23-13 (8-11, 8th in the Big East)
Last Year in Review-
It was a disappointing end to Travis Steele’s tenure as the Xavier
Musketeers fell off to miss the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year. The
season started promising as Xavier went 11-1, racking up big wins over Ohio St,
Virginia Tech, and Oklahoma St in their non-conference schedule. But the wheels
came off in Big East play, as Xavier finished the season going 7-12 and losing six of
their final seven games. The Musketeers made the most of their NIT invitation,
earning the program’s second NIT Championship, but it was small consolation to a
fanbase that expects perennial NCAA contention. Now with the return of Sean
Miller expectations will be high for a Xavier team loaded with talent.
Paul Scruggs, PG
Xavier’s star point guard finished out his college eligibility and has now
graduated to the professional ranks. It was a disappointing final year for
Scruggs, who saw his scoring and assists numbers both dip compared to
years prior. Nonetheless, replacing the 4-year starter and team leader will
be no easy task for a Xavier team in critical need of point guard play.
Nate Johnson, G
Also graduating from Xavier was starting shooting guard Nate Johnson, who
had played his first three years of eligibility in the Big South before
transferring to Xavier. Johnson was one of the best pure shooters in the Big
East last year, ranking fifth in 3-point field goals and sixth in 3-point
percentage. Xavier will miss his ability to space the floor and keep defenses
honest, a role they will need other guards to step into.
Dwon Odom, PG
The only surprise departure for Xavier was back-up point guard Dwon
Odom, who transferred to Georgia State (following Coach Jonas Hayes).
Odom was a solid contributor for Xavier last year- earning nine starts at the
2 - Guard position and excelling as a slasher. Paired with the loss of Scruggs,
Xavier will have to start this season without either of their primary
ballhandlers from last year.
Souley Boum, PG
Coach Miller had to prioritize finding a point guard when he took the Xavier
job and he landed a good one in UTEP transfer Souley Boum. One of the
best players in Conference-USA last year, Boum finished second in points
per game, fifth in steals and was awarded a spot on the All-Conference
team. Boum is a legitimate 3-level scorer who is comfortable in high usage
situations and has a serious knack for getting to the foul-line. However, it
remains to be seen how Boum adapts to running an offense in the more
competitive and physical Big East.
Desmond Claude, PG
Miller’s other priority when he joined the Musketeers- retaining Travis
Steele’s excellent recruiting class. After initially de-committing, Claude
made the decision to stick with Xavier and their new coaching regime. The
6’5” left-handed point guard out of Connecticut has been generating quite
a buzz this offseason as he has impressed in practices. Claude will lend
immediate point guard depth to Xavier and nobody should be surprised to
hear his name crop up quite a bit this year.
Kam Craft, G
The other retention from Steele’s recruiting class is 6’6 guard Kam Craft out
of The Skill Factory Prep School in Atlanta. Craft, a top 60 recruit in the
country, has a lot to like- but it is his shooting that earned him his spot. If
his defense holds up, Craft will look to slot into a Xavier roster that will be
sorely lacking knock-down shooters.
Colby Jones, F
One of the most intriguing players in the Big East, Colby Jones did a little bit
of everything for the Musketeers last year. With the ability to score,
rebound and defend Jones will look to take a major step as he becomes the
focal point of this Xavier offense. Big East coaches have selected him to
First Team All-Conference, all that’s left now is seeing if he can live up to
Jack Nunge, C
Xavier’s other All-Conference selection is former Iowa transfer Jack Nunge.
Nunge seamlessly slotted into the Xavier starting lineup last year and rated
as one of the most efficient offensive weapons in the Big East. His ability to
make shots and spread the floor will give Coach Miller great versatility on
offense and his length and physicality will anchor Miller’s defense on the
Zach Freemantle, F
Returning Junior Zach Freemantle had a bit of an interesting offseason-
opening day of practices began with the announcement that he was on
indefinite suspension. But not a week later Freemantle’s reinstation was
announced and now he is ready to hit the ground running. Following a
disappointing year mired by injury, Freemantle will now look to reestablish
himself as one of the premiere Forwards in the Big East
Adam Kunkel, G
It’ll be an easy transition for Adam Kunkel into the starting lineup as he
spent last year as the first man off the bench for these Xavier Musketeers.
Kunkel will slot in to replace graduating Nate Johnson as the 2-guard and
will look to replace Johnson’s shooting efficiency as well. Kunkel is the only
returning player to average 3 deep shots per game and together with
Nunge makes up most of Xavier’s shooting threat. We know he has a flare
for the moment, but Xavier will want to see more consistency from him
Cesare Edwards, F
As a Freshman Cesare Edwards captured Xavier fans’ attention with his wild
hair and eye-catching athleticism, now entering his sophomore year
Edwards looks to build his all-around game. With no turnover at the
forward position Edwards is unlikely to see starter minutes, but expect him
to make the most of the court time he does see.
Also returning- Jerome Hunter, Dieonte Miles, KyKy Tandy
Coach Miller should hit the ground running as he joins a highly talented
Xavier team that returns four of their six biggest contributors from last year. Add
to that a top-tier transfer and two freshmen with immediate impact potential and
Miller will have high expectations from the get-go. Big East coaches agree-
ranking Xavier second overall in the preseason poll. It’s a team with a lot of talent,
experience, and a high-ceiling, but it will be their ability to handle the changes at
coach and point guard that will decide their success.
KenPom Prediction- Fifth
Coaches' Poll Prediction- Second
Road to the Garden Prediction- Fourth