Andy Mac: Scouting Niagara Purple Eagles
By Andy Mac Williams, 11/8/2021

Super Senior Paul Scruggs wore the Gold Jersey as preseason Week 6 top player. That's 25 Golds in Paul's Muskie career-just behind all time leader Tu Holloway. Scruggs begins his 5th season 30th on XU scoring list (1246 points). He led BIG EAST in assists last season (5.7/game). Paul is one of 20 nominees for Bob Cousy Award (NCAA's top PG).

Kyky Tandy (3rd year guard) was full go in practice-recovered from bronchitis. Looks like Travis Steele will start Scruggs, Nate Johnson, Colby Jones, Jerome Hunter and Dieonte Miles Tuesday in season opener vs Niagara (Metro Atlantic-MAAC) at Cintas - 7:30 Tip on FS1 and 55KRC Radio. Same "5" he opened w/ in last Friday's 100-59 Exhibition win over D-2 Ferris State. Six other Muskies should see action. Guards Dwon Odom, Adam Kunkel and Kyky Tandy. Forward Ben Stanley and Centers Jack Nunge and Cesare Edwards. Zach Freemantle is recovering from a foot injury. Elijah Tucker will redshirt.

XU recorded 11 kills (3 defensive stops in a row) vs Ferris State. Goal is 7 or more. X is 88-8 since 2011 when booking at least 7 kills (92% wins). Expectations for XU are HIGH. KenPom has Muskies #26 in his forward looking power ratings after finishing #65 last season. CBS Sports slots Xavier at #25. Muskies got votes in both AP and Coaches' Preseason Top 25s. BIG EAST coaches voted X 3rd in the 11 team league behind Villanova and UConn.


9-11 overall, 7-9 MAAC in Covid shortened season. Almost upset Iona(Rick Pitino's team) in MAAC Tourney Semis. Coached by former Duke PG Greg Paulus(3rd year)(21-31). Paulus and Travis worked together under Thad Matta at Ohio State.

Niagara returns 4 starters including MAAC 1st Team PG Marcus Hammond(#10) 6-3 Senior 13PPG and 3 point sniper (#0) Justin Roberts, 5-10 Grad student. He scored 24 in Eagles' 95-55 exhibition game win over D-3 Cazenovia College(8-10 from "3"). Niagara lives by the "3"- values the ball(just 10 turnovers/game)-plays sticky defense(65PPG) but struggles in the paint(-5 rebounds/game).

XU should have a field day in the paint w/ a huge size and strength advantage. Niagara will test Muskie's fastbreak defense looking to run for easy scores and bank on open looks from "3" in transition. Purple Eagles' most famous basketball name 5-9 Guard Calvin Murphy(All American 1968-71 at Niagara-long NBA career w/ Houston Rockets-shortest male player in Naismith Basketball Hal of Fame).

Bill Cunningham recalls a game at Schmidt Fieldhouse in 1969 when Murphy sniped for 36 points(before 3 point FG) in a 91-83 Niagara win over Xavier and entertained at half time by donning a tutu and twirling batons for the crowd. Muskies beat Niagara at Madison Square Garden on the way to 1958 NIT Title.

X reappeared in AP Top 20 in March 1988 after a come from behind win over Niagara on the road. Their arena is literally 100 yards from the American Falls. X had been absent from the Top 20 for 31 years following that 1958 NIT victory. Andy Mac was an AP voter in 1988. Byron Larkin and Stan Kimbrough made up a stellar backcourt. J.D. Barnett at small forward w/ Twin Towers Tyrone Hill and Derek Strong down low.

Xavier is 21-0 in Cintas Center Openers. Muskies' most recent home opener loss-1989 - at Cincinnati Gardens-to Southern Utah State. That team quickly recovered and posted XU's first NCAA Sweet 16-beating New Orleans and Georgetown(Mourning and Mutombo) at Hoosier Dome then losing a wild one to Texas and the BMW Boys in Dallas.

Tuesday Tip vs Niagara is 7:30-FS1 is airing a BIG EAST whip around so there's no certainty that the entire Muskie game will air live on FS1. They have an APP you can access.

We return w/ "Talkin' Hoops" at Duff's starting at 6:50 after COVID sunk us last season.

Wednesday is first day for 2022 basketball recruits to sign binding Letters of Intent. XU expects to ink Kam Kraft and Tyrell Ward w/ a 3rd player a strong possibility pushing Xavier well into the national Top 25 and to #1 in BIG EAST recruiting for 2022.

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