The Xavier Musketeers at one point last season sat at 11-13, which was a shock to anybody who has followed the Musketeers program for the last twenty or so years. The Musketeers since the Bob Staak era had built one of the top basketball programs in the country with multiple Elite 8 appearances. The Musketeers are searching for that elusive Final Four appearance and a lot of people on Victory Parkway believe this could be the year.
After that unexpected 11-13 start last year under new Head Coach Travis Steele the Musketeers finished the season winning 7 of there last 9 and pushed themselves firmly into the NCAA tournament bubble. So, even after a slow start last year the Musketeers proved at the end of the season that the program was back and heading in the correct direction. Can they continue the success they enjoyed?
Guard play is the key in college basketball
Guards can make or break a team’s season in college basketball and the Musketeers are returning an excellent backcourt that can cause opposing teams all kinds of trouble. One of the biggest keys to backcourt play is veteran leadership and the Muskies have just that in third-year starter Quentin Goodin. The 6 foot 3 senior guard brings stability and leadership to not just the backcourt, but the team in general. Goodin is also a strong playmaker and a tenacious defender. Goodin averaged 11.0 points (.370/.298/.664), 3.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. Goodin is one of the most underrated guards in the nation and the Muskies offense is in very good hands with him at the helm.
Xavier’s starting guard spot will be manned by Paul Scruggs who is a perfect complement to Goodin. The biggest thing to bring up here is the toughness that Scruggs plays with. When you have two tough guards running your team that tends to trickle down to everyone on the team. Scruggs averaged 12.3 points (.461/.375/.737), 4.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.2 steals per game last year. He is a solid scorer and a very good defender that could be poised for a breakout season this season.
Xavier has a go-to stud in the frontcourt
Every team needs a stud and Xavier has just that in starting forward Naji Marshall. Last season was marred by injury issues for Marshall but if he is healthy all year he could be one of the best players in the nation. Even with injury issues last year Marshall averaged 14.7 points (.394/.277/.722), 7.2 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game last season. His health will be one of the keys to this season.
An impact transfer
Ohio U Transfer Jason Carter may be the most impactful transfer in the Big East this season. Over the course of last year with Ohio, Carter posted averages of 16.5 points (.481/.343/.718), 6.7 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game. Carter is a player that can do it all and if he gets healthy he could be the player that pushes Xavier to the next level as a team. To say Carter is the perfect fit for the Xavier program may be a huge understatement.
The Musketeers’ core four of Goodin, Scruggs, Marshall, and Jones is one of the best in the entire nation, while Jason Carter is a strong graduate transfer addition as well. Getting healthy is the big focus right now and if this Xavier team is healthy they can definitely win the Big East this season.
Xavier has never made a trip to a Final Four but if everything comes together this team has the talent to make Xavier’s final four dream a reality.