Category Archives: Xavier

Xavier’s basketball future looking bright

Indiana transfer Remy Abell has announced he’ll transfer to Xavier, continuing a strong run of commitments for coach Chris Mack and the Musketeers as they prepare to move to the Big East.

Abell, a 6’4 guard out of Louisville, Ky., played two seasons at Indiana and will have two more at Xavier after sitting out the 2013-14 season.

Also on Friday the school announced the addition of 6’8 Bulgarian forward Aleksandar Vezenkov, who’s played for his country’s junior national team and as an amateur in a Greek pro league. The 17-year old Venenkov is eligible to play next season.

With essentially a whole lineup of five players either concentrating on academics or playing elsewhere last season, a relatively young Xavier team took its lumps and missed the postseason but still finished 17-14. If Jalen Reynolds and Miles Davis get eligible and are ready to contribute for this season, the Musketeers will be in position to take a leap.

Joining Vezenkov in this summer’s incoming freshman class are 6’5 forward Kamall Richards and point guard Brandon Randolph,a  four-star prospect by Scout.com rated as the nation’s 15th best point guard prospect. Big man transfer Matt Strainbook (Cleveland/Western Michigan) will also be eligible this season.

Xavier already has two commits in the class of 2014, from four-star power forward Melvin Swift of Houston and three-star guard Edmond Sumner of Detroit. With Semaj Christon as the likely centerpiece for the next three years, the future for Xavier could be very bright.

Mark Lyons makes unique Sweet 16 history

DAYTON, Ohio – Ohio State’s next stop is Los Angeles, where the Buckeyes will play Arizona on Thursday in the Sweet 16 at the

Staples Center.

Ohio State Coach Thad Matta and Arizona coach Sean Miller are close from Miller’s time as a Xavier assistant under Matta (before Miller became Xavier head coach), and there’s also another Xavier connection and storyline in Thursday’s game.

Mark Lyons scored 27 points in Arizona’s win over Harvard on Saturday and becomes the first player to play in the Sweet 16 with different teams in back-to-back years. Lyons reunited with Miller this year for his senior season after departing Xavier last spring.

It will be the third Sweet 16 in which Lyons has played. Xavier also made the Sweet 16 in 2008-09, when he was a partial qualifier.

Lyons is averaging 15.4 points per game this season, a career high. He also had 23 points in Arizona’s win over Belmont in Thursday’s first round.

Lyons had a productive — and interesting — career at Xavier. In a statement last April announcing his departure, Xavier coach Chris Mack said: “After our end of the season meeting with Mark it became apparent that a change for both parties was the right thing moving forward. During our meeting expectations were outlined for his fifth and final season, areas in which I believe needed improvement. Mark did not recognize these expectations as being important and ultimately it was decided that a change of scenery would be in his best interest. I wish Mark well.”

For those planning ahead, the East regional games (Indiana-Syracuse and Marquette vs. Miami or Illinois) will also be played on Thursday. The South and West regions will play Friday and Sunday.

Xavier, VCU tied atop A-10 standings

As January becomes February, who’s in first place in the Atlantic 10?

“Almost everybody” is not a bad answer.

The shiny, new A-10 is as competitive and as deep as advertised, and a little less than a full month into league play it’s anybody’s race. No. 10 Butler went to Saint Louis and got blitzed Thursday night, 75-58, dropping back to the pack at 4-2 in the league.

Mathematically, VCU and Xavier lead at 5-2. Five teams are 4-2, and LaSalle is 4-3. LaSalle has beaten both VCU and Butler.

The margin for error is very slim, and the fact that teams play one one conference opponent twice makes things even less predictable. Saint Louis and Butler will meet again in February. So, too, will Dayton and Xavier after they played to the buzzer on Wednesday night.

Xavier already beat Butler way back on Nov. 12, but that was a pre-scheduled non-conference game. The one that counts is at Butler in early March.

