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No. 16: Xavier Musketeers


Mike Miller

Midnight Madness is Friday. So we’re kicking off our college basketball coverage with our men’s preseason Top 25. Look for five teams posted a day, all this week.

2010-11 record: 24-8 (15-1), 1st in Atlantic 10
Lost in NCAA tournament first round

Coach: Chris Mack, 50-17, 3rd year

Last NCAA miss: 2005

2011-12 roster [click here]
2011-12 schedule [click here]
2010-11 team stats [click here]

The good: A fully eligible and healthy roster. Sure, Xavier did just fine last year with essentially a seven-man rotation, but things can only get better now that sharpshooter Brad Redford has recovered from a knee injury and Justin Martin is eligible to play. That’s instant help. Adding transfer Travis Taylor also helps.

But the good really revolves around Tu Holloway.

Coming off a breakout season in which he did pretty much everything possible to help the Musketeers, Holloway’s as good as it gets. The A-10 player of the year is on the shortlist for national player of the year thanks to his scoring, passing, leadership and sheer desire to win. Yes, this is called fawning over a player. It’s also deserved.

The bad: Xavier’s 3-point shooting was poor last season (32.9 percent), but Redford should ensure that improves. He’s a career 44 percent shooter from beyond the arc.

Honestly, there’s not a lot to worry about with the Musketeers. The only reason that they’re not higher here is this lingering feeling that there’s not elite talent at Xavier, just good players and a good program.

(Is this merely a ploy to provide Xavier with motivation? Irritate Musketeer fans? Skepticism after those back-to-back season-ending losses to Dayton and Marquette? Maybe all three.)

The unknown: Normally, I’d fret about Holloway adjusting to having a less do-it-all role, but he’s done just fine with it previously. So ignore that.

The bigger unknown is how far Xavier advances in the NCAA tournament. Three straight trips to the Sweet 16 (two one of which ended in the Elite Eight) ended last season with a rare first-round loss. For one of the non-BCS programs to lose in the first round AND see Butler go to another Final Four must provide ample amounts of motivation.

So let’s see what that motivation produces.

Counting down the preseason Top 25

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.