Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

An ode to Verne Lundquist’s calls and everything college basketball

Posts Tagged ‘Xavier Musketeers’

Top Ten Games Of The Week (12/8-12/14)

Posted by Zach on December 7, 2008

The November tournaments are complete. The ACC/Big Ten Challenge is complete. We’re starting to become more and more familiar with the contenders and pretenders as we inch closer and closer to conference season in college basketball. Even though exams are nearing and a bit of a lull in quality games may be upon us, there’s still ample opportunity for some teams to notch resume-building victories. Here’s my top ten intriguing matchups for this week:

1. #8 Texas vs. #17 Villanova- Jimmy V Classic, Tuesday (ESPNHD)– We’ve seen what the Texas Longhorns are capable of this season. They’ve already played two very difficult games- losing to Notre Dame by 1 in Maui and inching UCLA at home last week. We know A.J. Abrams is an impressive shooting when he’s hot, Damion James is an NBA scout’s dream with his rebounding and scoring skills, and players like Justin Mason and Dexter Pittman are fine secondary players. We know this team is capable of finishing their season in Detroit. But what do we know about Villanova? Not much considering their two best wins are on a neutral floor against Rhode Island and at Pennsylvania. I don’t necessarily blame Jay Wright for cooking up a cupcake schedule early for his young Villanova squad. The question remains: Does beating up on Houston Baptist really prepare you for physical and battle-tested Texas? We’ll find out Tuesday night. Dante Cunningham has been phenomenal for Villanova- 17.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG- and will need to play a huge role in a Wildcats victory at the Jimmy V. Prediction: Texas 77, Villanova 69

2. #18 Memphis at #20 Georgetown- Saturday (CBSHD)-
Speaking of being unable to properly evaluate contending teams, how about Memphis? They’ve played only one game since the Puerto Rico loss to Xavier, a thrashing of Marshall featuring the coming out party of Tyreke Evans, and will not play before this showdown in D.C. on Saturday afternoon. Memphis has five players scoring in double figures; we certainly know they can use their superior athleticism and penetration abilities to overwhelm the less-athletic Georgetown bunch. But, will this type of game come down to toughness? Free throws? Home court advantage? Inexperience at the point guard position with Wesley Witherspoon the new ball carrier for John Calipari? I expect the excellent Georgetown defense to confuse the Memphis offense in this basketball game and leave with a quality victory. Memphis’ Shawn Taggart is averaging a double-double thus far at 11 and 10. We’ll see if he can keep it up on Saturday. Prediction: Georgetown 68, Memphis 64

3. #14 Xavier at Cincinnati- Saturday (ESPN2)
– One of my favorite rivalries in college basketball has meaning this time around. The Xavier Musketeers will march into their inner-city rival’s home turf Saturday night 8-0 (assuming they beat Ohio at home) and likely ranked near the top ten in the nation. Cincinnati, with their rich heritage basketball tradition dating back to Oscar Robertson, has all of a sudden transformed into a football school with their Orange Bowl berth. It would be a monumental win for coach Mike Cronin if he can dethrone the hated Musketeers at home behind stars Deonta Vaughn and Mike Williams. Beating UNLV in Vegas and UAB on their home floor is a good start, but the Bearcats only scored 47 points against Florida State. Which Cincinnati squad will show up Saturday? Expect the fired up one. Prediction: Cincinnati 70, Xavier 68

4. #5 Gonzaga at Washington State- Wednesday– Pullman, Washington is not an easy place to win. The home crowd is always rowdy, the stifling Washington State defense is terrifying and the Cougars may desperately need a quality win for their NCAA Tournament resume before delving into a weakened Pac-10 schedule. They had an opportunity in New Jersey against Pittsburgh and lost. They had Baylor at home on Saturday and faltered. If they fall to Gonzaga, their only real chances in-conference are Arizona State and UCLA. Gonzaga doesn’t quite have the same problem- they already downed Maryland and Tennessee and have games vs. Connecticut, Memphis, Tennessee and Arizona on the slate (does Arizona really quality anymore?) Look for Taylor Rochestie, Aron Baynes, Klay Thompson and the balanced fighting Bennett’s give Gonzaga a scare in the first half before talents like Josh Heytvelt and Austin Daye down low are simply way too much to handle. Prediction: Gonzaga 67, Washington State 58

