COACH: Chris Mack, two years at Xavier, two years in NCAA tournament.
HOW THEY GOT IN: At-large bid.
GO-TO GUYS: Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Tu Holloway, a junior guard, was second in the conference in scoring for the regular season (20.1 points per game), but the Musketeers were far from a one-man gang. Hollway’s backcourt mate, sophomore Mark Lyons, added 13.8 points per game, junior C Kenny Frease averaged 11.9, and senior F Jamel McLean chipped in 10.8. McLean led the team in rebounds (8.5) and the 7-foot Frease hauled in 7.2 a game. Senior F Dante Jackson averaged 7.9 points and 3.1 rebounds a game and was in double figures in scoring eight times.
X FACTOR: Veteran F Dante Jackson was fifth on the team in scoring for the season, but he has double-digit potential. He had 18 points against Charlotte in the next-to-last game of the regular season and 19 earlier against Duquesne. He shot only 36 percent for the regular season but was 13-of-19 from the field in those two games (8-of-13 on 3-pointers). He doesn’t need to score a lot for Xavier to be successful, but if he can pop a 3-pointer or two at the right moment, it would give opponents another defensive headache to deal with.
STRENGTHS: The Musketeers have lots of muscle up front with the 7-0 Kenny Frease and 6-9 Jamel McLean and an outstanding backcourt combination in Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons. Experience is a huge plus. Holloway and McLean had 35 and 25 starts, respectively, for last year’s Xavier team that lost in double overtime to Kansas State in an NCAA regional semifinal. In addition, Frease had eight starts and Lyons five for that team. The Musketeers outrebounded their opponents by nearly five a game and held them to under 40 percent shooting while hitting at a 46.3 clip themselves.
WEAKNESSES: Maybe the biggest question is the length of the Musketeers’ bench. That, and the inability to consistently reach the foul line while choosing to live with 3-point shots as they did in their quarterfinal loss to Dayton in the Atlantic 10 tournament. Depth could be a greater concern as the Musketeers get into the tourney grind. Freshman F Jordan Latham did not make the trip to Atlantic City for Xavier’s early exit from the A-10 tourney but remained behind to tend to other issues, and his status for the rest of the postseason is undetermined. If he isn’t available, Xavier would be down to just nine scholarship players. Essentially, the Musketeers will go with a seven-man rotation, which likely will mean at least 30 minutes on the floor for G Tu Holloway, G Mark Lyons, F Dante Jackson, and F Jamel McLean.