Trevon Bluiett

All hail Xavier: Trevon Bluiett is coming back

Christmas has come early for the Xavier men’s basketball team. Trevon Bluiett announced that he will be returning for his senior season. Here’s a few reasons why this isn’t your regular old sports update- this is BIG news.

Trevon Bluiett gets buckets

I think the headline says it all. Bluiett has been a dream for head coach Chris Mack because his scoring average has consistently gone up each year. As a freshman he averaged 11 points per game, which increased to 15.1 his sophomore year and 18.5 this past season. He has also averaged over four rebounds per game in all three seasons.

Let us not forget when he dropped 40 points against Cincinnati this year, despite losing the game. In fact, he shot better from behind the 3-point arc (81.8 percent) than he did from the free throw line (77.8 percent). Now that is respectable.

The Indianapolis native shot 43.8 percent from the field while averaging 35.1 minutes per game throughout the season. It’s no doubt he’ll be putting in a lot of time this summer to further increases his averages and draft stock for next year.

future big east title

Trevon will be in good company with returners J.P. Macura (who averaged 14.4 PPG last season), Sean O’ Mara, Kaiser Gates and Quentin Goodin.

Quentin Goodin averaged 3.4 assists per game and 5.1 points per game. As a freshman he averaged 24.1 minutes per game and gave the team good boosts throughout the season.

He scored 16 points against St. John’s the second time around and 15 points in a two-point victory over Creighton. Throughout the tournament he played a lot of minutes but didn’t put up big numbers. Hopefully with a year of experience under his belt, he’ll be able to contribute more next year.

Trevon Bluiett

Mandatory photo credit: Orlando Rising

Sean O’ Mara will bring great senior leadership to Xavier’s squad. He and Trevon will be able to fearlessly lead the team. Sean only played an average of 13.8 minutes per game last year, but with players leaving, there will be an opportunity to pick up more minutes.

Kaiser Gates, the 6-foot-8 forward from Georgia, will be entering his junior year for the Musketeers. He added 14 points against Florida State in the second round of the tournament and will be a strong presence in the forward position.

In addition to the wealth of returners, Xavier has the 12th-ranked incoming freshman class as well as Kerem Kanter (Green Bay graduate transfer).

As for freshman, the Musketeers are adding Paul Scruggs, Naji Marshall, Jared Ridder, Elias Harden and Kentrevious Jones to their roster. Scruggs had offers from Louisville, Michigan State, Kansas, Indiania, Washington plus a few more. At Xavier, he’ll have a direct impact at the point guard position.

Xavier came in seventh place in a very tough Big East conference this past year. They were topped by Villanova, Butler and Marquette to name a few.

However, not many teams have the same amount of returning power and young guns to compete with this seasoned Xavier team. Next year will be interesting to watch as the Musketeers look to run at a high-pace in conference play and the tournament.

NCAA tournament hopes

Tournament time might as well be known as Trevon time. He averaged 21.3 points per game in their four-game tournament run. If you don’t recall their March Madness run, here’s a quick recap: wins over Maryland, Florida State and Arizona but a loss to Gonzaga.

Trevon knows the atmosphere and he’s already showed that he can perform well under pressure. Surely, he will do the same thing next year.

As a whole, Xavier is bringing back six out of nine of their top scorers. Don’t forget, they still reached the Elite Eight without Edmond Sumner (torn ACL) and they have a great freshman class, as stated above. The sky is the limit for this team.

Xavier has always been a consistently good tournament team as well. Last year they made it to the second round and lost by three to Wisconsin. Trevon’s freshman year, the Musketeers made it to the Sweet Sixteen and lost by eight to a second-ranked Arizona team.

The statistics speak for themselves, Xavier is not a team you want to mess with, especially with Trevon Bluiett coming back.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Which March Madness Cinderella is Staying?

The Sweet 16 is an amazing accomplishment in it amongst itself. It’s an accomplishment that many college basketball programs don’t see very often. High expectations come with it.

Winning in college basketball is hard, and winning in the NCAA tournament is even harder. Time after time we’ve seen favorite teams go down. Some top teams don’t even make it past the round of 64.