5. #22 Davidson vs. West Virginia- Jimmy V Classic, Tuesday (ESPNHD)- Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Sorry, but why else would you watch this game? No offense to Alex Ruoff or Devin Ebanks, but let’s be honest here. Prediction: Davidson 77, West Virginia 67

6. Butler at Ohio State- Saturday (BTN)– Don’t look now, folks, but perennial contender Butler is unbeaten in this early season. They’ve downed Northwestern, who has beaten Florida State and crushed DePaul, and won a big conference game at Cleveland State. The road becomes a bit more treacherous for Brad Stevens and Butler in the next couple weeks, though- @ Bradley, @ Ohio State, @ Xavier and UAB at home. Luckily, none of these matter an incredible amount because Butler probably isn’t going to grab an at-large berth anyway. The point is: Butler, supposedly in a down year after losing A.J. Graves, Pete Campbell and Mike Green, is still winning and it shows how tremendous of a problem they have in Indianapolis. Ohio State has two great wins @ Miami after the McClinton Swipe and in Indy against Notre Dame with Harangody playing. I won’t let Pat take credit for predicting Ohio State’s resurgence, either, because his entire reasoning was that B.J. Mullens will dominate college basketball and he’s not even averaging 7 PPG. Prediction: Ohio State 66, Butler 58

7. Dayton at Creighton- Wednesday- Mmmm, nothing like a yummy quality mid-major game on a Wednesday night! Okay, that was weird. But seriously, how about those Dayton Flyers? They downed mighty Mercer at home, defeated Auburn in Chicago and won a 54-50 nail biter at Akron Saturday that sent basketball back about 50 years. Oh, and they toppled Marquette in that same Chicago tournament for a win that will surely be discussed in March along with Dayton’s seed. When forward Chris Wright- 13.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG- is playing, Dayton wins. They have an extremely difficult test in Omaha against a Creighton team that needs a resume-building win after New Mexico has flopped and the Jays lost to Arkansas Little Rock and Nebraska. Booker Woodfox and P’Allen Stinnett (I did not make up those names) are two outstanding players for Creighton and I expect them to defend their always packed home court and take down mighty Dayton. Prediction: Creighton 78, Dayton 70

8. #10 Tennessee at Temple- Saturday (ESPN)
– Could the Temple Owls be hitting their stride? They were outplayed by Buffalo and Miami (OH) in two games prior to an underrated win in Happy Valley against Penn State. The most positive sign for Temple? They won while receiving only two points from Dionte Christmas, who may be the best all-around player in the Atlantic 10 (19.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.9 APG). Still, let’s be real, we’re talking about Penn State here. Not exactly Tennessee and their incredible talent, depth and athleticism. Temple will need an upset of epic proportions to win this game and most likely a 30+ point performance from Christmas. If you didn’t know, Tyler Smith notched the first triple-double in Tennessee basketball history on Wednesday. Prediction: Tennessee 83, Temple 67

9. #5 Gonzaga vs. Arizona in Phoenix- Sunday (FSNHD)
– Speaking of teams that need a quality win. Arizona not only needs to win this game to stay alive for an at-large berth, they may need this win to keep their basketball program in tact. Forget the Olson drama and the departing players and Brandon Jennings, this team has now lost two heartbreakers: the UAB fiasco that prevented them from notching two high-quality wins in Madison Square Garden and the 11-point halftime lead blown at Texas A&M on Friday ending in a game-winning Aggies three. Chase Budinger is doing his part at 20.1 PPG and Jordan Hill has been phenomenal at 17.4 PPG and 12.3 RPG. But can they stop Gonzaga? My guess is no. Prediction: Gonzaga 85, Arizona 75

