This is a Xavier basketball site. Our focus is on the Musketeers. This occasionally means talking about other teams, but we generally stay in a blue and white lane when it comes to actual coverage. After all, during basketball season there is enough Xavier related news to go around. The Big East takes up some bandwidth, but why go much beyond that?
That said, this has been a tough world. I won’t list it here, but it doesn’t take much recollection to bring to mind a news story you have seen in the last week or so that was likely to sadden you. Into a world choked by all that (and I’m working hard here to not even reference anything specific), some light must shine. Recently, that light for Xavier fans has been University of Cincinnati basketball because it has been an absolute disaster.
Things started to go poorly for the Bearcats during the season. It goes almost without saying that UC played trash basketball. They finished 116th in the KenPom, beat zero top 50 teams, lost to South Florida, got thumped by their thoroughly mediocre crosstown rivals, and somehow conjured up an offense worse than anything Mick Cronin ever dared present. That wasn’t all, though. As the season progressed, players started leaving. Rapolas Ivanauskas was first, then Zach Harvey opted out. Then Jarron Cumberland started publicly clowning on the coach, who was in turn blaming his players for the fact that the program was in a free fall from the modest heights of the Cronin era.
But wait, there’s more! As the season ended allegations of... something started leaking out of the program. Soon, John Brannen, a complete failure in his first mid-major job after NKU, was under investigation for some shadowy dealings that still haven’t come fully to light. Then everyone, and I mean that almost literally, started transferring out. The starting point guard? Gone. The leader in minutes at small forward in the closing run? Gone. Tari Eason, Michael Saunders Jr., Zach Harvey, Mamadou Diarra, and Gabe Madsen? Gone. Keith Williams? Gone. Chris Vogt? Well, he might come back, but no one really wants him. If you are counting at home, that leaves UC with four scholarship players.
And then Brannen got fired. The Bearcats currently have nine open roster slots, no incoming freshman, no incoming transfers, and a coach in Wes Miller that is yet to make a public appearance. Miller will likely do an excellent job. He is both much more qualified than Brannen and, apparently, not a complete idiot. Still, he’s coming from the very lowest level of mid-majors and moving up to what can charitably be called the highest level of mid-majors. Miller may take UC back into the land of the high-majors, but stuck in a mid-major conference, with no players coming in and no recent history of success to fall back on, he’s starting well behind the eight ball.
While the world at large is at times grim, the wafting scent of the diaper fire at UC can be counted on to cheer the hearts of the Xavier faithful. Keep in mind that no matter how grim things have seemed for a few difficult weeks in March when shots wouldn’t go down, Xavier is returning an NCAA caliber team and is likely not done retooling. Across town, Wes Miller will be taking his four guys and channeling Gene Hackman as Norman Dale. His team is on the floor.