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Monday, September 16, 2013
Updated: October 9, 9:24 AM ET
Preview: Xavier Musketeers

By Mike Hume
ESPN Insider

Semaj Christon
Semaj Christon had a breakout freshman season, averaging 15.2 points per game for Xavier.

2013-14 Big East Projected Standings

1. Creighton | 2. Georgetown | 3. Marquette | 4. Villanova | 5. St. John's | 6. Butler | 7. Providence | 8. Xavier | 9. Seton Hall | 10. DePaul
Links to every conference


Xavier Musketeers

2012-13: 17-14 (9-7 Atlantic 10)
In-conference offense: 1.02 points per possession (11th A-10)
In-conference defense: 0.98 points allowed per possession (2nd A-10)

After an uncharacteristic down season, Xavier will look to return to prominence in 2013-14; its ability to do so will depend largely on whether 6-foot-3 sophomore Semaj Christon can realize his vast potential.

Projected starting lineup

Pos. Name Year
C
Matt Stainbrook
Jr.
F
Isaiah Philmore
Sr.
F
Justin Martin
Jr.
G
Dee Davis
Jr.
G
Semaj Christon
Soph.

Xavier will miss the rebounding prowess of Travis Taylor (team-best 9.0 rebounds per game last season) and the sharp shooting of Brad Redford (44.6 percent from deep in 2012-13), but otherwise return five of their top seven players. The focal point will certainly be Christon, who used 30.2 percent of Xavier's possessions in 2012-13; only Creighton All-American Doug McDermott used more (31.7) among the teams that will comprise the Big East this season. There are some who believe Christon possesses lottery-pick potential. That may be true, but if he's to achieve that status he'll need to up his efficiency in the season ahead. Christon's offensive rating of 95.9 doesn't exactly compare favorably to those of Trey Burke (121.2), C.J. McCollum (115.7) or Michael Carter-Williams (102.6), the only three lottery point guards in a 2013 draft many perceived to be weak overall.

The biggest area where Christon can improve is likely also the easiest -- the foul line. A free throw rate of 51.0 demonstrates how well the speedy guard can get to the basket and draw contact. But it's what he does next that matters: Christon tossed up a total of 186 foul shots last season, but only sunk 67.2 percent. (Taylor, No. 2 on the team in FTAs, didn't help matters much either, converting just 59.3 percent of his foul shots.) Christon doesn't have many holes with the ball in his hand, but that's a big one.

As Christon continues to carry the Musketeers, it's likely that 6-1 freshman PG Brandon Randolph will wait in the wings as a strong bench option. The Inglewood, Calif., native ranks No. 86 on the ESPN 100 and very much fits the mold Christon has shaped as a scoring-minded point.

But as strong as the Musketeers are at that position, it didn't do them much good a season ago. To improve on a 17-14 record that included losses to Pacific and Wofford, Xavier's supporting cast is going to need to step up. Maybe that comes from the 3-point prowess of now-eligible Myles Davis, or improved interior play courtesy of incoming 6-10 transfer Matt Stainbrook, or Jalen Reynolds, who -- like Davis -- was ineligible last season.

If the incoming players click, Xavier should outplay this projection. If not, well, a one-man show might equal a one-way ticket to another NCAA tournament absence.

Projected 2013-14 conference finish: 8th