Winning two games in the NCAA tournament and making it to the Sweet 16 isn’t a fluke. The teams in the Sweet 16 deserve to be there because they all won two games (sometimes three if they were in a play-in game). That is a hard thing to do in the NCAA.

We’ve now officially gotten to the point where we find out which teams are for real. We will find out in this next round what the Cinderella teams are made of and if they are here to stay.

Cinderella teams are traditionally defined as teams that are seeded ten or over. All of these teams are not necessarily “Cinderella” teams, but they are by no means the favorite to win or even be here in the first place.

Let’s take a look at the teams that most people didn’t expect to be here and how they might fair along the rest of the way.

Xavier

March Madness Cinderella

Xavier guard Trevon Bluiett goes up to score against Florida State Defender in their game last weekend. (Photo/ Getty Images)

The Xavier Musketeers make their eighth appearance in the Sweet 16 as the highest seed (11) left in the tournament.

A victory over Maryland in the first round and nearly a 30-point victory in the second round over third-seeded Florida State puts the Musketeers a step closer to their third appearance in the Elite eight in program history.

Junior guard Trevon Bluiett, who averages 18.5 points a game, helped Xavier finish 21-13 overall with a conference record of 9-9. That was good enough for an 11 seed after losing to Creighton in the Big East tournament.

They now face their toughest task yet, the Arizona Wildcats. The Wildcats come in as a two seed and a favorite for many to win the entire tournament. Xavier will look to become the highest seed to ever win the tournament after their two big wins.

Michigan

The Michigan Wolverines are arguably the team with the most momentum and burst into the Sweet 16 as a seven seed. The Wolverines are coming off of a Big Ten tournament championship after their plane skidded off the runway en route to Washington D.C. for the tournament. They are poised, hungry and very good.

They beat Oklahoma State in the first round and a really good second-seeded Louisville team in the second round. The Wolverines had a rocky regular season, but with the leadership of senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. and the outbreaking stardom of sophomore forward Moritz Wagner from Germany, Michigan is in good shape to move onto the next round.

With a matchup against the Oregon Ducks, who lost one of their key contributors Chris Boucher before the start of the tournament, many believe this game to be the one where the underdog prevails.

South Carolina

March Madness Cinderella

South Carolina players celebrate their victory over Duke on Sunday with their coach Frank Martin (Photo/Bob Donnan)

South Carolina advanced to their first Sweet 16 since 1973 with a big win over second-seeded Duke. The Gamecocks look to advance to their program’s first Elite Eight.

With another tough matchup against third-seeded Baylor, the Gamecocks look to their leader, Sindarius Thornwell, to lead them to victory. The Gamecocks are not always your most flashy and good-looking team, but they get the job done.

Baylor may be the perfect opponent for the Gamecocks due to both teams’ scrappy and fast-pace play. That will make an interesting and entertaining matchup.

Wisconsin 

Wisconsin comes in on a high after taking down tournament number one seed Villanova. Many believe the Badgers were underseeded and should have gotten a better seed. Nevertheless, here they are.

With a matchup against the Florida Gators, who are also coming off of an utterly dominant victory over Virginia, the Badgers are actually favored by many despite being the lower seed.

The Badgers look to win their first NCAA championship since 1941, and they very well could.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Players That Can Lead Their Team to an Upset Victory in the 2017 NCAA Tournament

The best part of the NCAA Tournament year in and year out are the upsets. The unheralded team knocks off the national powerhouse and goes down in history. Every team that pulls off the upset has a player that leads them to victory. C.J. McCollum scored 30 points on Duke in Lehigh’s upset. Sherwood Brown dropped a total of 41 points in Florida Gulf Coast’s run to the Sweet 16.

Not all upsets have to be extreme as a 15 seed beating a two seed, like the ones previously mentioned, but every upset needs a star. Here are some players that can be that catalyst for their team:

Trevon Bluiett, Xavier Musketeers

The Xavier Musketeers are a popular pick to beat Maryland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Musketeers will be without point guard Edmond Sumner, who is out for the season with a torn ACL. If they do pull off the upset it will be in no doubt because of Bluiett.

