scruggs
He’s here only because there’s no ranking higher than #1. The fact that he scores big buckets on the regular sometimes overshadows the fact that he’s in the top 50 in the nation in assist rate. He’s sticking threes at a career-best rate, posting a career-high ORtg, posting his highest usage rate ever... he’s just doing it all, all of the time, at a really high efficiency. When he goes out, the team often flounders. He is everything you want a senior guard to be.