10. San Diego State vs. Saint Mary’s- Saturday (HDNET)
– Is this San Diego State team flying under the radar? They beat struggling San Diego at home and led most of the game vs. Arizona State, but you’ll have to search hard for any quality wins. Beating tournament-bound Saint Mary’s on a neutral floor is a nice start. Kyle Spain is setting himself up to contend for Mountain West Player of the Year at 17.9 PPG and 5.3 RPG for the Aztecs. Unfortunately, they may be getting Patrick Mills when he’s hitting his stride. In his last three games against Fullerton, Providence and Kent State, he’s scored 20+ points and made 25 of 55 shots. Prediction: Saint Mary’s 74, San Diego State 68

Honorable Mention

  • California at Utah- Wednesday (MTN)
  • San Diego State at Arizona- Wednesday
  • Saint Joseph’s at Villanova- Thursday (ESPN2)
  • Iowa State at Iowa- Friday (BTN)
  • VCU at Richmond- Saturday (ESPNU)
  • Indiana at Kentucky- Saturday (CBSHD)
  • Utah at Oklahoma- Saturday (ESPN2)
  • DePaul vs. UCLA- Saturday (HDNET)

Posted in Top Ten Games of the Week | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

For Xavier The Road Gets Even Tougher

Posted by Patrick on November 24, 2008

https://i1.wp.com/api.ning.com/files/MZFLzgGJ0J-n-4NG8P4w9TC0YMBP94Z*AJQ9SIcXO84lsW3szTsLPx6hXFLdahS21CUAbA73N-mjayrjcShhLzKfP*08D4fD/SeanMiller.jpg

Coming off three huge wins at one of the premier non-conference college basketball tournaments, the Xavier University men’s basketball team looks like it’s picking up right where it left off last season when Sean Miller’s squad made the Elite Eight for only the second time in the school’s history.

This weekend in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Xavier took home the championship after three very close victories. In the first game Xavier took on Missouri winning 75-71 mostly because the Tigers had a terrible night from the free throw line. The next night the Musketeers played Virginia Tech, a team that missed the NCAA tournament just narrowly last season and is looked at as a bubble team once again this year. Even though Xavier trailed at halftime, they did not look like they were ready to give up a chance to play in the championship game. The regulation buzzer sounded with the score all knotted up after the Hokies had a great chance to win the game on their last possession. In overtime with the score tied, Jeff Allen of Virginia Tech converted a tip-in to give the Hokies a 62-60 lead with just three seconds left. Then, Xavier guard Dante Jackson threw up a half-court heave that banked in giving Xavier a 63-62 thrilling victory and its fourth win of the season.

Tournament favorite and 12th ranked Memphis advanced from the bottom half of the bracket to take on Xavier in the championship game. The Musketeers trailed only once, but it was still a very close game and Xavier’s leads never extended past six points. In the end, free throw shooting was Memphis’ downfall and Xavier went home with the championship trophy despite freshman center Kenny Frease fouling out midway through the second half.

The newly released polls show Xavier at #16 in the AP poll and #20 for ESPN/USA Today’s. With a 5-0 record, and picked to finish second in the conference behind Saint Joseph’s, the Musketeers look like they are still going to have a large say in what happens in the NCAA tournament. However, their slate of games is anything but easy, and some may even say that their non-conference schedule is one of the hardest of any A-10 team.

This Saturday, Xavier takes on Miami (OH), a team that lost to UCLA at Pauley Pavilion by just five points and also caused plenty of trouble early for Pittsburgh. Miami is just 1-2 but their record is very misleading; they play great defense and can be a very dangerous team from behind the arc if left open.

The Musketeers then have two home games against Auburn and Ohio, two improved teams since last season. Xavier then travels to rival Cincinnati, a sleeper in one of the best Big East conferences ever seen in terms of talent and depth. After that, Xavier faces Kyle Singler and the Duke Blue Devils which should provide one of the best tests of the season for both teams as they prepare for their conference schedule.

Xavier then battles Robert Morris, a team that has been very good in the Northeast Conference these past few seasons. They’re also slated to face the inexperienced but dangerous Virginia Cavaliers.

