The depth options are starting.
It's not quite, "The Regulars are out," or whatever they're teaching schoolchildren that Paul Revere but apparently not William Dawes yelled, but if you had to sum up Xavier's season in a single phrase, you could do worse.
At the perimeter positions, there is a clearly defined and highly functional hierarchy. Dayvion McKnight is the point guard, no questions asked. He does his thing getting the offense running and calls his own number when the situation presents itself. Quincy Olivari is the shooting guard. He shoots; it frequently goes in. Des Claude is the wing. When he has the ball in his hands, he regularly bullies smaller dudes or eludes bigger ones to get to his spots on the floor. When his shot is dropping, Xavier is formidable.
Those are the starters. The bench - prior to Dailyn Swain getting the start last time out - has a similarly clear flow. Want a lightning ballhandler who is cat quick on both ends to inject some energy into the game? Trey Green. Need a steady Eddie who isn't going to try to do to much on offense and has a knack for putting his hyper-athletic frame to good use on defense? Dailyn Swain.
On the post, the story flips, and it's all fairly easily attributable to the absences of Zach Freemantle and Jerome Hunter. Those two were a formidable pair before Freemantle's injury last season, and it's clear to see how the team would have worked with them as the starting frontcourt.
Need a bruiser who isn't going to be a primary scoring option on the post but will clean up the offensive glass and make opposing big work on the other end? Abou Ousmane is your guy. Want to go with a lighter touch, maybe a wily stretch four who will sneak his way to the glass for quick putbacks but can make opponents pay for sagging off of him? Gytis Nemeiksa, step right up.
Sasa Ciani then is your project big, a Sean O'Mara who you grab some minutes where you can and develop for the future. Lazar Djokovic might even get a developmental redshirt rather than having to try to sprint to catch up after a late commitment and an ill-timed injury.
Instead, these guys - good lads all, I'm sure - are being asked to carry the load. In the Big East, that's just not a viable option.
Against Creighton, Xavier got a total of two buckets from big men posting up, and the last one came with more than 26 minutes left in the game. From there, it was a single Abou Ousmane free throw, a stick back from Nemo, and a pair of FT from Nemo. Five points, one FGM in the final 26+ from the bigs, thanks to a combined 0 points in 23 minutes from Sasa and Lazar.
Xavier's perimeter players battled valiantly, but they were effectively trying to score enough for 5 positions among whichever 3 or 4 of them were on the floor at the time. Looking at it through this lense, maybe some of the late game inability to sprint through the tape makes a little more sense.
This is more by way of explanation than excuse. Nobody else in the conference is going to feel bad for Xavier, the same way Xavier didn't cut Providence any breaks when they played without Bryce Hopkins. It's the nature of the game, and the Muskies have to either find a way to make it work or watch the tournament from home.
But, as you watch at home and hope for better performances that likely aren't coming, it's probably worth remembering that this is just who these guys are, reserves having to step into starting roles and try to grow into it on the fly. The results, for good or ill, speak for themselves.