By: Adam Tortelli ~Staff Writer~
Xavier men’s basketball will kick off the highly anticipated 2015-16 season this Friday night against the nearby Miami University Redhawks. The team will look to continue last season’s Sweet 16 success. The game will mark the debut of freshman forwards Makinde London (who redshirted last season) and Kaiser Gates. With the departures of Matt Stainbrook and Dee Davis, Xavier will hope to tap newfound leadership from the likes of senior captains James Farr and Remy Abell in addition to redshirt junior guard Myles Davis.
Offensively, junior forward Jalen Reynolds and sophomore wing Trevon Blueitt will also be asked to carry a larger load. Both players showed promise last season to be dependable catalysts this season. While Reynolds demonstrated flashes of greatness last season, his emotions plagued his playing time in pivotal moments, translating into consistent foul trouble at the most inopportune times. From his first game, Blueitt foreshadowed great scoring ability to come. However, as defenses tailored their gameplans specifically to slow him down, he struggled to stay a step ahead of his opponents.
This game should not be too great of a challenge for Xavier, who defeated Miami easily the last time the Redhawks were in Cintas Center two years ago. Last season, the Redhawks finished just 13-19, including an underwhelming 8-10 in the much weaker Mid-American Conference. Xavier will hope to slow down senior Redhawk’s guard Eric Washington, the team’s leading scorer from last season.
The season’s first marquee matchup will come just a few days later as the Missouri Tigers make their first trip to Cincinnati in recent history on Nov. 17. Despite unrest on its campus, Missouri will try to steal a home game from the Musketeers, who own one of the best home court win percentages in the country. Challenging Xavier the most will be junior guard Wes Clark. Clark is clearly the Tigers’ top overall returning player after averaging more than 10 points, three rebounds, three assists and nearly two steals per game in the 2014-15 season. If the defense proves better than it was in its exhibition against Northwood, Xavier should easily start the season 2-0 before going to Ann Arbor to play Michigan.