After a nightmarish December, not many would have seen Xavier atop the league now. It’s still a long way to March, and anything can happen. If these first few weeks have taught us anything, it’s that there’s no such thing as a gimme and that no team is going to win this thing without a few more losses and more than a little luck.

College BB notes: Hoops marathon, Preseason NIT and more

College basketball just kind of sneaks up on people.

There are reasons for that, and most of them start with “football.”

Starting Monday night and through Tuesday, college basketball both commands and deserves a little attention. Gone are those gimmick games on aircraft carriers; here is the preseason NIT and a 24-hour college hoops marathon.

Of local interest Monday night is Bowling Green vs. Cleveland State at Michigan in the NIT. The winner plays Michigan (assuming Michigan beats IUPUI) on Tuesday night, with the winner of that game going to New York for next week’s semifinal. In another regional in Pittsburgh, we could have Pitt hosting C.J. McCollum and Lehigh on Tuesday night with a trip to New York on the line.

The 24-hour hoops marathon starts at 12:01 a.m. ET on Tuesday with West Virginia at Gonzaga, which whipped the Mountaineers in the NCAA Tournament last March to move on and play Ohio State. Eligible for West Virginia after sitting out last year is Dayton native and Dayton transfer Juwan Staten. Both of these teams should be NCAA Tournament games again.

Back in Ohio, Kent State hosts Temple at noon Tuesday and Xavier hosts Butler at 4 p.m. Gifted Xavier freshman guard Semaj Christon is expected to make his long awaited Xavier debut after sitting out the Musketeers’ opener.

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Kent State is 2-0 in the hoops marathon, both in games played in the early morning. The Flashes beat Robert Morris in 2010 and won at West Virginia last year. Kent State is a young team this year but started its season with an impressive overtime upset of Drexel last Friday.

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At Big Ten Basketball Media Day last month, I asked Michigan coach John Beilein if losing to Ohio in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year took anything from away from his team’s regular-season accomplishments that included sharing the Big Ten title with Michigan State and Ohio State.

“I don’t think it soured anything at all,” he said. “Our guys hated to lose. We wanted to keep going. But it was a good lesson about the NCAA Tournament and the margin of error. Sometimes you get the lucky bounce of the ball, and sometimes you don’t. Teams that play deep usually get a bounce or two.

“We’re motivated to try to win the Big Ten. We want to get to the NCAA Tournament every year, and when you get there you have to play well. We love playing in the Preseason NIT or something like this because we frame our season to say, ‘Here’s the first championship we can try to win.’

“Just getting out of Ann Arbor to get to New York is going to be difficult. Those two games back-to-back, that’s like being a high seed and needing to win those two games back to back in March. It’s great prep for what we hopefully will see if we can get back to the NCAA Tournament.”

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Beilein on sophomore point guard, Columbus native and preseason All-American Trey Burke: “His physical development has been very good. He’s gotten stronger. He has strong hips and a stronger lower body. When you’re only 6-feet tall, there are many times you have to be able to go under somebody and be strong enough to do that, and he’s really done a great job working on that.”

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A clerical error by the compliance department — and not something either player did — has Akron forwards Nick Harney and Demetrius Treadwell suspended for the first three games of the season. They missed an overtime loss at Coastal Carolina last Friday and will miss tonight’s game vs. John Carroll and the opener of the Puerto Rico Tipoff Classic.

Suffice to say Akron probably wouldn’t have lost that game with those guys playing and point guard Alex Abreu (ankle) at 100 percent. Abreu is trying to get back to full speed as the Puerto Rico tournament will be played five minutes from where grew up.

The Zips are loaded again, and because Ohio won the MAC Tournament and went to the Sweet 16 last year, it’s easy to forget that Akron won its first MAC regular-season title. There were — and still are — much higher aspirations around the Akron program this year than the first-round NIT exit that ended last season. This is a team good enough to go to Puerto Rico and make a statement, but it will be tough to beat a team as talented as Oklahoma State in the first round without Harney and Treadwell, two of the Zips’ most gifted players.

