I love the Xavier Musketeers.
I always have been a fan of the Musketeers … although now I can’t say that I always will be.
The past eight months have left me questioning who Chris Mack’s squad is and for what they stand.
Of course there was the Crosstown Shootout brawl. On that day, the rivalry and animosity of the annual Xavier-Cincinnati game became bigger (and uglier) than the fun tradition that Cincinnatians had come to look forward to every December.
The confrontations that occurred in the closing seconds were disappointing. The comments after the game by senior Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons were even more regrettable for the image of Xavier University.
Luckily for Xavier, their season wasn’t a complete failure. They made the Sweet Sixteen and played Baylor close for the chance to match up against Kentucky.
However, since the 2011-12 season ended, the Muskies’ two best players are no longer enrolled at Xavier.
Mark Lyons was not willing to be the leader and team player that coach Chris Mack asked him to be in the upcoming season. He transferred to the University of Arizona to play for former Xavier coach Sean Miller.
Then, sophomore Dez Wells was expelled from the university this past week for an unspecified code of conduct violation.
If Xavier wants to keep up their men’s basketball tradition, which includes four Sweet Sixteen appearances in the past five years and seven straight NCAA Tournament appearances, they have to continue recruiting great players.
But why have XU’s recent stars had so much extra baggage?
Is it a fundamental flaw in Xavier University’s men’s basketball program? Are the coaching staff’s expectations to blame? Did the Musketeers just get unlucky by having multiple players with selfish and alternate agendas on the roster at the same time?
Without a doubt, it is going to be a treacherous road ahead for the Xavier Musketeers.
Heading into next season, Xavier will be without its five top players from last season. In addition to Lyons and Wells, the Muskies graduated Holloway, Kenny Frease, and Andre Walker. The returning players averaged a total of 16.8 points per game last season, and there will be a lot of expectations for the incoming freshman class.
Semaj Christon is their highest ranked recruit as the third best point guard in the 2012 recruiting class.
Christon’s teammate from Brewster Academy, Jalen Reynolds, is a 6’8″ 220 lb. power forward and four-star recruit. Xavier is also bringing in Myles Davis, a 6’1″ shooting guard from Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and James Farr, a 6’8″ power forward who played at the Maine Central Institute.
Despite the incoming talent the Muskies added to their roster, it will be a long year for them. It may be a long next several years.
Who is the team’s go-to scorer? Who will talk during a timeout or in the locker room to get the Musketeers pumped up for a big game? Which player will keep the others in line and make sure that they are at school for the right reasons?
These questions and more still need to be answered in the next few months.
In the meantime, Xavier needs to use the next few years to rebuild the basketball program on and off the court in order to improve its reputation. That reputation once made alumni and fans proud to say that Xavier is their team. It needs to be again.