Monday, May 30, 2011

Who Will Play the Five?

We need some size off the bench.
With Xavier bringing in a fresh crop of athletic 3/4 types, the question has started spring up across the internet: who will play the five? It's clear that Big Kenny - perhaps unlike Tu in this regard - is not capable of playing all 40 minutes of every game. Even if he were, that's probably not in his best interests going forward, and completely destroying the big man by mid-January probably isn't in the best interests of the program. Xavier has 7'5" behemoth Sim Bhullar coming in 2012-2013, but he's probably not going to be ready for more minutes as a freshman than Big Kenny is right now, so the question seems to be one of some permanence. We'll outline the options below.

Travis Taylor: 6'7", 214 pounds
Taylor is probably the closest thing Xavier will have on the roster to a traditional inside big man. He has five career three-point attempts, and he's missed them all. Mostly, he hangs around the rim, grabs boards, and has obvious athleticism. It's not ridiculous to hope that Taylor fills the shoes of the recently departed Jamel McLean. He is, however, two inches shorter and thirty pounds lighter than Jamel. That's a very real size limitation that is probably going to limit his ability to play the five as effectively as McLean.

Friday, May 27, 2011

What Does Isaiah Philmore Mean to Jeff Robinson?

With the addition of Isaiah Philmore to the 2012-2013 roster, XU has added another skilled, athletic wing for the future. If you look forward to that year, you see a log jam of similar players at the forward positions. Philmore is 6'7" and has an inside-outside game that served him well at Towson (fun fact: X won more games in conference play last year than Towson has won in Philmore's entire career). Though he's not a great three-point shooter, his .355 career mark would have looked pretty good on this year's team. Also standing 6'7" is Justin Martin, but he's more of a 2/3 guy than a 3/4. It should also be noted that he is reputed to be a pretty good shooter himself.

Cool nickname = picture. Those are the rules.
Farther in towards the bucket "Takeoff" Travis Taylor - also a transfer - is 6'7" and something of a banger. He has grabbed 6.6 RPG on his career and only has five more career D-1 three-point attempts than I do. He's a little undersized, but that's not necessarily a new development at Xavier. Incoming freshman Jalen Reynolds will be a sophmore then and will probably be right around the 6'9" that he stands right now. Though he has a thin frame, recent reports seem to indicate that he's doing well filling it out. His game doesn't stretch to the arc, but he is a scoring threat from the post out to 12 feet or so.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Summer Camp: Jeff Robinson

Summer is filled with many things that aren't basketball. For the writers of the Xavier Examiner, that included a trip to Middle Bass Island last week. For you it might mean Kings Island, an increase in work, a marked decrease in work, something in between, or simply watching our Indians sweep your Reds. What it means for all of us is that there is no Xavier game to settle in and watch for the evening. But, as the heat begins its cruel tyranny over the daylight hours, our basketballing brethren are hitting the gym in an attempt to hone their skills.

More of this, Jeff

22, 15, 12, 11, 8, 7, 6, 4. Those are Jeff Robinson's top eight scoring games, and therein lies the trouble with Jeff Robinson. The name itself immediately conjures up thoughts of one moment of brilliance at home against La Salle, when Kenny Frease picked Robinson out at the top of the key for the sophomore to take his steps and throw the ball down with a nearly unparalleled ferocity. Unfortunately, that's about it. Robinson scored 15 against what turned out to be a bad Iowa squad early in the year, but other than that, he was an enigma.

Philmore joins Musketeers

Philmore in action against Coppin St.
While the deluded of you that think the Reds are a good baseball team (they aren't) struggled through one of the longest games in baseball history, a transfer joined the Xavier Musketeers. Isaiah Philmore, a 6-7, 230lb forward for the Towson Tigers, has, according to several sources, elected to transfer to XU.

Philmore (@ThaProphet31 on Twitter) averaged 15/7/1 last year as a sophomore, and managed a respectable .353 from behind the arc. While they three point number is hardly world beating, it would have looked nice on this year's team. Philmore was something of a stat stuffer, blocking nearly one shot and grabbing nearly one steal per game. His efficiency on the offensive end wasn't great, as he scored 1.34 points per shot, a number more in line with a guard.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Know Your Non-conference Opponent: Morgan State

We're back again for a second dose of Xavier's non-conference foes. As is often the case among schools not in the Big Six conferences, Xavier's postseason resume is often forged in the months before the conference season begins. Xavier's basketball brain trust met with Joe Lunardi in 2005 to revamp Xavier's scheduling process in order to give the Muskies the most favorable resume possible. Presumably, this year's schedule is an outcome of that meeting.

