Team Preview: 2014 Xavier Musketeers
By: Ben Lewis
2012-13 Record: 17-14
Coach: Chris Mack
As another NCAA season approaches the madness of March, the X-Men, as usual, are a team one can count on to make an appearance at the ball.
Strongside: Xavier history has largely been written this past decade. Xavier have had trips to the Elite Eight twice as underdogs, they’ve given three Sweet 16 performances and they’re an acknowledged as well as respected bracket-buster that are never to be taken lightly. Now that one of the most consistent mid-major threats has moved to the Big East and fought through a much more daunting schedule, it should be better prepared for battle.
The Musketeers are trying to bounce back from a rare misstep in 2013 that saw them out of the Big Dance. Head coach Chris Mack appears to have a roster that he can work with now. Semaj Christon is the current star of the team, a prolific shooter who is quick to get down the court, has a dangerous three-point shot (44.4 percent on three-point FGs) and can deliver in the clutch. Forward Justin Martin complements Christon well, and as a player who can play the interior as well as score from the outside, he has chimed in with 11.4 ppg on his campaign.
The Musketeers have often relied on physical defenses to frustrate their opponents, but Mack’s roster this season seems to be of a different mold. Xavier wants to win with offense this year, and it shows with an 86-79 win over Marquette, dropping 80 on Georgetown in a victory and falling to Creighton in a 95-89 offensive duel.
Weakside: The defense is the Musketeers’ main Achilles heel, but this group doesn’t have the size and athleticism we’ve seen from previous Xavier teams. Matt Stainbrook has been a strong presence at the center position with his six-foot-10-inch frame; however, fans must wonder what this season could have been had star ’Zona forward Dezmine Wells not been expelled from the team the previous year.
All Told: Chris Mack has the coaching experience and intelligence to get the most out of each individual on this team, but when this roster has faced the toughest tests, they have come up empty. They fell to Iowa in an overtime battle by three, were no match for Villanova and couldn’t beat USC either.
This roster doesn’t quite have the depth to make a deep run in March, but we wouldn’t bet against them in that first game.
Ben Lewis is a sports radio broadcaster and journalist for CK750 in Melfort, Saskatchewan and has hosted and produced two sports shows for the Northeastern Saskatchewan airwaves in his first year there. As a graduate of the Sports Journalism program at Centennial College, he has done work for the CTV Olympics, TSN Radio, Canadian Baseball Network and the Prince Albert Daily Herald. He’s also an avid tennis player, a mediocre player of Jimi Hendrix tunes on the electric guitar, and an eater of chocolate chip pancakes every Sunday morning. For a daily dose of his sports rantings and ravings, you can find him on Twitter: @BenLewisCK750.