Saturday, August 1, 2009

Xavier 2009-2010 Season Outlook

With summer league ball winding down it is a good time to focus on the Musketeers season outlook for next season. Of course the old coach packed up and headed out west for new challenges and opportunities. Derrick Brown also headed off to the NBA and I would argue that loss is just as big as losing the coach. In turn once again Xavier will be breaking in a rookie head coach but this one has seen XU from every level. Coach Mack is receiving his first coaching gig at a place known to develop them. Chris also made excellent choices in selecting his first staff. Pat Kelsey (XU '98) was named associate head coach after turning down the opportunity to replace Shaka Smart on the Florida Gator staff. Orlando 'Bino' Ranson has strong connections in the Baltimore area which is a hotbed for talent. Young Travis Steele brings energy and high basketball IQ to the staff. Not to be overlooked with Steele is all the connections he has in the Hoosier state with high school and AAU coaches. I think this staff will continue to recruit at a high level. There is no doubt they will work hard at it as witnessed by Jeff Goodman's recent blog post. He made mention that Mack had been on the road for 18 of the 20 evaluation days in this July period.

On to the roster:

#3 Brian Walsh 6-4 195 (R)Fr - Brian played in 8 games last year in a very limited role before shutting it down due to injury. He received a medical redshirt and will be considered a freshmen for this season. The western Pennsylvania native is largely an unknown to Xavier fans. He came in with a reputation as a good defender with a nice jumpshot. His development will certainly be a key component to how Xavier does this season. Brian's best opportunity for playing time may come at the small forward spot this year.

#10 Mark Lyons 6-1 185 (R)Fr - "Cheeks" is a high riser and potential impact player for the Muskies this season. He seems to have the skill set to produce points in bunches. He attacks the basket and is very good off the bounce. Lyons can play the point position but I like him better at the "2". He will certainly see minutes at both spots this year. I expect him to have typical freshmen ups and downs but he may be fill the 6th man scorer's role for X. Expectedly how well he plays defense will ultimately determine the amount of minutes he receives.

#12 Brad Redford 6-0 170 So - Brad appears to have added a few pounds of muscle this summer. He looked stronger handling the ball in the two summer league games I watched him in. He was the only freshmen to play in all 35 games last season. He averaged 5.1 ppg in 08-09. Of his 123 field goal attempts, 114 were from behind the arc. Redford hit those at .46% clip. Don't expect those numbers to deviate much this season. His role on the team is clearly defined. Unlike others however I feel Brad can develop into more than a poor man's JJ Redick. It will be hard for him to get much time at point due to other guards on the roster who play there. But as witnessed last year he forces defensive game plans to be altered. He (like Lyons) has the potential to be the first guy off the bench.

#13 Stephen Duckett 6-4 190 Jr - Duckett is a walk on who appeared in 11 games last year. This will be his third season as part of the team and should be valuable to the team as a practice player.

#15 Andy Taylor 6-8 205 Jr - The "Sheriff" battled some injury issues last year and only appeared in 9 games. I wouldn't expect him to play on a regular basis this year barring injury to other frontcourt players. Taylor certainly shows flashes of talent and is a hard worker but not an A10 level player.

#21 Jeff Robinson 6-9 210 Fr - Jeff is the newest member to the roster. He is from Lawrence North high school which is a powerhouse in Indianapolis. They produce talent year after year. Certainly Robinson did not put up great numbers in high school but he played with some of the best talent in the '09 and '10 classes. At the alumni steak fry this year Coach Mack said there was urgency to sign a big man after Derrick Brown stayed in the draft. Purdue backed off his pledge citing academic issues but the truth is Jeff was overrecruited. Heading into his senior season he held offers from Illinois, Butler, and Purdue so the talent is there. I saw him play once this summer and he looked closer to 6-8 200 to me and very timid. However I was impressed by how active he was on the boards and how he ran the floor.

#22 Jamel McLean 6-8 235 Jr - Hard to believe a guy who averaged 4.4 points the previous season will play such a huge role for the Musketeers. That's exactly what Jamel will need to do if Xavier is to continue expected success. He is a live wire and very active body in the low post and around the glass. McLean needs to continue to work on his low post moves. He is very quick and can draw plenty 'and one' calls from officials. BUT he needs to improve the awful .46% from the free throw line as he will be on the floor in many end game situations this season. Or at least you would like to have him out there at the end of games. He played in all 35 games but seemed to hit a wall halfway through before bouncing back in the end. Jamel has plenty of talent and with an improved free throw shot could be a most improved player in the league candidate for the A10 next season.

