The transfer market was formerly just that odd time of year when people could be bought and sold like goods in European soccer leagues. Need some scoring? Splash the cash on Fernando Torres. Need an American yet to fully live up to his billing? Buy... well, any of them. The transfer window is a time where reason leaves the area and clubs buy and sell people in the hopes of making their team better.
That has now come to college basketball here in the states. With the transfer portal now a thing and a free transfer year in place, players are switching teams at the highest rate ever. Teams now have the chance to grab those players who overachieved at low or mid majors last year and bring them into the fold at your favorite power five conferences. Old guys and pundits with nothing better to do can now get on social media and whine about loyalty before they head off for whatever place will pay them the most.
Xavier is uniquely positioned to take advantage of this market. With Nate Johnson and Paul Scruggs returning as super seniors, coupled with the departure of CJ Wilcher, Kyky Tandy, and Danny Ramsey, the Musketeers have five open scholarship places. Elijah Tucker and Cesare Edwards are currently the only incoming freshman. The roster possibilities are endless.
Xavier should add
Right now the Musketeers have gaps in the roster. Guard depth is there with Adam Kunkel, Dwon Odom, and Colby Jones joining the two returning seniors. Both Ben Stanley and Elijah Tucker can play the three if Xavier goes big. That’s serious depth.
Where Xavier is thin is under the basket. Jason Carter freed Zach Freemantle up to do what he wants which, increasingly, is not play defense or defensive rebound with much urgency. Freemantle is joined by Dieonte Miles, who barely sniffed the floor this year, Ben Stanley, who brings energy but is undersized for a Big East post, and Cesare Edwards, who is 6-10, 200, down low.
That leaves X with a problem in the post. Freemantle is a clever scorer, but tends toward the soft side when down low. Stanley doesn’t have that issue, but his size can be a problem. Xavier needs a big, or two, who can get inside, clear space, and eat glass. Bryan Griffin could have been that guy this year but he didn’t play for reasons we may never know. Coach Steele needs someone down there who can bang. Right now his roster doesn’t have it and, come February and March, that will be a huge problem again.
Xavier shouldn’t add
There is a way that Xavier can solve their post problem without addressing it on the transfer market: don’t do anything. Zach Freemantle and Ben Stanley can get the job done if they aren’t the focal point of everything. What Xavier can do is go small.
Elijah Tucker is a scorer, Colby Jones can do almost anything, Dwon Odom had an incredible 23.6% assist rate as a freshman, Paul Scruggs is the team MVP, Adam Kunkel will now have the body and game he hoped to have by sitting out a year, and Nate Johnson is a deadly shooter. Xavier’s best plan may be to maximize their backcourt and play the now very popular style of four outside of one.
This, essentially, is what Baylor did on their way to the national title. The largest player in their rotation was 6-10 Flo Thamba. After that, the Bears spread hordes of smaller players across the floor and sent them crashing to the offensive glass at every opportunity. Like Xavier would Baylor got crushed on the defensive glass, but they made up for that by putting their best offense on the floor and maximizing their opportunities on offense. If Coach Steele goes that route, there’s no particular reason to add anyone.
Those are the options that are laid out before the Musketeers this offseason. Conventional wisdom suggests adding, a new mindset would advocate for throwing the guards already on the roster out there and letting them work. The transfer market isn’t without risk. Assets have to be expended in order to get players and bringing anyone in risks upsetting the balance of the team. Not doing anything could mean essentially just bringing back a team that finished 13-8 and 66th in the KenPom. The next four weeks will be crucial.
Just don’t buy Timo Werner.