Xavier Basketball Season Preview: The Muskies Have The Pieces to Reach The Final 4
By: Craig James
Xavier was oh so close to making their first Final Four appearance in school history last year. Many people are saying, myself included, that this season will mark the first time Xavier makes the Final Four. This year’s team brings back four starters from last season, a rare occurrence in today’s college basketball landscape. The Musketeers will be led by seniors Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura.
The preseason accolades have been coming in for both players. Bluiett chose to come back to Xavier instead of entering NBA draft to do one thing, lead the Musketeers to their first Final Four appearance. He is named a Preseason All-American by numerous media outlets and is in the running for Big East POY with Villanova’s Jalen Brunson.
The Musketeers off-season wasn’t without some news. Good news is everyone kept their pants on at R.P McMurphy’s this year.
Some other good news was Chris Mack’s contract was extended till the ’22-23 season. Mack will become Xavier’s all time winningest coach this season. He is just 16 victories shy of Pete Gillen’s record, the coach Mack played for when he was at Xavier. Other off season news included major renovations to the Cintas center. The place looks amazing, it’s one of the premier venues for college basketball. Padded seating added on lower level seats, the Tech Deck, located on the 4th floor of the Cintas Center gives fans a virtual reality experience of the game, all new court lighting, new court design, new seating coming down from the walk way area… the list goes on and on.
The most important news of the off-season is where Xavier dropped the most fire college basketball jerseys in the history of basketball. Fans beware, these things may burn your retinas they’re so fire. Bringing back the running man logo for alternate home and away jerseys is a nice touch.
There’s a rumor out there that they may change the court when they wear the running man alternates at home…we shall see on that.
This year’s Musketeer squad is among the deepest coach Mack has ever had. The coaching job Mack did last year under the circumstances the Musketeers were dealt was nothing short of a miracle. Mack has the guys to make the Final Four. The starting lineup for the Musketeers will be Quentin Goodin, J.P. Macura, Trevon Bluiett, Kaiser Gates, and Tyrique Jones. Goodin, who stepped up when Edmond Sumner went down last year, had a rough start in his new starting role, but by the time the tournament came around Quentin turned into a playmaker. He was a huge reason Xavier made the run that they did. We all know what seniors Macura and Bluiett bring to the table. Kaiser Gates will be a first year starter. Seems to be fully healthy from his foot injury that bothered him most of last season. Xavier will need Gates to be a better three point shooter this season. Tyrique Jones…where do we start with him? The kid is a physical SPECIMEN. He could kill the monster in Stranger Things 2 by himself. I don’t think Tyrique left the weight room all summer. He will be wreaking havoc on Big East big men all season long. Xavier better have some extra backboards at the Cintas Center, because Tyrique is breaking one this season.
Like I mentioned before, this Xavier team is DEEP. Highly touted recruits Paul Scruggs, Elias Harden, and Naji Marshall will play huge roles for the Musketeers.
Scruggs, a 4 star recruit, chose Xavier over schools such as Indiana, Louisville, Michigan State, Ohio State and Purdue. He was a huge get for the Muskies and, on paper, is the highest rated recruit Xavier’s has ever had, just in front of Trevon Bluiett. Kerem Kanter, a graduate transfer from Wisconsin Green Bay averaged 11.3 points and 6.3 rebounds a game last year in the Horizon League. He adds depth in the middle for Xavier, and will be competing with Sean O’Mara for the backup center position. A big question the Musketeers have heading into this season is what Sean O’Mara will Xavier see this year? Is it going to be the guy who looks like he has never dribbled a basketball before? Or will it be the guy that dominated in March and carried the Musketeers in their Elite 8 run? Time will tell, but Chris Mack did not have good things to say about O’Mara after their scrimmage with Thomas More College last week. Mack said O’Mara plays with a rain cloud over his head sometimes. Not quite sure what that means, but in doesn’t sound good for O’Mara.
Of the twenty-six ESPN college basketball experts, three have Xavier in the Final Four, and one has Xavier winning the National Championship. That one is Tom Crean. Tom Crean is a smart man. Never bet against a guy who kisses their adult son on the lips.
This season has all the makings of a special year in Norwood, Ohio. A deep roster, one of the best players in the country, and one of the best coaches in college basketball. It’s not going to be easy as the Big East will be a very tough conference this year.
My predictions for this season that you most likely do not care about are as follows. First Team Big East: Trevon Bluiett, J.P. Macura. Second Team Big East: Tyrique Jones. Big East Newcomer of the Year will be Naji Marshall. The Musketeers will go 24-6 in the regular season. They won’t lose a game at the Cintas Center all year. The Muskies will get a #2 seed in the tournament and will go on to make their first Final Four in school history. Take it to the bank people. Stay tuned throughout the season for game preview blogs, postgame blogs, and everything Xavier. Fasten your seatbelts folks; the dream season starts Friday November 10th at 7:00 pm.