#25 Dante' Jackson 6-5 205 Jr - Leader. Winner. These are words that come to my mind when thinking of Jackson. I would never say Jackson has the best skill set out there but he is versatile and has a knack for hitting big shots. He also seems to step up in the big games. Refer to the first halves of the Shootout and second game against UD in 08-09. I feel he will not see nearly as much time at the point this season but that experience certainly did not hurt him. Jackson received 22 starts in 35 contests and played around 27 minutes a night. He fills the role of defensive stopper so he should be on the floor even more this season. My best guess is he will start at the '3' spot but that will be determined in fall practices. He is Xavier's second leading returning scorer at 6.6 ppg.

#31 Jason Love 6-9 255 Sr - "Big Lovely" is the lone senior on the roster. He inches out Jackson as the leading returning scorer at 6.7 ppg. Jason started all 35 contests last year. By his own admission he said he played heavier weight wise later in the year which affected his productivity. Seeing him around campus this summer he appears much trimmer. Expect him to be on the floor at times with Kenny Frease this year at the '4' spot depending on matchups and foul issues. Love was the leading rebounder on the team at 5.9 per game and he snatched 84 offensive caroms. It would be beneficial to him and the team if he developed another post move or two for his arsenal.

#32 Kenny Frease 7-0 265 So - Kenny brought some moxy and toughness to the roster last year and should do the same this season. He did not have the impact many thought he would have on the offensive end of the floor in his first season. Frease averaged 5.4 ppg in 34 contests. His size and length made a difference on the defensive end of the floor. His first half in the Sweet 16 game he more than held his own against DeJuan Blair. If he can have more games like that he will assuredly average more than the 14 minutes a night he got last year. He clearly needs to refine his low block moves and improve his free throw shooting from .49%. Ken has a nice touch on his face up jumper so I am hopeful his charity shooting will come around. Frease had a couple "Laimbeer" moments last year against Gates from UC and Olmos from Temple. But I like some nastiness in my seven footers and X won both of those games. I suspect Kenny is another year away from putting it all together at this level but when he does watch out.

#33 Joe Hughes 6-6 200 Jr - Joe is another walk on who has been on the team for three years. He appeared in 11 games last year and averaged 0.6 ppg. To me Hughes could play on scholarship at a low major school but he serves his role well at XU.

#52 Terrell Holloway 6-0 185 So - Terrell had a lot of pressure on him last year as the only true point guard eligible to play. He did lead all freshmen in scoring at 5.5 ppg. He received 13 starts in his 33 appearances and missed some time due to injury. It was revealed Terrell and his family were at odds with the old coach over perceived mistreatment. Hopefully the change at the top will allow "Tutu" to further blossom. Holloway was a big reason XU won two of their more notable non conference victories last season against Memphis and Missouri. With some experience and more options at the lead guard role Terrell has a chance to take a big step up with his productivity and role on the team.

#55 Jordan Crawford 6-4 195 (R)So - Jordan will make his long awaited debut for Xavier this season. Crawford averaged 9.7 ppg on a loaded Indiana roster in 2007-2008. Everybody has heard (if not seen) about the dunk against Lebron. Crawford commented it wasn't that big of a deal (and it wasn't) and he wished people would talk more about his overall play at the camp. I saw him go off in a couple games this summer. He should be the guy who gets his number called when X has to have a bucket. I hope Jordan is ready to be the "man" because that role is open on this team with the loss of Anderson, Brown, and Raymond. I believe the talk of one season and done is very premature but if that happens Xavier will have had a great year.

Clearly this will be a transistion year for the Musketeers. The nonconference schedule is designed to get this team in the NCAA tournament. Games on the road against Wake Forest, Kansas State, Butler, and Florida will be tremendous challenges. Also Xavier will get quality comp in the Old Spice Classic that features Alabama, Baylor, Creighton, Florida St., Marquette and Michigan. Finally home games against LSU and Cincinnati should present opportunities for quality wins. In conference Richmond, LaSalle, Dayton, Charlotte, and Temple all should be tough. I remember the last coach was 17-12 his first year at XU. My hope is Mack will keep the losses under double digits with his first squad.

There are several keys to Xavier returning to the NCAA tournament in 2009-2010. First and foremost Mack's coaching ability. Secondly, and not to be overlooked, is how much improvement happens with the sophomore class. Redford, Holloway, Frease, and Crawford will all need to have impact roles on this team. Also on paper we don't return much scoring statistically but there is plenty of scoring ability on this team. If the Muskies can fare well out of conference it should be a huge lift once conference play starts in terms of confidence. I cannot wait for the second weekend of November to arrive and see how the season plays out over the course of next winter.

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