While the Atlantic 10 is down this season compared to years past, there are still many teams that will contend with Xavier for the conference crown: Saint Joseph’s (picked ahead of Xavier in the Preseason A-10 poll), Saint Louis (just upset Boston College at home), and Rhode Island (played Duke to wire at Cameron Indoor). Xavier has crossed a major roadblock winning the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, but they have a very long way to go to not only win their conference, but to have a shot at gaining a respectable seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Led by coach Sean Miller, who has taken Xavier from mid-major level to high major in just five seasons, and players such as Derrick Brown, BJ Raymond, and CJ Anderson, Xavier appears early like it will be a powerhouse once again this season.

Posted in Features | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Storylines After Two Weeks

Posted by Zach on November 24, 2008

Puerto Rico Xavier Memphis Basketball

What have we learned so far after two weeks of college basketball? That Samardo Samuels looks to be a force. That Wisconsin and Washington State keep on playing great defense. That Wesley Matthews finally wants to be the best player on Marquette. That Arizona doesn’t know that fouling in a tie game is a poor idea. That ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon was a roaring success. That Jimmy Baron is the best outside shooter in the nation other than Stephen Curry. That Duke loves dominating in November. That scheduling Mercer is a bad idea. That NJIT needs to rethink the whole Division I thing. That DeJuan Blair can be totally unstoppable. That it’s going to be a long year for Barack Obama’s brother-in-law.

Okay, those are pretty important. But what are the single most looming and captivating stories that we should take away from the first two weeks of college hoops? Here’s a few:

1. James Harden, Stephen Curry and Blake Griffin are the best players in the nation.
Okay, we’ll give Tyler Hansbrough an opportunity to reclaim his crown when he’s finally healthy, but these three superstars and eventual lottery picks have certainly filled up the box score while facing “weaker” opponents (should point out that Oklahoma did play Davidson). Harden is averaging 25 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5 assists per game, including a line Sunday against Pepperdine where he made 11 of 13 two-point shots. Curry hasn’t let anyone down looking for an encore performance, averaging 34 points and shooting 43% from deep. Almost as important for Davidson? 8.8 APG and 2.8 TO/PG, meaning he’s made a smooth transition over to point guard. How about 26 PPG and 19.8 RPG for Blake Griffin? Sounds like Wilt Chamberlain to me. He’s played incredible this season, and even though it’s incredibly early to be ranking Player of the Year contenders, I’m going to do it anyway: Griffin is #1. Of course, these are all small sample sizes (three or so games). But there’s no denying these three are producing up to expectation and much more.

2. This freshman class is nowhere near last year’s crop.
Watching most of the top-ranked players in this years recruiting class struggle mightily in their transition to the college game, it’s hard to not think back and appreciate the likes of Michael Beasley, Kevin Love and Derrick Rose dominating from day one on their respective teams. Beasley was putting up record numbers instantly, Love was clearly the best player on a Final Four squad right away, and Derrick Rose might have been the best point guard in the nation a year ago. Someone like DeMar DeRozan is a prime example. I expected him to dominate right away for the Trojans, and while I still think he’s a phenomenal player, the transition has been a difficult one initially. DeRozan has yet to top 14 points in five games and disappeared in two key USC losses vs. Seton Hall and Missouri.  Tyreke Evans has made 2 of 16 threes and went 4/16 in their battle with Xavier Sunday for the Puerto Rico championship. Jrue Holiday seems like more of a two or three-year college player. It’s been the Big East froshies looking the most comfortable: Samuels, Walker and Monroe.

3. Xavier is once again one of the top non-BCS schools in the nation. I hesitate to call them a mid-major at this point. They’ve undoubtedly graduated from that label, so I’ll go with non-BCS. Memphis should take some notes after freshman Terrell “Icewater” Holloway (I made up that nickname, just go with it and make me happy) sunk free throw after free throw to capture the Puerto Rico championship Sunday. B.J. Raymond is an excellent three-point shooter, Derrick Brown is a powerful scoring forward and Kenny Frease will continue to develop inside. Sean Miller also has solid players like C.J. Anderson, Jason Love, Dante Jackson and Jamel McClean at his disposal. Not many programs can rebound this quickly after losing players as important as Josh Duncan, Drew Lavender and Stanley Burrell. Credit Sean Miller for re-tooling this quickly and building a Sweet 16-caliber squad.

