Friday, September 12, 2008

No. 25 Xavier: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Team Record: 30-7, 14-2 A-10 (1st)

Key Losses: Stanley Burrell (9.7 ppg, 3.8 apg), Drew Lavender (10.8 ppg, 4.5 apg), Josh Duncan (12.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg)

Key Returnees: Derrick Brown (10.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg), CJ Anderson (10.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg), BJ Raymond (9.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg)

Newcomers: Kenny Frease, Terrell Holloway, Mark Lyons, Brad Redford, Brian Walsh

Xavier may have been the most balanced team in the country last year, with six guys averaging more than 9.7 ppg. They lose three of those guys, Stanley Burrell, Drew Lavender, and Josh Duncan, but are left with more than enough to be considered the favorite in the A-10. The strength of this Xavier team will probably be on the wing, where they have a glut of talented small forwards. The best of the bunch is probably Derrick Brown, who will end up in the power forward role again this year. He is an athletic, 6'8" lefty who came to Xavier as not much more than an athlete, but has developed a respectable jump shot (even out to the three point line) and a decent face-up game. CJ Anderson and BJ Raymond will most likely be the starters at the two-guard and small forward positions. While both 6'6", their games are complete opposite - Anderson is a slasher (did not make a three pointer last year) while Raymond is more of a shooter (attempted 38 free throws in 37 games). Dante Jackson, a sophomore who really started to develop as the season progressed (especially defensively), will be the first guy off the bench and should contribute some very good minutes.

Despite being the leading scorer last year, Duncan only started 16 games. That's because Jason Love, a 6'9", 255 lb center was a much better defender on the block. Love averaged 6.0 ppg and 5.5 rpg in just 18 mpg last year, but will probably split time again this season with freshman Kenny Frease, a top 50 recruit. Frease could have gone anywhere in the country, but committed early to Xavier and stuck with them. At 6'11", most scouting reports say that he is a tough rebounder with some solid post moves. A low post scoring threat was the one thing Xavier was missing last year, and Frease should fill that role well.

The point guard spot seems to be wide open. The Musketeers lost Lavender to graduation, and did not have anyone to replace him, so Sean Miller went out and landed some very good point guard recruits. Terrell Holloway, who originally committed to Indiana but re-opened his recruiting after the Kelvin Sampson debacle, is probably the favorite to land the starting spot as he is the most ready to play. While not a flashy play maker, Holloway is a quick point guard who needs to work on is jump shot, but can get by his defender and also makes things happen defensively (very similar to Lavender, but five inches taller, at the same point in Lavender's career). Where Holloway will look to run the offense, Mark Lyons is more of a scoring point guard. At 6'1", he has great athleticism and leaping ability, although it is sometimes to his disadvantage as he will try to make the spectacular play instead of the simple one. He is also a good defender, and wreaks havoc in the passing lanes.

Outlook: Once again, Xavier looks to be the class of the A-10. They are probably not as good as last year's team, which spent a good part of the season in the top 10, because of the inexperience at the point guard position (people really under appreciate how good Lavender was). They still have a lot of athletes and a lot of guys that are versatile and can play multiple positions. You know what you are going to get out of the veteran Musketeers, so if Holloway and Lyons can solidify the point guard spot and Frease develops into a legitimate post threat, Xavier should win the A-10 with ease again.

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