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The 12 Days of 'Big East-mas' Season Preview: Xavier Musketeers

Xavier

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.





Who’s Out-

  • 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.


Who’s In-

  • 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.



Who’s Back-




  • 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

the hype.

  • 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

other end.

  • 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

going forward.

  • 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



Projected Starters-

Souley Boum

Adam Kunkel

Colby Jones

Zach Freemantle

Jack Nunge



Final Thoughts-

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





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