We have covered Xavier v. Florida detailed it last week, but that’s just a starting point for that tournament for Xavier. It’s also possibly the most important non-conference game of the season for X. If they win it, they will likely end up with three matches that will appear in Quad 1 to showcase on their journey to the Phil Knight Legacy. If they lose it, they will miss out on at least one of those opportunities and maybe more. Anyone who watched the team sleepwalk to an opening loss to the Pacific in November 2012 or fall three times in a row over Thanksgiving weekend for the following season knows what the unpleasant prospect is.
|Team||Turvik pre-season||class in impartial court|
|West Virginia||32||x 1|
|Portland State||302||Q 4|
The vitriol has to be a favorite here. Led by legendary coach Mark Vu, who has led them to everything but the national championship, they also have the advantage of being in the same time zone as the games you’ll be playing in. They have finished outside the top 25 in adjusted offensive efficiency only 6 times in 23 seasons at Team Few. They do this by ruthlessly pounding paint, as a series of large, highly efficient firms and cutting guards have given them edge control. They don’t shoot triples too hard or smash glass too hard, but why bother? Their defenses were excellent and were mostly based on poor shots and not allowing second chances. Forcing the coup is not a focus; They were just fine at it under a little bit.
Their biggest loss from last season is Chet Holmgren, the senior winger who came in with three total boards from an average double-double. He and his 14/9.9/1.9 streak left for the NBA. Also in the pro ranks is PG Andrew Nembhard, who averaged 5.8 APG as well as good scoring numbers. Firming the lineup will be back for senior Drew Timme, who averaged a super efficient 18.4/6.8/2.8 and shot 61% inside the arc. I hope he shaves off that silly mustache. Winger Julian Strother (11.8/5.4/1.0) and goalkeeper Racer Bolton (11.2/2.4/2.3, 46% 3P%) also returned. Next comes the big man 7′ Afton Reed, who averaged 6 and 4 as a freshman at LSU last year, and Malachi Smith, a 6’4″ guard who put 19.9/6.7/3.0 on the .493/.407/.827 as the Chattanooga Moc Last season.
The vitriol will be hard this year, just as it is every year. They lost two large pieces and more or less went out and replaced them. Mark Few has been a staple of the program for two decades and one DUI; Gonzaga will likely be in the conference again before he seizes their chances as a top seed in the NCAA Championship once again.
One thing Duke and Gonzaga have in common is that they are also expected to do very well this year. This is where many of the similarities end. While Gonzaga is still long in charge, Duke begins a new era under John Scheer. It’s hard to know exactly what Scheyer will bring to the table as head coach, but there will likely be some growing pains along the way. I’m sure Duke’s fan base is by no means full of spoiled cool weather fans and they’d downplay the odd performance with patience and understanding.
Gonzaga brought back their coach and most of their roster; Duke doesn’t. Leading scorer and repeater Paulo Panchero (17.2 / 7.8 / 3.2) is gone; As well as second-place scorer Wendell Moore Jr. (13.4 / 5.3 / 4.4). Scrolling down the scores sequentially, you’ll find that Trevor Kells (11.5 / 3.4 / 2.7) and Mark Williams (11.2 / 7.4 / 0.9) have also left for the greener pastures of professional basketball. The departure of AJ Griffin (10.4 / 3.9 / 1.0) makes it a clean sweep of the top five scorers who are no longer.
Of the players who played more than 12 mpg or averaged more than 4.5 PPG, only Jeremy Roach (8.6/2.4/3.2) returned. Before you cry real tears for Duke, get plenty of people coming in to fill the spots. Dereck Lively II and Kyle Filipowski are 14 feet tall and 2 are top 4 players in the class; They will expect to give Duke a dominant pairing on the job. Dariq Whitehead is a 6’6″ winger who is a crazy athlete and boasts an advanced skill set that made him the number 2 player in the class. Mark Mitchell is a 6-foot-8-inch drivetrain with a non-stop drive on the glass at both ends and the ability to finish around the edge with either hand. Tyrese Proctor is a 6-foot-4-inch keeper outside of Australia who has a deep range on his jump and can “come into the fairway at will” according to a scout report. All of these guys are comfortable in the top 30. Sniper/Ranger Jaden Schutt – According to 24/7 – #69. Christian Reeves is a true seven-footer that is a small project but has a huge plus side.
Added to this are three immediately eligible transfers. Jacob Grandison is a guard outside Illinois averaging a 9.6 PPG on 41% of the outside of the arc last year. Also, he is 24 years old. Ryan Young comes from Northwestern, with an average of 9.0 and 4.2. It’s a 6’10 inch center that goes to work on glass on both ends but has some limitations due to a foul issue. Finally, the big-winged Kale Catchings 6’6″ and 220 pounds comes from Harvard. He’s a good defender who can score in all three levels but does most of his work in the paint.
This is 10 new players plus a new coach for the Blue Devils. They’ve certainly gone from strength to strength on paper, but — as Xavier’s recent seasons can attest — there’s more to college basketball than just winning the season with roster building. The evidence should eventually come to court, but there’s a chance in this group that anything short of a second weekend session should be considered a little disappointing. Fortunately, Duke fans are aware and are not at all spoiled or fickle and will understand that sometimes the down years are to be expected during a coaching transition.
I’ll be back soon diving into the stacked midfield and what promises to be a peek at the two teams Xavier is trying to avoid.