Bluiett is averaging 18.1 points per game and shooting 44% from the floor. He has the ability to get hot in an instant and can go from no points to 20 within minutes as a classic shooter, who hardly ever drives to the basket. Bluiett has been in the NCAA Tournament before, but has yet to score more than 10 points in a game in five career tournament games.

His crowning moment this year was his performance against cross-town rival Cincinnati. He scored 40 points on 12 of 15 shooting. He made nine of 11 three pointers in that game, in an unbelievable shooting night. Xavier ended up losing the game, but had he gotten more shots up, things could’ve been different.

With not having scored a lot in the NCAA Tournament, Bluiett is going to have all the motivation he needs to have a good game and lead his team to victory.

Chris Flemmings, UNC Wilmington

Flemmings has one of the best backstories in college basketball. He had to email UNC Wilmington to get a chance to play for them after playing at nearby Barton College, a division II school. Last season he came close to helping the Seahawks pull off an upset over Duke with 18 points.

Chris Flemmings

Photo courtesy: foxsports.com

UNC Wilmington has made it back to the dance and Flemmings has had another good season. He has averaged 15.8 points per game on 47% shooting. He hasn’t been as good at defense, as last year, but that is because he is tasked with guarding bigger players all the time. The Seahawks lack height and Flemmings usually has to pick up the slack by guarding power forwards.

The first round match-up for UNC Wilmington will be tough as they play an elite defensive team in Virginia. Flemmings will need to score a lot (which may not be as much as usual against such a good defensive team), and guard players bigger than him well.

JaCorey Williams, Middle Tennessee

After starting his career at Arkansas, Williams has played his last year of eligibility at Middle Tennessee. He didn’t do much with The Razorbacks, playing behind Bobby Portis and only averaging 4.8 points per game his junior season.

Williams sat out last season because of the NCAA transfer rules, but has been lighting up the scoreboard for the Blue Raiders this season. He is averaging 17.3 points per game and has given them another big presence in the paint, averaging 7.3 rebounds. He is shooting 54 percent on the season, which is about the percentage that will be needed for Middle Tennessee to advance.

The Blue Raiders will need him to be at his best, as they are playing a Minnesota team that has a lot of size. He may not need to score every basket, but does need to find the open man, if the Golden Gophers choose to double him in the post.

Keon Johnson, Winthrop

Johnson is one of the shortest players in college basketball at 5 feet 7 inches tall, but can score with the best of them. He is by far the most important player for the Eagles.

Keon Johnson

Photo courtesy: whri.com

His average of 22.5 points per game is good enough for 10th in the country. He steps up in big games, scoring 38 at Illinois and 24 at Dayton. Johnson is shooting 40% from behind the arc, but also does his part getting to the basket to amass his points.

Butler is an above average defensive team, but Johnson should be able to get his shots up. If he converts, Winthrop can take Butler to the wire.

Marcus Marshall, Nevada

Nevada has been a trendy pick to pick Iowa State and Marshall is the reason why. Marshall played his first three seasons at Missouri State before transferring to Nevada.

Marshall averages 19.8 points per game and hits 3.3 three point field goals per game. He scored 32 points at Washington, against future top draft pick Markelle Fultz. He can score against premier talent and will have to do so against Iowa State.

He will be matched up against Monte Morris, one of the best point guards in the country. If he can match him shot for shot, Nevada has a chance to win.

 

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2016-17 Big East Basketball Preview

On the heels of Big East media day there is a lot of buzz surrounding the conference that produced the 2015-16 champion, Villanova. A conference compiled of non-FBS football schools finally had its major breakthrough.  However, there is still plenty to talk about 2016-17.

They’re Back!

So you thought Villanova was a one time deal? Wrong.  Despite the major losses of Daniel Ochefu and Ryan Arcidiacono the Wildcats are still very much a threat.  They were the overwhelming pick for the top spot in the preseason poll. Jay Wright’s reigning champions return the preseason player of the year in Josh Hart, championship hero Kris Jenkins and Jalen Brunson. Jenkins was voted preseason First Team All-Big East and Brunson was given honorable mention.

