Xavier TEAM 96 - Exhibition Time!!
Andy Mac Williams,
The TEAM 96 Muskies play against a different colored jersey publically for the first time Saturday afternoon November 4th at Cintas (4PM-Tip). The opposition is Thomas More College (The Saints) from just across the river in Crestview Hills,Kentucky. TMC is an NCAA Division 3 school. They play in the Presidents' Athletic Conference.They're coming off a conference title (15-3 in their league) and an NCAA D-3 Tournament berth (First Round defeat)(22-7 overall record). All 5 starters return as does most of the roster. TMC played Top 5 rated Kentucky last Friday in front of almost 20,000 Big Blue Nation zealots at Rupp Arena losing 103-61 to the SEC Wildcats. UK owned the glass (49-26 rebounding edge)-forced 22 TMC turnovers and cancelled out the Saints' inside game. Thomas More launched a bunch of threes(8-25) and did get to the free throw line(21-27). What an experience for a small college team!! Cintas Center will not overwhelm them. Hopefully,Xavier's talent will.
XU AND TMC DO HAVE SOME HISTORY:
Xavier leads the all time series against Thomas More 12-2. They last played on December 30th 1982 at Schmidt Fieldhouse with the Muskies winning 88-76. That was Coach Bob Staak's fourth Xavier team. They played in the Midwestern Cities Conference. XU made the NCAA Tournament that season with a 22-8 record (first NCAA bid since 1961-second in school history) then lost at UD Arena in the NCAA First Round to Alcorn State. The Muskie starters were Vic Fleming,John Shimko,Anthony Hicks,Eddie Johnson and Dexter"Skywalker" Bailey.
I watched that game in person in Dayton. Ralph Lee was a freshman point guard. I liked what I saw despite the loss and worked a deal with WXIX TV and XU AD Jeff Fogelson putting together Xavier's first decent multi-game local TV package. Joe Sunderman came on board along with Mark Wagner"Stats Are Us". Dave Ashbrouck made us all look good as producer-director. We televised 12 games in 1983-84 including 3 terrific NIT games and the rest is very pleasant Xavier history. BUT I DIGRESS!!!!
Xavier Senior starters Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura are dealing with injuries and may be limited. Bluiett is nursing a sore shoulder and missed the Ohio State secret scrimmage entirely. Macura (ankle sprain) did not play at Musketeer Madness and was less than 100% vs OSU. That means more time for grad transfer Kerem Kanter(#11) and the three freshmen Naji Marshall(#13),Paul Scuggs(#1) and Elias Harden(#4).
The AP Top 25 Preseason Poll (writers and broadcasters) was released Wednesday. Duke sits at #1. Villanova (Big East Regular Season Champ the past four seasons-NCAA Champ 2016) is 6th. UC slots in at #12 (Crosstown Shootout at Cintas-Saturday December 2nd-12 noon--FS1). Here Kitty,Kitty!!
Xavier is somewhat down in the weeds(#17) despite 6 returnees from an NCAA Elite 8 team-4 impact Seniors-41 games of NCAA experience on the roster and a Top 10 recruiting class. That's fine by me!! Final Four bids aren't determined by opinion polls in November.
The USA Today Coaches' Poll came out a couple weeks ago. UC is devalued slightly to #13. X holds at #17. Seton Hall (Big East) is added at #23.
Ken Pomeroy's excellent College Basketball site has a Preseason algorithm posted. He likes the Big East with 8 teams ranked in his Top 51 including Villanova #1 overall. Providence,Xavier and Seton Hall are bunched at 25,26 and 28. Butler's 42 with Creighton 45 and Marquette 49. St Johns is an upwardly mobile 51. Georgetown sits at 79. DePaul despite the new arena is 119th. At least Ken Pom incorporates some data in his model although he gave Arizona a 97% chance of beating Xavier last March when Zona led XU by 8 with under 3 minutes to play in that NCAA Sweet 16 game. Xavier did win it!!
BRIEFLY-AROUND THE BIG EAST:
Everybodies' playing exhibition games. The NCAA is granting waivers allowing some of those D-1 secret scrimmages to go public with proceeds going to hurricane relief. Villanova played Drexel Wednesday night at a small on-campus gym and won 87-68. The Drexel Dragons (Colonial AA) are rated 195 by KenPom. The game was whipped together sort of spur of the moment. Two probable VU starters Mikal Bridges and Eric Paschall had tests in evening classes. Jay Wright brought them off the bench. He started Jalen Brunson,Phil Booth(28 minutes-back 100% from the knee injury), Donte Divencenzo(Delaware's Michael Jordan), Collin Gillespie(Frosh Guard) and Red Shirt Frosh BIG Omari Spellman. Spellman looks like an instant starter as the lone true BIG.(9 points-12 rebounds-3 blocks).
Wright now has the material to run his favored 8 man guard heavy rotation.He was one and sometimes two bodies short last season and still went 15-3 in the Big East and won the Conference Tourney at MSG.
Providence beat UConn 90-76 in a game that netted $75,000 for the Red Cross. PC Center Emmitt Holt(12.5 PPG and 6 REBS last season) remains out with an abdominal issue. The Friars started Sophomore Kalif Young(6-9 245) at the "5" with Rodney Bullock and 3 guards. Sophomore Wing Alpha Diallo flashed his extreme length(15 points7 boards). He played well in Big East games last year. Top recruit Guard Makai Ashton-Langford rated 26 minutes collecting 10 points and 4 assists.
PC lost 77-67 to Carleton University(perennial Canadian College Champ) at Dunkin' Donuts Center. Friar coach Ed Cooley played 10 extensively. Depth is a strong suit. Diallo scored 19 with 6 rebounds. Frosh Ashton-Langford poured in 20 points. Provi is guard rich with PG Kyron Cartwright(BE assist leader),Diallo,Jalen Lindsay,George Mason transfer Isaiah Jackson,Malik White and Ashton-Langford.Hello-three guard line-up!! Former Xavier Muskie Eddie Ekiyor started for Carleton and did well (22 points-14 rebounds). He returned to his native Canada after spending a semester at Xavier two years ago.