Team Name: Xavier Musketeers
2013-14 Record: 21-13 (10-8 Big East)
After opening up the season at 13-3 and 3-0 in the Big East, Xavier would begin to come back down to earth as they lost four of their next six in the conference including an embarrassing 81-58 loss at Villanova on February 3rd.
The Musketeers would battle in the middle of the pack in the Big East for much of the remainder of last season, eventually edging out St. John's for a fourth-place finish in the conference regular season.
A win over Marquette in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals before a loss to Creighton in the semifinals would be enough to earn them a spot in the NCAA Tournament as a 12-seed in the Midwest Region.
But they would turn in a disappointing performance in their First Round matchup against North Carolina State, losing 74-59.
G Semaj Christon (17.0 PPG 4.2 APG), F Justin Martin (11.7 PPG, 5.2 RPG), F Isaiah Philmore (9.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG), F Erik Stenger (1.2 PPG, 1.3 RPG)
Last year's leading scorer Semaj Christon made the decision to enter last June's NBA Draft, leaving the program after two impressive seasons. Christon was named to the 2013 preseason All-Big East Team before last season, and he followed that selection up with an impressive year in which he averaged 17 points and 4 rebounds per game, earning him a 2014 All-Big East First Team selection at season's end.
The Musketeers also lost their second leading scorer and rebounder last season in Justin Martin, as the 6'6" forward made the decision to transfer to Larry Brown's SMU team in June.
Also lost in the offseason was forward Isaiah Philmore, who was a silent leader for last year's team as he battled in the paint each night and finished third on the team in rebounding.
F Trevon Bluiett (Indianapolis, IN), G Edmond Summer (Detroit, MI), G Larry Austin (Springfield, IL), F Makinde London (Nashville, TN), F J.P. Macura (Lakeville, MN), C Sean O'Mara (Glen Ellyn, IL)
Head Coach Chris Mack brings in six freshman to the program this season, including two four-star recruits in forward Trevon Bluiett and guard Edmond Summer.
The 6'6" Bluiett should see a decent amount of playing time on a team that features 10 underclassmen going into the year.
It's likely that the remaining four recruits, all three-star prospects in guard Larry Austin, forward Makinde London, forward J.P. Macura, and center Sean O'Mara, will have some time to develop before they are asked to contribute right away. But it wouldn't be too surprising to see one or all of them making an impact for the Musketeers as the season progresses.
Xavier will also add transfer Remy Abell from Indiana this season after he chose to join the program in May of 2013. The 6'4" guard averaged four points during his Sophomore season at Indiana.
Key Players Returning:
C Matt Stainbrook (10.6 PPG, 7.4 RPG), G Dee Davis (7.7 PPG, 4.7 APG), G Myles Davis (5.3 PPG, 1.5 RPG), F James Farr (4.6 PPG, 3.5 RPG), F Jalen Reynolds (3.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG)
The Musketeers will be lead by 6'10" center Matt Stainbrook this season, as the senior was named to the preseason All-Big East Team last month after averaging over 10 points and an impressive 7.4 rebounds per game in 2013-14. After finishing fifth in the conference in rebounding last year, Stainbrook will be looked upon to give Xavier an advantage in the frontcourt over whoever they play this season.
Also returning is senior guard Dee Davis, who led the team by a wide margin and finished second in the Big East with 4.7 assists last season. Davis will only be expected to improve in what is now his third season as the starting point guard for the Musketeers.
Aside from Stainbrook and Davis, the only other returning upperclassman for the Musketeers who should have a major impact this season is forward James Farr, who was effective in somewhat limited playing time last year.
Jalen Reynolds, however, may be a breakout performer for the Musketeers at forward.
Returning Minutes, Points, Rebounds
Key Non-Conference Opponents:
San Diego (11/27), Alabama (12/6), @Missouri (12/13), @Auburn (12/20)
Xavier does not really have a very challenging non-conference schedule this season, which is something that may come back to haunt them come tournament-time in March if they find themselves on the bubble.
They'll participate in the 2014 Wooden Legacy Tournament in California early in the season, facing San Diego to open things up with Texas-El Paso or Princeton as the next opponent.
Following that, they'll face three SEC teams to round out non-conference play, first playing Alabama at home before traveling to Missouri and Auburn in back-to-back games. None of those three are marquee opponents, but the road games could still be resume-building wins early for the Musketeers.
Most Intriguing Conference Matchup:
Georgetown (12/31) (Big East Opener)
Right before the ball drops on New Year's Eve, Xavier will round out a day filled with Big East basketball with a matchup against Georgetown at 10 PM in the Cintas Center. The Musketeers were able to knock off the Hoyas in their first meeting last season, but this should be a completely different Georgetown team this year.
This game should really be a good chance for Xavier to see just where they stand in the Big East early in the season against a Georgetown team that should be near the top 25 at worst.
Projected Big East Finish: 6th
Projected Overall Finish: NIT Tournament Appearance
Xavier returns Stainbrook, who should be among one of the best players in the Big East this season, but is he enough to carry them to another NCAA Tournament appearance?
Losing three of their top four scorers from last season will be no easy task to overcome, and the fact that this team features 10 underclassmen as well doesn't help very much. Like many teams in the Big East this season, there are a few major question marks surrounding Xavier right now.
I would like to see them play a few games before picking them to make another NCAA Tournament appearance; It is hard to know how the new players will integrate.
But this team was predicted to finish sixth by coaches in the conference last year, so Musketeer fans shouldn't be putting too much emphasis on preseason rankings.