Desmond Claude, Xavier Musketeers, Big East basketball

Two major injuries have suddenly put the Xavier Musketeers in a tough position heading into the season.

As is tradition, CBB Review is again ranking the top 100 teams heading into the new college basketball season. Each day, we will reveal the next team until we reach the team slotted at number one. Follow along with #CBBRank on all our social media channels.

We knew it would bite us in the foot. As a page, we put together our CBB Rank more than 100 days before the countdown started. Of course, that means that we are bound to come across a team that may deserve to be ranked higher or lower because of roster moves that happen along the way.

In the 5? years that we’ve been doing this countdown, we’ve never had a team quite like the Xavier Musketeers, who lose not one, but two starters to injury – likely for the season. Not only that, but Zach Freemantle and Jerome Hunter are two frontcourt players. Freemantle, when healthy, is Xavier’s best player. Hunter would’ve been a key player as well, as he became an important pieces after Freemantle went down last season with a different injury.

Regardless, Sean Miller and Xavier will have to figure out a way to be successful with the team they do have. Xavier still boasts one of the best backcourts in the Big East, made up of transfers Dayvion McKnight and Quincy Olivari.

Past that, the Musketeers hope to develop a few breakout starts in hopes of competing in the Big East. I would like to point out that I did not include Lazar Djokovic and Gytis Nemeiksa, two international players who could also find a way into the rotation this season.

Click here to learn more about our preseason top 100 teams heading into the 2023-24 college basketball season.

Head coach: Sean Miller (19th season, 2nd at Xavier in current stint)

2022-23 record: 27-10 (15-5)

2023 postseason finish: Lost to Texas, 83-71, in Sweet 16 of NCAA Tournament

Notable departures: Souley Boum (NBA), Colby Jones (NBA), Jack Nunge (Pro), Adam Kunkel (Pro)

Notable non-conference games: at Purdue (Nov. 13), vs. Washington (Nov. 17, in Las Vegas), vs. San Diego State OR Saint Mary’s (Nov. 19), vs. Houston (Dec. 1), vs. Cincinnati (Dec. 9)

Projected Rotation

PG: Dayvion McKnight (6-0, 188, Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 16.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.8 SPG (Western Kentucky)

SG: Quincy Olivari (6-3, 200, Gr.-Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 18.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 36.4 3P% (Rice)

SF: Desmond Claude (6-6, 203, So.)

2022-23 stats: 4.7 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.8 APG

PF: Abou Ousmane (6-10, 240, Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 11.1 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.3 BPG (North Texas)

C: Logan Duncomb (6-10, 250, Jr.)

2022-23 stats: 2.9 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 0.2 APG, 75.0 FG%, 5.7 MPG, 9 games played

6: Trey Green (6-0, 160, Fr.)

247Sports Composite No. 62 rated recruit

7: Kam Craft (6-6, 211, So.)

2022-23 stats: 2.6 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.3 APG, 35.3 3P% (1.1 3PA/game), 6.7 MPG

8: Dailyn Swain (6-7, 200, Fr.)

247 Sports Composite No. 89 rated recruit

9: Reid Ducharme (6-7, 195, Fr.)

247 Sports Composite No. 120 rated recruit

10: Kachi Nzeh (6-8, 230, Fr.)

247Sports Composite No. 203 rated recruit

?: Zach Freemantle (6-9, 227, Gr.-Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 15.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.9 APG, 58.5 FG%

*Could be out for the season*

?: Jerome Hunter (6-8, 216, Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 7.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.3 APG, 57.5 FG%

*Could be out for the season*

Xavier Musketeers MVP: Dayvion McKnight

Even with a healthy Zach Freemantle, Dayvion McKnight would give him a run for the team MVP. McKnight transferred to Xavier after three very successful seasons in Conference USA with Western Kentucky.

A 6-0 point guard, McKnight is a very athletic player, averaging five boards per game last year with WKU. With Xavier now down a few guys in the frontcourt, McKnight will probably be called on to pitch in with his rebounding skills.

However, the number one asset McKnight brings is his ability to score the basketball. McKnight was fairly efficient at WKU, but the Big East is a different beast. If he can continue to be a scorer, alongside Olivari, the former Hilltopper should be able to be a leader for a Musketeers team in need of that.

Xavier Musketeers make-or-break player: Abou Ousmane

All of a sudden, a lot of pressure has been placed on North Texas transfer Abou Ousmane. With Freemantle and Hunter down, not only does Ousmane become a key frontcourt player, but he is now the go-to option offensively in the post.

Ousmane certainly has the skillsets, averaging double-digits in points per game last season with UNT. However, Unlike McKnight or Olivari, Ousmane still has a bit more progress to make to prove that he can carry that over to a Power 6 conference.

Of course, if Ousmane can replicate his averages and use his 6-10, 240-pound body to put up a fight in the Big East, it can help alleviate an otherwise major issue in the frontcourt. Ousmane could also use his experience to help Indiana transfer Logan Duncomb, who is a former McDonald’s All-American nominee.

The frontcourt will be the topic of Xavier basketball throughout the season, and it will only go as far as Ousmane can take it.

Key analytic: Assists per game

In 2022-23, no team averaged more assists per game than the Xavier Musketeers (19.1). With so many key players gone, including the top five leaders in assists per game, there’s a really good chance that Xavier won’t replicate last season’s performance.

However, the additions of McKnight and Olivari are major, as the two combined to average 6 APG last season. Desmond Claude is also a very underrated returner, who averaged nearly 2 APG last year and could be an x-factor for X, especially in that department. Freshman Trey Green is another point guard who could be key off the bench with the second unit.

However, one big key is how well Xavier shot the ball last season. The Musketeers ranked 5th in 3P% at 39.0% as a team. The bulk of that is gone, with Kam Craft being the lone returning player who could keep that average up. If the Musketeers can still shoot well, the assists will follow. Otherwise, McKnight and Olivari will have to create other ways to move the basketball and get open shots.

Xavier Musketeers 2023-24 projections

Projected conference finish: 6th in the Big East

Projected postseason ceiling: NCAA Tournament – Sweet 16 Appearance

One thought on “CBB Rank 2023: No. 33, Xavier Musketeers”
  1. Wow, Xavier has taken a huge lead in the race for worst breaks one month prior to the season beginning. With Freemantle and Hunter, I thought Xavier was a sure fire contender for the Big East championship and probable return participant in the Sweet 16. It becomes infinitely harder now, but a lot of talent remains. I absolutely love the backcourt. Souley Boum was one of the best transfer additions in the entire country last season, Colby Jones was amazing and departed for the NBA, and Adam Kunkel was a hard nosed knock down shooter. Despite all that, I don’t think this backcourt takes much of a step back, if any. Desmond Claude is going to be one of the absolute breakout stars in college basketball this season. Dayvion McKnight and Quincy Olivari were exceptional players and lights out scorers at the mid major level and I think their games translate well to this level. Trey Green is a highly rated recruit and future starting PG. If Cam Kraft gets a clean bill of health, he should provide additional depth. The frontcourt? Abou Ousmane is very talented coming from the NIT champs at North Texas but he’s going to need to be an absolute stud now as he has gone from probably the third option to the post to #1 with the injuries. Who else can you count on? The candidates are Logan Duncomb, who failed to live up to his billing at Indiana, 1 of 2 late European adds in Sasa Ciani and Lazar Djokovic, or lightly regarded freshman Kachi Nzeh.

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