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
“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
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
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
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.