4. The Big 12 looks stronger than ever. Some laughed when I said the Big 12 is deeper and more loaded than ever when I wrote their preview last month. It’s real early, but this conference could challenge the ACC for #2 in the rankings. We expected Texas and Oklahoma to come out firing. Contenders Kansas and Baylor are also playing well early (should get a nice gauge of KU after the CBE Classic). But it’s the bottom half of the conference playing exceptional basketball that’s the real story. Missouri played well over the weekend against stiff competition, almost beating Xavier in the first game of the tournament. Texas Tech and Oklahoma State are scoring like crazy. Even Kansas State and Iowa State are dominating weak competition and avoiding the upset bug like some other high majors (Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky, etc.) Combined, the Big 12 is 39-2 as a conference. That’s a good record.

5. It could be a down year for Los Angeles basketball.
Stress the word “could.” Southern Cal has been the #1 disappointment in two weeks of play- DeRozan hasn’t played like himself, Hackett is a turnover machine, they’ve shot 26% from deep and 64% from the line. The reason I used “could” instead of “will” is because I have faith DeRozan will explode sooner than later, and Tim Floyd the type of coach who can turn the ship around. UCLA should also improve as the season goes on as Holiday, Morgan, Lee and the other young players get more acquainted with the college game. They desperately need the passive and often uninterested Josh Shipp to bring his game to another level because Alfred Aboya isn’t going to score 20 points on most nights. Early on, the Bruins look more like a Sweet 16-caliber team than a Final Four contender we’re used to seeing in Westwood, while USC could be bubble-bound.

Any that I missed?

Posted in Features | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Atlantic 10 Preview

Posted by Zach on October 9, 2008

To say the Atlantic 10 had an unusual season in 2007-08 would be the understatement of the century. The league raced to a phenomenal start in non-conference play with Massachusetts and Rhode Island stunning Syracuse, Dayton taking down Louisville in Freedom Hall and Pitt at home, and perennial A-10 powerhouse Xavier bullying their way past Kansas State and Virginia. Unfortunately, the conference season started, beginning the downfall for a team like Dayton. They finished with an impressive RPI of 31 due to their remarkable non-conference slate of victories, but failed to make the NCAA Tournament due to a flurry of devastating injuries and subsequent 8-8 record in the Atlantic 10. Rhode Island is another example of a team that found themselves in the Top 25 in November and an 11 seed in the A-10 tournament in March. Xavier ended up representing the conference well with their march to the Elite Eight.

1. Xavier Musketeers:
Shocking, right? Coach Sean Miller and the Musketeers once again find themselves the near-unanimous favorites to win another Atlantic 10 title. The losses of key seniors and floor leaders like Drew Lavender, Stanley Burrell and Josh Duncan are subtractions hard to stomach, but Miller has enough talent returning to win the conference. The frontcourt will be led by two double-digit scorers, Derrick Brown and C.J. Anderson, who just may be the two best frontcourt players in the conference. Keep an eye on 7’0 freshman Kenny Frease in the middle as someone who will improve mightily with development. Replacing Burrell and Lavender in the backcourt isn’t an easy task, but Miller has a slew of point guards to work with. Jordan Crawford won’t be eligible till next season, but former Indiana mate Terrell Holloway is. Shooter B.J. Raymond and speedster Dante Jackson lead the way for Xavier, teaming up with Brad Redford, Michigan’s Mr. Basketball. A difficult non-conference slate will test this untested Musketeer core right out of the gate.



2. Temple Owls:
The Owls over-achieved last season more than any other Atlantic-10 team, going from a middle-of-the-pack sneaky team to conference tournament champion under coach Frank Dunphy. The Owls will definitely miss their primary ball handler in Mark Tyndale, but return their best player: Dionte Christmas. Christmas is attempting to become the first three-time conference scoring champion in A-10 history after finishing with 19.7 PPG last season and shooting 37% from behind the arc. Three other starters return along with Christmas, including forwards Lavoy Allen and Sergio Olmos, the defensive shot blocker extraordinaire. Allen is more prone to be effective on the offensive end, where he finished with 8.1 PPG on an efficient 56% from the floor. Point guard is the one main concern. Dunphy is hoping either junior Luis Guzman or senior Semaj Inge to emerge in practice and take over for Tyndale. Temple could very well find themselves on the bubble by the time March rolls around.