Kris Jenkins and the Wildcats cut down the nets in Houston. (Photo courtesy of usatoday.com)

Kris Jenkins and the Wildcats cut down the nets in Houston. (Photo courtesy of usatoday.com)

The team returns six players that played in all 40 games.  This includes sophomore Mikal Bridges. A highly touted recruit, Bridges could be the one to replace Arcidiacono’s production after a productive first tour. The team did take a serious blow in their quest to fill the void left by Ochefu.  Five star recruit Omari Spellman likely would have been in the starting five for the Wildcats, but the NCAA ruled him ineligible. This makes Eric Paschall the only notable addition to the team.  A Fordham transfer, he is the former 2014-15 Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year. He did practice with the team last year, thus is familiar with the system.

Despite the departed pieces of the current champs, Nova will have a successful season.  There is no reason that they should not win the regular season conference title. Even with all of the talent concentrated at places like Duke, Kentucky and Oregon, the Wildcats should be in the running for another NCAA title. At minimum they should make the Elite Eight. Anything other than that would be a let down.

Other Contenders

The Xavier Musketeers finished second in the preseason poll, right where they did in the 2015-16 standings. The Musketeers had an early exit from the NCAA Tournament due to Wisconsin’s Bronson Koenig’s fall-away jumper in the second round. Chris Mack’s team loses two big bodies in Jalen Reynolds and James Farr, as well as former Indiana transfer Remy Abell.

Trevon Bluiett (5) and Edmund Sumner (4) are two of the best returnees in the Big East. (Photo courtesy of zimbio.com)

Trevon Bluiett (5) and Edmund Sumner (4) are two of the best returnees in the Big East. (Photo courtesy of zimbio.com)

The team does return Big East preseason first teamers Edmund Sumner and Trevon Bluiett. The two were the leading scorers on the team in 2015-16. Bluiett showed improvements in several statistical categories including a seven percent increase from deep to 39.8%. Sumner is an excellent distributor and will lead the team at the one this year while still grabbing more than three boards per game. Another key returnee would be Myles Davis, however his status for the season is uncertain as he is under an indefinite suspension. The team did add three  four star recruits, as well as Florida A&M transfer Malcom Bernard who averaged 14.4 points and 7.0 rebounds along with 2.3 steals per game. Bernard could help the Musketeers on both ends of the floor in place of Abell.

Third in the poll are the Creighton Blue Jays who added Marcus Foster from Kansas State. After sitting out the 2015-16 season, Foster is ready to contribute. Foster would be on the receiving end of Maurice Watson Jr. The former transfer is a prolific creator for those around him. Watson Jr. led the Big East in assists last season after transferring from Boston.

With no notable recruits Foster, Watson Jr. and fellow returnee Cole Huff will be counted on to lead the team in 2016-17.  All three are transfers which have become a key part of Greg McDermott luring players to Omaha. Senior Isaiah Zierden will also play a key role.  He was among the teams leading scorers last year and his advanced stats show that he also had an impact on the defensive end.

Creighton Blue Jays Transfer Players
Player Former School
Maurice Watson Jr. Boston
Marcus Foster Kansas State
Cole Huff Nevada
Kaleb Joseph* Syracuse
*Not eligible for 2016-17 season.

Georgetown, Seton Hall and Butler are all possible contenders, but not likely to make much noise.  Seton Hall won the Big East tournament but lost Isaiah Whitehead early to the NBA. John Thompson’s Hoyas did not even crack the AP top 25 last season. Butler lost two program staples in Roosevelt Jones and Kellan Dunham to graduation.  Of these three, Butler had the most success last year, but also lost the most going into this season.

Off the Map

The Providence Friars were a power packed team in 2015-16. Ben Bentil and Kris Dunn left early for the NBA as they should have. Dunn was one of the most prolific point guards in the country as a junior. Bentil stepped up and led the team in scoring and rebounds.

With their exit, Providence loses nearly half of its 74 points per game. They will rely on Rodney Bullock and Kyron Cartwright for their team identity.  The only other notable addition is four star recruit Alpha Diallo. Diallo possesses the ability to move the ball on the wing, but will need to improve his shot if he wishes to impact the Friars season. The degree of difficulty to replace two talents like Bentil and Dunn likely means a rebuilding year for Providence.

