Coach: Chris Mack (First year at Xavier, 0-0 overall)
Xavier lost their top three scorers and their coach. However, the Musketeers have proven that they are a quality team year in and year out. This will probably be the season they fail to win the Atlantic 10 conference, but that will not take them out of the NCAA Tournament picture. In fact, the A-10 is poised for a big year and Xavier should be dancing yet again.
Key Losses for Xavier: G C.J. Anderson, F Derrick Brown, G B.J. Raymond
Few teams in the nation had as talented and versatile wings as B.J. Raymond and C.J. Anderson. Those two are huge losses, but with Crawford eligible and Dante Jackson returning, the wings are in good shape. Jackson, who led the team last year with 2.7 assists per game, is a solid outside shooter. Now the 6-5 junior needs to get more aggressive around the basket and use his size much like Raymond and Anderson did last year to finish in the paint. Terrell Holloway split starts with Jackson last year and should be ready to battle it out with Lyons for the starting point guard spot, allowing Jackson to play on the wing. Holloway was inconsistent as a freshman last year and he has to cut down on the turnovers if he expects to be in the starting lineup.
Jason Love and Kenny Frease are the most experienced frontcourt players. Love started all 35 games last season and averaged 6.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per contest. At 6-9 and 265 pounds, Love can handle either the power forward or center position. That would leave room for seven-footer Kenny Frease to start under the basket. Frease only averaged 14.6 minutes per game as a freshman, but he was very productive when he was on the floor. Most of his offense will come off of offensive rebounds, but his defensive presence alone is enough to consider him for a starting job as long as he can stay out of foul trouble.
Who’s In for Xavier:
The biggest problem for new head coach Chris Mack will be depth. Jordan Crawford, a transfer from Indiana, started eight games and averaged 9.7 points for the Hoosiers during the 2007-2008 campaign…and that was when IU was good. Crawford is a dynamic scorer who can hit the long ball consistently and use his 6-5 frame to attack the basket. Redshirt freshman point guard Mark Lyons missed last year as a partial qualifier and will compete for the starting point guard spot. The lone incoming freshman is power forward Jeff Robinson who will be given the opportunity to compete for minutes off the bench.
Jamel McLean might want that starting spot though. The 6-8 power forward is very strong on the glass and always plays with a contagious intensity that is invaluable to the Musketeers. With Robinson, who was headed to Purdue at one point, heading into the program, the frontcourt depth should not be much of an issue. If Lyons or Holloway can manage the point guard duties, the backcourt should not lack in depth either. Brad Redford had a fine freshman campaign and knocked down 46.5 percent of his attempts from long range. If he can keep that up, Redford will provide a great spark off the bench.
Final 2009-2010 Xavier Projection:
This is a pretty young team. A lot of the impact players were just freshmen last year and they need to grow with the team and adapt to Coach Mack, which should not be much of an issue since nobody knows Xavier basketball as well as Mack, who has served as an assistant under Coach Skip Prosser and Coach Sean Miller at Xavier. This will not be a dominating team, but they will be next year and for many years to come.