Countdown to College Basketball: #26 Xavier Musketeers

With a talented roster that got off to a great start, Xavier struggled down the stretch en route to missing the NCAA Tournament for a third straight season. Coming into year four, Travis Steele has his best roster as most everyone returns from last season’s team, most notably Paul Scruggs decided to return for a super senior season. With a great roster comes big expectations and Xavier should certainly have that. Live up to expectations and the program seems to be on the right track, failure to live up to expectations while missing the NCAA Tournament and the Travis Steele could come to an end following this season. 

The Musketeers have one of the great one-two punches in College Basketball with Paul Scruggs and Zach Freemantle. Scruggs is a do-it-all guard, he will likely run the point for this team, he’s a great passer, decent shooter, good defender, and rebounder. Scruggs’ ability to run the show at the point will be key for the Musketeers, and his decision to return is what makes this Musketeers team hyped going into this season. Zach Freemantle led Xavier in scoring a season ago and seems poised to be even better this season. Freemantle is a 6’9 athletic forward that takes advantage of matchups to score inside, shoots threes at an adequate rate, and is an elite rebounder. The skilled big man should be the go-to option on the offensive end and seems like a worthy candidate for an All-League team this season. 

Nate Johnson will start at one of the off-ball positions, Johnson will essentially act as a three-point specialist, while he’s a solid defender, his ability to be a consistent 40+ percent shooter from deep is worth every minute he plays. Colby Jones seems poised to start at the other guard spot, Jones is a good defender and stepped in and was a plus as a freshman but now will hope to be a more consistent threat offensively as a sophomore. 

The Musketeers will also hope for some progression from Dwon Odom, Odom is a good passer, and eventually will run the show at the point thanks to his high-assist, low-turnover rate, but will need to elevate his scoring prowess to increase his effectiveness. KyKy Tandy proved to be a solid option as a scorer off the bench a season ago, and while he hasn’t lived up to some expectations thus far, he has been a valuable spark plug off the bench at times. Adam Kunkel will also play minutes for this roster, Kunkel was thought to have a bigger role a season ago, but cold shooting proved to be too much for him to crack the starting rotation. 

A pair of transfers look to fill out the rest of the rotation of transfers look to fill out this talented and deep roster. Ben Stanley was a good option at Hampton because of his undersized physicality and ability to score at an effective rate around the rim. Stanley was on the roster and knows the team’s style of play but only played a mere four games a season ago. Jack Nunge provides some additional size for this Musketeers team, he’s a good interior scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker who was probably the best defender for Iowa last season. Jerome Hunter never really found a great role at Indiana but the 6’7 forward hopes to increase his role with Xavier playing as a stretch four-man. 

Xavier has a really good roster, with Scruggs and Freemantle back, plus a lot of room for breakouts Odom and Jones, there’s a lot of high upside talent. Add to that likely getting a full season of Nate Johnson, Ben Stanley, plus shooting progression to the mean from Adam Kunkel, and this team should be in good shape. Now the question is whether this team can put it all together for a full season. This is a team with a Top-20 roster in the sport, but as usual Travis Steele’s poor coaching will likely cost this team a few games, and while they should make the NCAA Tournament, they won’t be a legitimate contender for the Big East crown because of their inconsistency. 

Projected Rotation 

PG: Paul Scruggs

SG: Nate Johnson

SF: Colby Jones

PF: Ben Stanley

C: Zach Freemantle

B1: Dwon Odom

B2: Adam Kunkel

B3: Jack Nunge

B4: Jerome Hunter

B5: Kyky Tandy

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