By Andy Mac Williams, 10/16/2019

The Muskies faired well at BIG EAST Media Day last week. Naji Marshall advanced to unanimous First Team All Conference( a logical progression from end of season Second Team last March). Paul Scruggs was tabbed Honorable Mention after making BIG EAST All Tournament(dropping 28 points on Villanova in that oh-so-close Semi-Final MSG loss to the Wildcats). TEAM 98 came in 3rd in the Coaches' Poll(not totally under the radar). Seton Hall is #1 uspurping Villanova's 5 year run at the top.

The Hall isn't shy about their self worth. Myles Powell(23PPG) is Preseason BE MVP and a 3 year Muskie killer. The Pirates are BIG, deep and experienced. Their goals are lofty(BE title-Long NCAA Run). Kevin Willard's teams have taken out Villanova twice at BET in NYC(2014 and 2015). Nova is 14-0 vs everybody else at MSG w/ 4 BET Championships.

Seton Hall fans are comparing this group to P. J. Carlisemo's 1989 group(Andrew Gaze and company) that lost to Michigan(Glen Rice-Rumeal Robinson) in the NCAA Title Game. X almost beat U of M that March in Round 1 at the old Omni in Atlanta leading by 5 w/ 5 to play before Rice hit 3 cork screw 3 pointers in a surreal comeback win. Spotlight intensely on SHU!!

Villanova slots in at #2 Preseason. Jay Wright is reloading after losing Phil Booth and Eric Paschall to graduation(47% of scoring-both 5th year Seniors). VU has no Seniors and one very good 4th year Junior-PG Collin Gillespie. Nova needs contributions from a strong group of Frosh immediately and extensively. The shoulder injury to 5 Star guard Bryan Antoine is a problem.

Frosh BIG Jeremiah Robinson-Earl(6-9 232-Top 30 recruit) will probably start from Game#1. VU may drop some early games(Ohio State and Kansas are non-conference opponents). Expect Nova to be up to speed for the BIG EAST opener against Xavier December 30th at the Pavilion. X is 0-6 vs VU in Philadelphia since 2014.


Travis Steele has indicated to Adam Baum(Enquirer) that the 2020 Class will be three players PG Dwon Odom-Wing C.J. Wilcher and 3 man Colby Jones. Ben Carlson( a special stretch 4) would have been a 4th,but he picked Wisconsin despite a Muskie full court press. XU has other options on their 2020 board at 4-5,but Carlson was the target. Steele keeps his transfer options open and potentially adds another player to the 2021 group. IMHO this decision also endorses the depth and potential of the current 2019 Freshman Class. BIGS Zach Freemantle, Deionte Miles and Daniel Ramsey have shown well so far through the Spain trip and two plus weeks of Fall practice.

Freemantle is very advanced and versatile-the probable first BIG off the bench-able to play PF or Center. There's a maturity and focus and toughness in him that should play well in the BIG EAST ASAP. Miles is close to 7 feet w/ unreal length and foot speed and an appetite for being coached. In a BIGGER BIG EAST he might find time in this season's rotation at 9th or 10th man or even higher vs huge teams like Georgetown and Seton Hall.

The red shirt discussion is on going re Deionte. Ramsey is back practicing and showing well despite the knee problems. His attitude seems terrific even though he's behind on reps and court time. Daniel is a more traditional BIG w/ low block potential and a nice shooting touch. Smart decision in giving him time to get healthy.

Also remember that Ohio U grad transfer Jason Carter has two years of eligibility. Right now he starts at PF. X loses Tyrique Jones to graduation, but four guys presumably will be back in the 4-5 group. If something special and unexpected develops before the November signing date, Travis can
always adjust and add a 4th 2020 or he can wait until April and explore the transfer portal or save the grant for the 2021 Class. We love flexibility!!


Xavier recovered from that 6 game losing streak and played its best down the stretch(8-3 over last 11 games). If they make a late FT at Texas and win in regulation, IMHO they take Texas' place as NIT Champions. TEAM 97 could have beaten Villanova in the BET Semis at MSG. A dubious block-charge went against Naji Marshall robbing him of game winning FT tries. Naji fouled out and X lost in OT. If they win, they play Seton Hall for the automatic NCAA bid.

Xavier got great play from BIG Zach Hankins in that stretch run. He pushed 28 minutes/game-scored double figures-rebounded well and rim protected and he complimented Tyrique Jones. X thrived w/ that larger line-up. Zach is gone.

Who slots in? Carter is first up! Maybe not as athletic,but a better shooter-ball handler. Freemantle can be a more physical option off the bench w/ Miles and Ramsey available. Travis said it frequently last season. He wished he'd had a second year to work w/ Hankins. Now we have potential and options, but need answers.

Every season presents uncertainty-unexpected challenges-the need to regroup and make adjustments. TEAM 98 will have challenges, but IMHO the talent is there. The mix of experience and potential is exciting. The team chemistry has developed well so far. This seems an unselfish more vocal group w/ solid coaching and player leadership. The upside is HUGE as the pieces start fitting together. We'll focus more on numbers-stat goals etc. next time.


Shannon Russell(The Athletic.com) has an excellent interview w/ BIG EAST Coordinator of Officials John Cahill posted. He visited Xavier practice Monday and reviewed rules changes and the annual officiating points of emphasis. Cahill is an original New BIG EAST staffer(7th year) after a long NCAA referring career. I've forgiven him(sort of) for not tagging Ohio State's Greg Oden w/ an intentional foul after he threw Justin Cage into the basket support at Rupp Arena in that 2007 NCAA OT loss to the #1 Buckeyes.

Officials will be targeting flopping this season. Players are going down w/o contact way too much drawing non-contact charges-kicking their feet out to draw fouls on 3 point tries etc. Class B technical fouls will be called now for bad acting. Also hand checking is now a no-no on steroids. The accent is more intense than ever on freedom of movement.

Adam Baum is working on an epic story to honor the 20th Anniversary of Cintas Center Opening. Adam does strong work and has a maturing golf game.

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