 

Early College Basketball Top Five for 2016-2017

The college basketball season was very competitive and had a lot of drama that lasted through the championship game. Now the wait is on. Seven months without college basketball. It is never too early to start talking about next season. Here are my top five teams for next season:

Grayson Allen will try to lead Duke to another championship next season. Photo courtesy espn.go.com.

  1. Duke Blue Devils- Duke lose Brandon Ingram and Marshall Plumlee, but returns every other key player. Grayson Allen, Matt Jones and Luke Kennard can light it up from the floor. Amile Jefferson will be back for another year and fill the role of glue guy in the post for the Blue Devils. Chase Jeter and Derryck Thornton will be expected to make huge strides this off-season. In addition to all these players coming back for Duke, they will also have three top recruits that will help them next season. Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum are the top two recruits in the country and should be solid forwards for Duke. Frank Jackson is a shooting guard who should be able to provide the Blue Devils with depth in his first year.

    Isaiah Briscoe will need to improve his shooting before next season. Photo courtesy kentucky.com.

  2. Kentucky Wildcats- Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray, Skal Labissiere and Alex Poythress are all gone for the Wildcats, but everyone else should return to school for another year. Guard Isaiah Briscoe will bring defense, toughness and driving ability to the team next season. Dominique Hawkins will also be a defensive force at the guard position for the Wildcats. Charles Matthews is the only true wing returning and should be much improved next season. There will be a lot of big guys on Kentucky next season and hopefully a few of them can step up. Derek Willis will be back to stretch the defenses with his three point shooting. Marcus Lee needs to add a post move or two this off-season, but will be an athletic big at the very least next season. The Wildcats will have two physical big guys in Isaac Humphries and Tai Waynard. In addition to these role players the Wildcats also have the number one recruiting class in the country. De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk will see a lot of playing time with the loss of Ulis and Murray and are more than capable of being successful. Bam Adebayo is a power forward who is the most physically ready for college basketball out of the entire recruiting class.

    If Trevon Bluiett goes back to school, the Musketeers will be tough to beat. Photo courtesy usatoday.com.

  3. Xavier Musketeers- Only two players should be leaving the Musketeers this off-season. James Farr and Remy Abell are both graduating. These are two important players, but Xavier will be fine without them. Jalen Reynolds and Trevone Bluiett have their names in the draft, but will probably elect to come back to school. Bluiett is a star, who can take over a game with his offensive game. Reynolds is a physical force on the inside, but needs to keep his head in the game in order to be great. Myles Davis and J.P. Macura will provide great outside shooting. At point guard Ed Sumner will create match-up troubles with his size and driving ability. Sean O’Mara will have to step up and play well behind Reynolds. The Musketeers were very deep last season and should be again next season, if players like Kaiser Gates, Larry Austin and Makinde London can all take a step forward.

    Bronson Koenig was clutch last year for the Badgers and should see continued success next season. Photo courtesy stack.com.

  4. Wisconsin Badgers- The Badgers literally lose no key players from their team heading into next season. The problem is, as of now, they aren’t bringing any in either. Wisconsin had a rough start to the season with a lot of distractions of Bo Ryan retiring, but once Greg Gard got the team they settled in and made it to the Sweet 16. Bronson Koenig is one of the more underrated point guards in college basketball and should be a great floor general yet again. On the wing Nigel Hayes has turned into a good all-around player. The most important player for this ranking is Ethan Happ, who really came on late in the season for the Badgers and provided a good inside presence.

    Dillon Brooks returns and will lead the Ducks to another great season. Photo courtesy usatoday.com.

  5. Oregon Ducks- Dwayne Benjamin and Elgin Cook are graduating, but two other seniors should get another year of eligibility. Chris Boucher, their best big man, got a waiver from the NCAA for an extra season. Dylan Ennis is also applying for an extra year of eligibility after only playing 21 minutes this season due to injury. Those two guys are good, but the main reason Oregon is on this list is that they return Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey, both of whom are stars for an Oregon team that received a one seed this season.

Stay tuned for the rest of the top 25!

