We took our first look at Xavier in their easy 77-51 win over Miami (Ohio) last night. 6’0 guard Dee Davis had his best game after missing the first two games due to a head injury, scoring 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting (3-of-4 on three-pointers) and 6’9 sophomore James Farr (another National Prep School Invitational alum from Maine Central Institute) contributed his first double-double of his college career with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Xavier had a +15 rebounding advantage and shot 43% from long distance (9-of-21).
Xavier will be seeking to improve their national prominence in the inaugural season of the newly-reformed Big East, with most prognosticators placing the Musketeers in the middle of the pack of the 10-team league. Denied a NCAA berth for the first time since 2005, Xavier expects to return to the dance, despite a more demanding conference schedule.
The Musketeers will again hang their hat on pressure defense, offensive efficiency, and depth. The team ranked second in scoring defense (62.5 ppg) in the Atlantic-10 last season, thanks to stifling on-ball defense from their guards and physical play from their frontcourt. Offensively, Xavier unlikely will be scoring a ton of points, though they do boast an explosive scorer in sophomore SG Semaj Christon, a local product who currently leads the team with 16.3 ppg. The team moves the ball around well, looking for high-percentage shots on the interior and will take advantage of defensive mismatches in driving to the basket. Xavier is also very adept at scoring off of their defense.
Christon is one of the more dynamic scorers in the country, capable of taking-over games, but was very prone to freshman mistakes last season. Christon’s forte is his ability to take opponents off the dribble to the hoop, using his slashing and athletic prowess to convert. He will need to develop a three-point shot and cut-down on his aggressive mistakes, but looks like an NBA player in the making. Junior PG Davis is a capable distributor (7.0 apg) and secondary scorer (11.0 ppg), though is more highly regarded for his on-ball defense. The team deploy two freshmen off the bench, in combo-guard Brandon Rudolph, who started admirably in Davis’ stead, and SG Myles Davis who can extend defenses with his three-point shooting.
The frontcourt gets an unexpected boost with the transfer of 6’10 junior center Matt Stainbrook from Western Michigan. Already a force in the paint, leading the team in rebounding (9.0 rpg), contributing nine blocks, and being a reliable secondary scorer (10.5 ppg) that the team so desperately missed last season. The interior physicality doesn’t stop there, with senior PF Isaiah Philmore (currently nursing a sore hand) providing hard-nosed play on both sides of the ball in a glue-type role. Forwards Erik Stenger and Justin Martin play significant minutes as pseudo-starters, with senior Stenger being more of a dirty-work type defender and the junior Martin providing much-needed scoring punch. Forwards James Farr and Jalen Reynolds give the Musketeers some length and versatility.
Xavier is already off to an encouraging start at 4-0, including a four-point win versus Tennessee, and knocking on the door of the top 25 in the NCAA. The pre-conference schedule is highly competitive, including the Battle 4 Atlantis at the end of the month, and match-ups versus cross-town rival Cincinnati as well as Alabama and Wake Forest.
Deric McKamey is a correspondent and scout for NetScouts Basketball.