Also in what’s a very good field in Puerto Rico are NC State, UMass, Penn State, Tennessee, Providence and UNC-Asheville.

High ranks for Ohio BB programs

The Basketball Times, a magazine and website that covers the sport you might think it covers, has released its latest, every-five-years ranking of the nation’s top college basketball programs.

This ranking isn’t just about winning, though. It’s based on five categories: winning percentage, NBA players, federal graduation rate, U.S. News and World Report academic reputation and program cleanliness.

Another way to say it: This is a good ranking to be a part of. In the newest ranking released this week, Ohio State came in at 14th and Xavier was 21st.

Xavier is one of only nine schools that have qualified for the rankings project every year it has been done (1997, 2002, 2007 and 2012). The other eight schools are Arizona, Connecticut, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Murray State, North Carolina and Syracuse.

The Basketball Times 2012 Top 25:

1. Duke

2. North Carolina

3. Gonzaga

4. Davidson

5. Wisconsin

6. Butler

7. Michigan State

8. Kansas

9. BYU

10. Creighton

11. Belmont

12. Utah State

13. Texas

14. Ohio State

15. Florida

16. Syracuse

17. Saint Mary’s

18. VCU

19. Kentucky

20. Pittsburgh

21. Xavier

22. Illinois

23. Marquette

24. Louisville

25. Arizona

Nevada

Kent, Xavier will host tip-off marathon games

Two Ohio college basketball teams will get unique national exposure on Tuesday, Nov. 13, when they participate in the ESPN tip-off marathon.

Kent State will host Temple at noon, and Xavier will host Butler at 4 p.m.

The tip-off marathon event features 24 consecutive hours of live college basketball, starting at midnight ET as Monday turns to Tuesday and going through the day and night before a neutral-site game between Duke and Kentucky tips at approximately 9:45 p.m. to conclude the event.

The Xavier-Butler game is especially unique because the schools are now both members of the Atlantic 10 Conference. The tip-off marathon game, which has been under contract since last winter, will not count as a conference game.

Kent State has won early-morning tip-off marathon games in each of the last two years, defeating Robert Morris at home in 2010 and winning at West Virginia last year.

This year’s event starts with West Virginia at Gonzaga at midnight ET. The Zags are expected to play a return game at West Virginia in the 2013-14 season.

With Butler in, A-10 wins realignment race again

You’ve heard of this whole realignment thing that’s reshaping college sports and threatens the future of several conferences, including the Big East, right?

No conference has done this wave of it better than the Atlantic-10.

While it’s football TV revenue that drives realignment in the first place, the A-10 is a basketball-first league that’s strengthened its basketball profile and overall quality. Both of 2011′s Cinderella Final Four teams, Butler and VCU, have joined the league and will begin play next fall.

Butler’s announcement came Tuesday afternoon. The previous plan had Butler remaining in the Horizon League for one more season. The A-10 will have 16 teams next basketball season.

The A-10 lost Temple (after the 2012-13 year) to the Big East, and that’s a significant loss. But getting Butler meant the conference got about as good a replacement for Temple as it could have hoped for, and getting VCU — and getting both immediately — is a slam dunk.

With Butler, Xavier and Dayton sharing the same air space, TV networks will put those games in key spots and rivalries should develop quickly. The same goes in Richmond, where the University of Richmond and VCU almost share the same zip code and aren’t far from the Philly schools. Butler’s Brad Stevens and VCU’s Shaka Smart are two of the country’s brightest young coaches and have become recognizable stars. This is a win-win situation for all involved.

Let’s be honest: Stevens and Smart won’t be at their current schools forever. Great, great move by the A-10 to ensure they’ll be in the conference for at least one year.

Both VCU and Butler bring back plenty for the 2013 college basketball season, as do Temple, Dayton, Saint Louis and St. Joseph’s. If Xavier’s highly-touted are freshmen are ready, the Musketeers could be an NCAA Tournament team again as well.

Might the A-10 be a five or six-bid league next March? It’s certainly possible. It’s definitely going to be a conference worth watching.