The Musketeers fought hard during their tournament run, finally losing in the Sweet 16
By Charlie Gstalder, Opinions & Editorials Editor
Xavier men’s basketball team’s season ended early Saturday morning with an 83-71 loss to Texas.
Right away things weren’t going the Muskies’ way, literally — the team lost the jump ball before seeing Texas go on a 6-0 run over the first 90 seconds. Graduate student forward Jack Nunge got the lid off the basket for Xavier with a tipped in two, only for the team to go scoreless over their next few possessions.
Another few moments of clarity followed at the charity stripe, with freshman guard Desmond Claude splitting a pair of free throws and Boum sinking both. After that the Muskies were banished back to their frozen wasteland, missing their next eight shots. The pattern continued for the rest of the half with excellent offensive execution by the Longhorns, only occasionally disturbed by a Xavier basket. The Muskies averaged an agonizing two minutes between scores for the remainder of the first half.
As if twisting their horns in our wounds, Texas closed the half with a ridiculous, half court, buzzer beating heave, by forward Timmy Allen.
I wish I could write that the second half was better for Xavier or that Dana’s didn’t have to shut down their tent, but the March showers were unrelenting and occupancy requirements and the Longhorns had their day.
Xavier was never able to bring the lead to single digits, as Texas maintained the pressure all the way to the final buzzer, where their players celebrated and promptly called for the full time hiring of their Assistant Head Coach Rodney Terry, who took the reins mid-season after former Head Coach Chris Beard was fired for domestic violence allegations. At the time of writing, Terry signed a five year deal to return to the longhorns.
Despite the loss, the 2022-23 season can be considered an overwhelming success for the Muskies, who defied expectations in the first year of Head Coach Sean Miller’s second stint at the helm. The team finished with a 27-10 record, with an appearance in the Big East Finals, a return to the Big Dance as a three seed and two tournament wins to cement their successes.
The seniors deserve a lot of respect and credit for the team’s achievements. In particular, Boum, who’s Point God-ding as a sixth year transfer senior will likely prove to be a model for a new style of Miller offense; Zack Freemantle, who poured in buckets and corralled boards before a foot injury ended his season and Jack Nunge, the paint-patrolling, seven-foot sniper that anchored the team night in and out.
There’s some talk that Colby Jones may attempt to turn pro and test his chances in the draft this June, but without any slight towards Jones’ ability, I think it would be more prudent for him to return for another year of eligibility. Some scouts have Jones slotted as a mid second round or even late first round selection. The 6’6 guard’s athleticism, eye for scoring and ability to corral rebound and dish dimes would certainly be a boon to an NBA team, but I think he can soar even higher. With another year at Xavier under Miller’s increasingly guard centric offense, Jones will have ample opportunities to be a beast in the Big East and maybe even help Xavier dance deeper next March. And with scouts now on notice, Jones can expect to climb ever higher up draft boards.
While all of the seniors will surely be missed, there’s plenty to look forward to as Miller prepares to welcome in his first full recruiting class for the 2023-24 season. Keep an eye out for four-star recruit Trey Green, who may prove to be Xavier’s next prolific point guard, as well as Dailyn Swain and Reid Ducharme as they graduate high school and get ready to hit the hardwood at Cintas in the fall.