3. Massachusetts Minutemen:
The loss of coach Travis Ford to Oklahoma State stings, but the Minutemen found a capable replacement in Derek Kellogg, the former UMass point guard and recruiting mastermind at Memphis. That strong suit will be immediately put to the test in normally-barren New England high school basketball. Their best player and 19 PPG scorer, Gary Forbes, is gone, but Massachusetts returns two studs: blossoming Ricky Harris and outstanding senior point guard Chris Lowe. Lowe (6.3 APG) molded into one of the top point guards in the nation, finding three-point specialist Harris behind the arc enough times so he could drain 104 threes. Wake Forest transfer Anthony Gurley also helps immediately, but the offense will clearly revolve around Lowe finding Harris outside with the newly instituted dribble-drive motion offense, or doing most of the scoring on his own. The frontcourt is the clear weakness. It’s possible 7-foot Luke Bonner emerges as he becomes more aggressive inside.

4. Dayton Flyers: As I pointed out in the intro, Dayton’s season was a roller coaster ride last year. They went from defeating Pitt by 25 at home in December to needing to win their last three games just to finish .500 in the conference. Chris Wright appeared to be the next big-time Atlantic 10 player before breaking his ankle in the opener against Rhode Island and missing the rest of the regular season. Having Wright for a full season scoring and rebounding will boost the Flyers immensely. Losing star Brian Roberts hurts dramatically in the backcourt, so they’ll turn to an improved frontcourt at their strength. Marcus Johnson is a personal favorite, an athletic and long forward who could emerge as a 13-7 threat this season.  Senior Charles Little took a step back last year and is hoping to repeat his double-digit scoring output of his sophomore year. Dayton won’t find themselves #14 in the nation any time this year (or 12th in the conference), and the NIT is a likely destination.



5. Charlotte 49ers:
Coach Bobby Lutz has plenty to work with this upcoming season. He returns nine of his top ten players from a group that shocked Clemson OOC and beat Temple and Saint Joe’s. The one player missing happens to be their best from 07-08: Leemire Goldwire, who averaged 18.6 PPG last year starring at shooting guard. Rather than guards, Charlotte’s strength will be in the frontcourt this year. They’re led by a pair of senior forwards, Lamont Mack- who scored 15+ points in 11 of the final 17 games of last season (including 27 at defensively-strong Richmond)- and Charlie Coley- an athletic, scoring forward who also happens to be the team’s most capable rebounding presence. Charlotte has always focused on shooting plenty of three-pointers under Lutz’s tenure. They won’t have any trouble finding open jumpers with the focus on Coley and Mack, along with boasting hoisters such as newcomer Shamarr Bowden and junior transfer Rashad Coleman. While the frontcourt is strong, Lutz may have a difficult time finding an impact player in the backcourt this season.

6. Saint Joseph’s Hawks: Nick Calathes and Rob Ferguson shouldered 29 points and 12 rebounds per game last season for Phil Martelli and Saint Joe’s. Both are gone, so it’s up to all-league forward Ahmad Nivins to take over as a dominant big man for the Hawks. Nivins is a legitimate draft prospect with an exceptional offensive game facing the basket. To help Saint Joe’s contend for a postseason bid, Nivins will have to compliment his scoring with improved defense and rebounding. The backcourt will be led by two returning starters- Tasheed Carr and Darrin Govens. Carr is a strong candidate to improve on his 10.8 PPG from last season with his shooting potential and Govens is more of the steady point guard type. The strengths of Saint Joe’s will be Nivins, coaching, balance, and an impressive freshman class.

