The Xavier Musketeers will be the first Big East team on the pitch of the 2020-21 season when they host the Xavier Invitational, the first of three games in three days for Xavier, Oakland on Wednesday afternoon. However, the Musketeers did not have the full roster when news broke Tuesday night that three players had been quarantined due to exposure to COVID.
As of Tuesday night, it remains unclear which three players are affected, but it could definitely play a role in how the Musketeers play out over the next three days. Playing three games in three days is already difficult, but it’s a very difficult question to do without having to be part of your roster.
Xavier finished last season between 19 and 13, taking the overall win from his first season under Travis Steele. It’s been a year of peaks and valleys for a Musketeer squad who played in the Big East between 7 and 10 and 8 and 8 last week of the season before losing to Providence and Butler to end the conference game, and to DePaul, to end his time at the Big East tournament in the first round. Had there been an NCAA tournament, the Musketeers would likely have been right in the bubble.
The Musketeers are moving into 2020-21 after last season’s leading and runner-up goal scorers and rebounders, Naji Marshall and Tyrique Jones, departed. Marshall also cited the Musketeers in per-game templates. Put it all together and Xavier has some holes to fill. Two possible instant differentiators? Graduate transfers Nate Johnson and Bryan Griffin. Johnson won the second team All Big-South at Gardner-Webb last season with an average of 13. 5 points per game while Griffin is one of the most intriguing transfers in all of college basketball, with an average D-II high of 14. 5 rebounds per game and 19. 6 points per game at Mercy College in New York. Zach Freemantle is also likely to get the chance to build on a solid freshman campaign that kicked off Xavier’s last 14 games of the 2019-20 season. In the newbies trio, add Dwon Odom, CJ Wilcher and Colby Jones and the Musketeers have plenty of options and players ready to take chances.
The Golden Grizzlies are entering the season looking like a very average Horizon League team, ranking sixth among the 12 teams at the conference. Oakland went 16-17 last season and saved things after being 0-3, 4-9 and 11-16 at various points in the year. Guard Rashad Williams returns for his senior season after leading Oakland at 19. 5 points per game last season. Second best goalscorer and leading rebounder, Xavier Hill-Mais, has just graduated. Xavier fans may remember him from his 30-point performance with eight rebounds in the Musketeers 73-63 win in December 2018, the last time these teams met.
Xavier Musketeers, College Basketball, Oakland Golden Grizzlies-Men’s Basketball, Bradley Braves-Men’s Basketball, Big East Conference, Travis Steele, Brian Wardle
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