XAVIER TEAM 98!! MID-SUMMER UPDATE!!
Andy Mac Williams,
Tons of information! So little time to write!! I'll try to be concise. For more Muskie news please check out My Twitter Account(AndyMac @mm_andymac). I'll be updating Spanish trip. First off-it's great to be writing about Xavier Basketball so early(almost 3 months before the regular season Opener Tuesday November 5th vs Jacksonville at Cintas). Remember 2014-TEAM 94 traveled to Brazil w/ an epic 6 man Freshman class (Trevon Bluiett, J.P. Macura, Edmund Sumner, Sean O'Mara, Larry Austin and Makinde London). That team beat all experts predictions and roared to the NCAA Sweet 16 losing a tight one at Staples Center in LA to #2 Seed Arizona. That Frosh group is right there IMHO w/ Skip Prosser's 1995 foursome(James Posey, Lenny Brown, Gary Lumpkin and Darnel Williams).
Travis Steele and staff have put together a 5 man freshman group for TEAM 98 plus 2 impact grad transfers. The process of integrating the Core 4 w/ the Splendid Seven has begun w/ summer work-outs, weight lifting, pick-up games and 10 full practices allowed by NCAA prior to an out of country trip.
The Muskies play a team of Spanish pros Saturday(8-10) at noon EDT in Barcelona. Flohoops.com will live stream the event. Dana Gardens will host a viewing party Saturday starting at 11:45AM. Byron Larkin and I will make a few comments. We've both watched several practices. X also plays Monday and Wednesday at noon EDT vs a revolving group of Spanish pros in Madrid. GoXavier.com will post box scores and features. We'll have game commentary on Twitter (AndyMac@mm_andymac) and a summary article on the Spain trip here.
NUTS and BOLTS-SPAIN GAMES
Xavier has 11 healthy players-Core 4(Quentin Gooden, Tyrique Jones, Naji Marshall, Paul Scruggs) plus Grad Transfers Jason Carter(Ohio U) and Bryce Moore(Western Michigan) plus 4 Frosh(Zach Freemantle, Dahmir Bishop. Kyky Tandy and Dieonte Miles) plus Scout Team leader Leighton Schrand. Dontarious James(foot) and Myles Hanson(leg) are questionable w/ injuries. Frosh Daniel Ramsey is out until late August w/ sore knees.
FIBA rules will be used(24 second shot clock recycling to 14 seconds on an offensive rebound, longer 21 foot 9 inch three point line-now NCAA distance, 4 ten minute quarters, wider foul lane). Xavier was exposed to most of these rules in 2 NIT games last March.
STYLE OF PLAY-
Euroball lives by the 3 point shot(50% plus FG tries from long range). Older tougher Euros will try to muscle the Muskies down low. Expect few whistles on their home courts. The NCAA basketball is being used, I'm told! Not that ugly two-toned FIBA rock.
The Muskies are deeper, faster and more versatile on paper. Travis plans to run more and shoot more threes. He wants to switch every ball screen 1 through 5 using the packline system. The practice focus has been on maximizing perimeter ball pressure and creating more turnovers within the expand contract amoeba-like defensive scheme.
XU went 8-3 over the last 11 games in 2019 allowing 65PPG and yielding just about 1 point/possession. 1 point or less defensive efficiency is TEAM 98's goal. That's Top 25 nationally. Three of four NCAA Final 4 teams(Virginia, Texas Tech, and Michigan State) were rated Top 10 in NCAA defensive efficiency last season. Only Auburn was an outlier! And we all know how Bruce Pearl assembled that group. It's a repeating pattern. Primo defense gives you a chance to advance to the Final 4. Without the "D" take a lottery number and hope!
TEAM 98 QUICK TAKES!!
The upside is huge.Two 4 year Seniors(Q and Tyrique) are leading. Naji was 2nd TEAM All BIG EAST as a Sophomore and a great defender. Ask Phil Booth-Alpha Diallo etc. Scruggs finished w/ a flourish(28 points BET vs Villanova). The CORE 4 all could be earning a pro pay check somewhere this season. They went thru the NBA Draft process and decides their best path was returning-getting the degree and hitching their wagon to Travis Steele and BIG EAST exposure and a possible long NCAA Tourney run.
The 2 grad transfers are immediate rotation players. Carter will probably start at PF. Moore is the probably 6th man as a PG-2G w/ consistent long range(40% from 3) and lock down physical defense(looks like an NFL corner back). 3 Frosh(at least) will get significant minutes.
Zach Freemantle is 1st BIG off the bench at PF or C. He's a scrapper(rebounds-loose balls-banging defense) w/ hands and shooting touch. Zach reminds me of a Brad Stevens era Butler BIG(Matt Howard-Andrew Smith-later Andrew Chrabacsz). The ball goes inside and he's able to ping it to an open guard or wing if he's stymied. Freemantle is taught something once and he's got it. Maybe that's why the Ivies and Northwestern recruited him?
How did XU get Dahmir Bishop out of Philadelphia? He's a proto-type Philly guard ala Temple(John Chaney and Nova-Jay Wright). He was 1st Team all City. Great get!! Long fast 3 level shooter w/ confidence. Byron Larkin is thumbs up on him and that's good enough for me. He is a SG but w/ skills to play SF.
Kyky Tandy is Mark Lyons w/ a higher basketball IQ and a stronger trunk-like lower body. He's learning the demanding D-1 PG role right now-doing defensive things he's never been asked to do. When the light goes on, watch out for an explosion. PG back-up to Q w/ a serious change of pace.
Dieonte Miles is long fast and raw,but w/ a huge upside. He listens and learns rapidly. If Miles can learn ball screen defense and packline slides, he will play IMHO. He's a rim protector w/ rare quickness for a BIG and a lefty w/ touch around the rim. Daniel Ramsey has been hurt. He is way behind in reps, but we're 3 months from the opener.
AROUND THE BIG EAST:
UConn joins the BE next summer. Huge plus! Huskies have a rabid fan and media base in New England. Danny Hurley is quickly rebuilding the roster. Tickets for BET at MSG just got a lot more expensive.
BE All Stars won bronze at Pan Am Games in Peru. 3-2 record. Should have won Silver but lost a tight one to Puerto Rico. Top player Villanova PG Colin Gillespie-Provi SR Alpha Diallo, Setn Hall sniper Myles Powell and Nova forward Jermaine Samuels.
BE race is wide open. Watch out for PC w/ UMass grad transfer guard Pipkins!
Xavier not being respected enough! Muskies have a chance to be special even by high bar Xavier standards IMHO.