Mid-Season Final Four Picks

The college basketball season is half way over and there are a lot more games to be played, but it is never too early to start predicting the Final Four. There has been enough games to see which teams are showing signs of being able to make a deep run in March Madness. These are the teams that I predict will be in the Final Four this season.

Buddy Hield

Buddy Hield has all the tools to lead Oklahoma to a Final Four.

 

  1. Oklahoma Sooners- The Sooners have just one loss this season and it was to Kansas. That game went to triple overtime and was well played by both teams. If Oklahoma can go into that environment and battle that well, they have the potential to win it all this April. Oklahoma has a star player who can get points at any time, in Buddy Heild, which will come in handy in highly competitive games in the tournament. The other members of the starting five are also very talented and can score when Heild is being shut down. The guards Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard are both talented and can be useful in the guard-centric game that is March Madness. The post has two good players in Khadeem Lattin and Ryan Spangler who can get rebounds and score from the post. The only problem that may come to end the Sooners’ goals of reaching the Final Four are their lack of depth. Against Kansas, their bench had no player play for more than 16 minutes or score more than three points. The bench had a total of five points in the 55 minutes played. If the Sooners can get over their lack of depth they will be in the Final Four.

    If Marcus Paige is fully healthy, North Carolina will be dangerous in March.

  2. North Carolina Tarheels- North Carolina has a very experienced team to work with this season. The most important player is point guard Marcus Paige, who does everything for the Tarheels. He has only played 11 games, but his ability to stay healthy will determine his team’s success this season. He averages 15 points and five assists per game and will get better once he gets 100 percent healthy. Brice Johnson provides North Carolina with an athletic big man who can score and play defense. Their other starting big man, Kennedy Meeks, has also had injury problems, but is a physical presence in the paint. Justin Jackson and Joel Berry average 13 points per game to help with the scoring punch. The Tarheels have talent and depth with nine players averaging over 10 minutes per game. They will need this depth come tournament time in order to reach the Final Four.

    Trevon Bluiett isn’t talked about a lot nationally, but the Musketeers leading scorer is one of the most talented players in the country.

  3. Xavier Musketeers- The Xavier Musketeers have had one bad game all season and that was a loss at Villanova by 31 points. This happened to be under bad circumstances as point guard Ed Sumner had to leave the game with a significant head injury only a few minutes into the game. He still hasn’t returned, but Xavier has won every game since. The Musketeers have great shooters in, Trevon Blueitt, Myles Davis and J.P. Macura, who help stretch the defense. When the defense is stretched Jalen Reynolds and James Farr are able to face one on one coverage in the post, which is a match-up they usually win. When Sumner comes back, he and Remy Abell will be able to penetrate defenses and cause them to break down. The Musketers also have depth, so much so that they can’t find minutes for all of their talented players. If they can keep the players happy and playing as a team, they will be able to make their first ever Final Four.

    Tyler Ulis has been the main reason Kentucky has been successful and will be the key to a deep tournament run.

  4. Kentucky Wildcats- Honestly all of the teams in the top 15 are so close in how well they have played that this spot is a toss up.  Kentucky has beaten Duke and Louisville, but has lost to Ohio State, UCLA and LSU. With four trips to the Final Four in the last five years, John Calipari has a knack of getting his teams to peak late in the season. The Wildcats have great guard play, which is always a key to winning in March. Point guard Tyler Ulis has done exactly what his team has needed from him this season, by scoring, passing and defending. Jamal Murray is a great outside shooter, who can fill out a stat sheet within a couple of minutes. He does take some ill-advised shots, but outside of him and Ulis the rest of the team hasn’t scored enough this season for Murray not to shoot the ball a lot. The third starting guard is Isaiah Briscoe. Briscoe can’t shoot well, but does defend well and get to the basket on the offensive end. The big men have been the issue this season for Kentucky. Alex Poythress has been inconsistent, Marcus Lee can only score on dunks and freshman center Skal Labissiere hasn’t been strong enough to pull down rebounds or get his shots off. The inside is a mess, but Calipari will find a way to make Poythress more consistent before the year is finished, while the guards will continue to improve as the season goes on.