Up next on our travels through Xavier's still unreleased schedule are the Bears of Morgan State. XU will face Morgan State at Cintas this year. The Bears finished 17-14 last year and - and I can't put too fine a point on this - are a dreadful basketball team. The inimitable Ken Pomeroy placed them at 249th in the nation last year. The year before that they were 158th and even snuck into the tournament to get baked by West Virginia. Before that they hovered around the 200 mark in the Pomeroy ratings. Morgan State has historically been the kind of team you play to pad your record, not boost your strength of schedule.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Summer Camp: Mark Lyons

Lyons works out in his uni all summer.
The summer - here defined as the time between Xavier basketball games, not the time between the summer solstice (~June 21) and the vernal equinox (~Sept 21) - drags on, which means it's about time for another installment of our critically acclaimed series on the continued evolution of Xavier's returning players. Today we'll focus on Mark "Cheek(s/z)" Lyons, an explosive rising junior guard out of Schenectady, NY.

While Lyons came in the at the same time as Tu Holloway, he took a redshirt for his first year on campus. After posting 7.8-2.5-2.1 on .398/.344/.680 shooting as a freshman, he stepped up to help Holloway shoulder part of the load left by Jordan Crawford's departure last season. While his 13.6-3.1-3.1 on .408/.336/.728 is superficially superior to his line as a freshman in almost every way, it becomes more interesting - at in some ways more remarkable - as you go deeper into the numbers. While Lyons' A/TO suffered a drop-off between years (1.23 to 1.08), his PPS held steady at 1.23. Anyone who has ever tried to do more work while remaining just as efficient will tell you that that is a difficult task to achieve.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pat Kelsey Departs

Kelsey in action at Wake
Xavier Associate Head Coach Pat Kelsey appeared to be on the fast track to the top. An undergraduate guard, first at Wyoming and later at Xavier, Kelsey came into his own as a coach. Starting at his alma mater, Elder, and later at both Wake Forest and Xavier, Kelsey developed a reputation as a tremendous recruiter (landing Ish Smith, James Johnson, and Al-Farouq Aminu for Wake) and game planner. Kelsey joined Chris Mack at Xavier when Mack was hired and had quickly become a key part of the staff.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Know Your Non-conference Opponent: IPFW


As Xavier's schedule comes together, it has become increasingly clear that Mario Mercurio and his staff are putting together one of the toughest non-conference slates in school history. To get the intrepid Muskies fan ready for the upcoming season - and to keep ourselves busy during the summer - we are going to run a series profiling each of Xavier's non-conference opponents. These will run on Fridays twice a month, generally spaced around our semi-regular feature on the latest news from around the conference.

This edition will focus on the Mastadons of Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). IPFW owns one of the coolest nicknames in college sports and was - until recenty - coached by former Indiana stand out Dane Fife. Fife has since moved on to the Michigan State staff, and his former assistant Tony Jasick has filled his role. The Mastadons had improved each year under Fife, from 13-18 in 2008 to last year's respectable 18-12 showing. Their history against Xavier is a little less encouraging (to IPFW fans, at least): they lost to X by 6 on 12/28/04, by 28 on 11/14/09, and then by 10 in OT last year. All of these games took place on Xavier's home court.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Summer Camp: Kenny Frease

Pure athleticism
I'm not sure how many of you have noticed this, but Xavier hasn't played any basketball recently. That doesn't mean our boys aren't working on their games though. Tu and Big Kenny have proved that a summer of hard work can really pay dividends over the winter. This season, Xavier essentially brings back four players from last year's team. Here at the Examiner we'd like to humbly submit our suggestions for how the returning Musketeers can make the most of their summer vacations.

In 2008 ESPN scouted Kenny Frease as "an improving big man who is a hard worker with a great attitude." For the big man's first two seasons at X, there was precious little of that hard work on display. A freshman season that showed flashes of promise and the base for a competent career was lost in a sophomore season that showcased a body built by Golden Corral and a disturbing softness inside the paint. Coming into his junior season, Kenny Frease looked to be nothing more than a large person.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Coaching News

"Eliminate Thornton: check."
A couple of quick notes have come out in regards to Xavier's coaching staff. The first of these is that Brian Thornton, who has been Director of Men's Basketball Operations for the past two years at Xavier, has departed to accept an assistant coaching position at Furman. Thornton first joined X as a transfer center from Vanderbilt, and he had an extremely promising senior season cut off by an injury. Thornton was noted for being a great student as well as a great player, and his contribution to the staff will doubtless be missed. He is following the same career path as Coach Mack did, moving from Director of Men's Basketball Operations to an assistant job elsewhere. Who knows if time will bring Brian back to the Xavier fold, but we certainly wish him all the best.