7. Richmond Spiders: Richmond and coach Chris Mooney defied expectations and finished in a tie for fourth in the conference, earning a trip to the CBI. Any plans for a postseason tournament were put in serious jeopardy when potential first-team forward Dan Geriot tore his ACL in a summer league game. This is an extremely tough blow for Mooney, who planned on Richmond to sneak up on Xavier, Temple and UMass in the conference. The Spiders do boast 2007-08 Rookie of the Year Kevin Anderson, an excellent scoring guard who also happens to be the team’s strongest passer and defensive player. They hope that sophomore guard Justin Harper can emerge and Richmond can surprise some folks in the Atlantic 10.

8. La Salle Explorers: Could La Salle be the dark horse of the conference? Not unless their defense improves under John Giannini, but they certainly have a chance. Losing the Atlantic 10’s all time leading three point shooter in Darnell Harris is a significant blow. Returning is super-athletic guard/forward Rodney Green, a quick and playmaking wing who led the team in APG and SPG along with 13+ PPG. Vernon Goodridge could be Newcomer of the Year in the A-10. The transfer from Mississippi State will prove a valuable compliment to sophomore Jerrell Williams in the paint. Local Philly star Devon White will see playing time immediately at the forward position.

9. Rhode Island Rams:
Much like Dayton, URI’s season was a roller coaster ride. They began the year defeating three Big East schools, nearly knocking off BC on the road, and entering the Top 25 with a 19-3 record. They ended up losing to Creighton in the NIT. Coach Jim Baron has to be feeling some pressure. URI has never danced under his tutelage and have made the NIT just three times. Losing all-league forward Will Daniels doesn’t help. One of the top players for Baron this season will be Jimmy Baron. Yes, you guessed right, he is the coaches son. He drained 99 three pointers last season. Also leading the way is senior Kahiem Seawright, the team’s leading rebounder who must take on a bigger scoring load with Daniels no longer aiding the effort.

10. Saint Louis Billikens: Other than Kevin Lisch and Tommie Liddell, Rick Majerus and the Billikens are extremely young once again. They move to a new arena with less fanfare, and this could be a profound welcome to a team that finished last in the conference in scoring and managed just 20 points in a stunning loss to George Washington. Lisch and Liddell form a very strong backcourt, but Majerus knows he needs more from other pieces. He hopes freshman point guard Kwamain Mitchell emerges. I saw Mitchell in high school a few times and I think he can develop into a steady player for Saint Louis. An extremely young frontcourt appears to be the clear weakness.

11. Duquesne: Damian Saunders, a top A-10 newcomer last year, looks to emerge in a lean frontcourt
12. George Washington: 27-3 seems like decades ago; hopes ride with a healthy Taylor King at point guard
13. St. Bonaventure: Return of two starters and a promising class give hope to the future, present is ugly
14. Fordham: Rams lost all five of their starting seniors who finished just 6-10 in the conference

First Team All Atlantic-10:
G- Dionte Christmas, Temple
G- Ricky Harris, Massachusetts
F- Derrick Brown, Xavier
F- Chris Wright, Dayton
F- Ahmad Nivins, Saint Joe’s

Coach of the Year- Sean Miller, Xavier
Newcomer of the Year- Vernon Goodridge, La Salle
Sleeper Team- Saint Joseph’s Hawks
NCAA- Xavier
NIT- Temple, Massachusetts, Dayton, Charlotte

Posted in Conference Previews, Predictions | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Xavier Lands Crawford

Posted by Zach on July 10, 2008

Former Indiana standout freshman guard Jordan Crawford has decided to transfer to Xavier, according to Kevin Armstrong of SI.com.

Crawford, who averaged 9.7 PPG in his first season at Indiana, has signed his transfer papers and will join Sean Miller’s lineup in the 2009-10 season. It’s possible Crawford may apply for a waiver to gain eligibility at some point this season due to the tumultuous situation at Indiana. Crawford had originally considered Xavier prior to last season, so the relationship with Sean Miller was evident and continued to this process.

Xavier is dealing with the loss of four key members of their Elite 8 team, including point guard Drew Lavender and defensive specialist Stanley Burrell. This season may bring small rebuilding to Xavier, but the addition of Crawford and excellent recruiting classes means the Musketeers will be back sooner than later.

Posted in Quick Posts | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »