Morgan St.-Xavier Preview

Asked to list his best memories from college basketball, Xavier

point guard Tu Holloway quickly picks one of his worst. Then, he

gets a little emotional.

Holloway made only one field goal in the Musketeers’ 66-55 loss

to Marquette in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season,

a surprisingly fast exit that still stings the Atlantic 10’s player

of the year. Marquette focused its defense on the playmaking point

guard, giving him no room to do anything. He finished with one

field goal.

“I remember how I felt after the game. I’m almost tearing up

right now thinking about it,” Holloway said, quickly rubbing both

hands across his eyes. “It’s just a bad situation because I know I

let everybody down. I let myself down. I let my teammates down.

“Some games are just so much out of my control that I can’t put

my fingerprints on it.”

His fingerprints will be all over this season for Xavier, and

they won’t be the only ones.

Xavier, coming off a 24-8 season, will find out about that

supporting cast right away. Holloway has been suspended for Friday

night’s opener against Morgan State because he played in too many

summer league games.

Holloway doesn’t mind sharing – his assist total is evidence of

his willingness to pass the ball. But when the game’s on the line

and it comes down to making a shot, he prefers to be the one taking


“I’ve got a lot of faith in my team,” Holloway said. “But I like

to control my own fate. I want other people to help me, but I feel

I’m the one that controls it.”

The No. 14 Musketeers were ranked in the AP’s preseason poll for

the first time in nine years. They’re accustomed to starting the

season on the cusp of the Top 25, losing a few games during their

difficult nonconference schedule, then growing into one of the

nation’s top teams on its way to another A-10 title and NCAA

tournament appearance.

They’ve gotten a head start on it this season.

“It gives us a little more of a swagger,” junior guard Mark

Lyons said. “But I’d also say that in the past couple of years,

we’d get ranked late and we’d see other teams fall out of the


They don’t want to be one of those teams bottoming out as the

season goes along. Instead, they want to be celebrating a sixth

straight A-10 regular season title and a seventh straight NCAA

tournament appearance with one of their most versatile rosters in

recent years.

Seven-foot senior center Kenny Frease anchors a front line

filled with experienced newcomers. Forward Andre Walker, who

occasionally played point guard at Vanderbilt, transferred to

Xavier for his final season. Travis Taylor, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound

power forward, sat out last season after transferring from

Monmouth, where he averaged 17.8 points and 7.6 rebounds as a

sophomore. Junior Jeff Robinson returns as well.

Junior Brad Redford, one of the nation’s most accurate 3-point

shooters, returns after missing last season with a knee injury.

Freshmen Dezmine Wells, Justin Martin and Dee Davis are expected to

play significant roles off the bench, giving coach Chris Mack his

most diversified roster in his three seasons.

“We have answers at almost every position,” Mack said.

And, they have Holloway, who holds it all together.

The 6-foot guard considered the NBA, then decided to return for

his final season. He led the Musketeers in scoring at 19.7 points

per game last season and topped the A-10 with 5.4 assists. He also

was Xavier’s top 3-point shooter, making 34.5 percent as their best

long-range option.

Holloway averaged 38.4 minutes per game and always had the ball

in his hands in the frenetic final minutes, using his speed to get

into the lane and draw fouls or back off and shoot a 3. Teams would

set their defenses to stop him, with occasional success – Marquette

never let him get into a flow.

When the other guards struggled or got into foul trouble,

Holloway tried to make up for it.

“I believe whole-heartedly that was part of our downfall at the

end of the season a year ago,” Mack said. “Tu tried to take on the

weight of the world in that Marquette game.”

Mack talked to Holloway about sharing the load this season.

“Unlike a year ago, we have some pieces, some players that are

more talented,” Mack said. “Tu and Mark (Lyons) can put those kids

in positions to be successful, where I think maybe they weren’t as

confident a year ago. We have some talented players beyond those

two guards that get a lot of headlines.”

Mack might learn more about those other players with Holloway

sitting out Friday against the Golden Bears, who are coming off

their most successful season as a Division I program. Under Todd

Bozeman, the former California coach, Morgan State went 17-14 and

lost in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title game.

The Golden Bears are led by senior Kevin Thompson and junior

DeWayne Jackson. Thompson had 13 double-doubles last season while

averaging 13.1 points and 9.1 rebounds, a year after he won MEAC

defensive player of the year honors. Jackson led the Golden Bears

in 2010-11 with 14.5 points per game.

Xavier has won the previous two meetings in 1995 and 1998, and

owns a 15-0 record against MEAC teams.