Xavier adds Vandy

Some very nice art from the XU Atheltics Dept
Xavier's already daunting non-conference schedule ticked up yet again today as the Musketeers added the Vanderbilt Commodores to the slate. Non-conference games now include Memphis, Georgia, Gonzaga, Purdue, Butler, Miami (Oh), and UC, as well as the usual smattering of tune-ups after Hawaii. 

Vanderbilt was a #5 seed in this year's tournament and was knocked out by the A10's own Richmond Spiders. Despite that blip, Fran Frischilla of ESPN considers Vanderbilt a top 10 team for next year. Prior to the tournament, the Commodores were 21st in the nation and had played a very solid 9-7 in the SEC. Andy Katz has Vandy #7 in his newly updated pre-season top 25. The addition of a Vanderbilt caliber team to the schedule further cements Xavier's status among the new elite in college basketball.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

He's Back!

How many A10 titles?
When Jordan Crawford left for the NBA last year there was no chance at the last-minute pardon, no hope that he would change his mind, it was clear he was gone. Over the last three weeks, Xavier fans have experienced something else entirely. With Tu Holloway, the decision was not so obviously cut and dried. Opinion and guesswork drifted around the internet until, around 9pm tonight, Coach Mack tweeted that Tu would be making his announcement at midnight via his Twitter account. Then, at 12:01 ET, came this "@ it must feel good to have 3 A10 titles and 2 1st round picks in your 1st 3 years.."

For what that meant, read on.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ocho de Mayo

Not the face of an extrovert
While not as famous as its reveling, partying, devil may care older brother, it's the eighth of May that Xavier fans are far more concerned about this year. You see, this year it's May 8th that marks the final day for underclassmen to drop out of the NBA draft. While Xavier has lost players early before (Jordan Crawford and Derrick Brown) the prospect never seems any less daunting. Tu Holloway's exploits this year are well chronicled, as it what he needs to improve for next year. What is less clear is exactly what the reclusive guard is thinking.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Around the A-10

Not much for Aaric to smile about this year.
LaSalle lost 6'10" C Aaric Murray to the transfer list this spring. Murray was reportedly on his way to join Bob Huggins in West Virginia, but more recent reports reveal that he is still making up his mind between WVU and Oklahoma State. Murray was a big with good range (51-143 from behind the arc at LaSalle), but he was also an effective rebounder and shot blocker. Murray grabbed boards on 19% of opponents' misses and 11% of his teammates' misses while he was on the court, planting him solidly between Big Kenny and Jamel McLean in those categories. He also swatted 7.6% of opponents' two-point shots when he was on the floor, which put him in the top 100 in the nation in that category.

Murray was a big part of LaSalle's team going forward, and losing him and seniors Jerrell Williams and Ruben Guillandeaux will significantly weaken a LaSalle squad that wasn't that strong last season. Both of LaSalle's incoming bigs for the 2011 season are in need of some serious offensive polish before they are in position to contribute on that end of the floor. Rising sophomore PG Tyreek Durden looked good as a freshman, but he's going to have his work cut out for him this coming season.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Summer Camp: Tu Holloway

Just have to grit your teeth and gut through the summer.
I'm not sure how many of you have noticed this, but Xavier hasn't played any basketball recently. That doesn't mean our boys aren't working on their games though. Tu and Big Kenny have proved that a summer of hard work can really pay dividends over the winter. This season, Xavier essentially brings back four players from last year's team. Here at the Examiner we'd like to humbly submit our suggestions for how the returning Musketeers can make the most of their summer vacations.

Tu Holloway is the banner case for improvement in a guard at X. As a freshman, Tu averaged 5.5-2-2 and posted a poor .350/.327/.782 shooting line. His 1.13 A/TO didn't flatter him, either. Over his three years at Xavier, he has seen improvement in every meaningful statistical category. Last summer, he famously lifted thousands of jumpers in an effort to improve his shooting abilities. Obviously, Xavier - and Holloway - reaped the benefits of Tu's efforts. Now Holloway is facing the final summer of his college career - if he hasn't already - and there are a couple of tweaks we'd like to see him adopt before November.