Andy Mac Williams,
Game Two of the Travis Steele Era takes place Saturday afternoon at Cintas Center (4PM EST Tip-TV Fox Sports Ohio). 1-0 Xavier coming off Tuesday's opening home victory over IUPUI (82-69) plays old MCC foe Evansville. The Purple Aces (0-1) were blown out Thursday evening 99-60 by Illinois in Champaign. E-ville was never competitive and trailed 53-22 at the half. The Missouri Valley Aces seemingly are in full rebuild mode after firing 11 year coach Marty Simmons (now a Clemson assistant). Top players Ryan Taylor(21PPG) and Dru Smith(PG-14PPG-6 assists) immediately transferred to Northwestern and Mizzou. Coach's son Blake Simmons (10PPG-6 rebounds) graduated and that left a semi-bare cupboard for new man Walter McCarty.
He's an Evansville HS hoops legend who helped UK to the 1996 NCAA Title then played 10 NBA seasons and was plucked by the Aces from an assistant coaching gig with Brad Stevens at the Boston Celtics. Evansville seems set on returning to Valley prominence. McCarty did not come cheap. He had the cash to sign veteran assistants Todd Lickliter (Butler and Iowa) and Matthew Graves (Butler).
This season may be painful though as the Illinois loss and score 99-60 indicate. The Aces have a strong 6-5 Junior PG K.J. Riley who presents plenty of problems. 6-9 250 pound Senior post Dainius Chatkevious from Lithuainia is strong inside. McCarty signed D-3 scoring machine Shea Feehan (30PPG) from Eureka College in Illinois as a grad transfer. 6-7 215 John Hall is a good power forward type. McCarty wants to play fast and full court, but may not have the material until he goes through a couple recruiting cycles.
Evansville is 208 in the KenPom preseason ratings. X is predicted to win 79-64. Anything can happen. Xavier is very much a work in progress. Quentin Goodin was a full participant in practice Thursday and might play some off the bench against Evansville or he could be held out until Wisconsin next Tuesday at Cintas.
Naji Marshall is fully recovered from his illness. XU has won 40 straight home non-conference games dating back almost 6 seasons to a December 2012 56-55 loss to Wofford. The Muskies should win number 41 in a row vs E-ville, but stranger things have happened.
The Muskies lead 26-14. The teams played twice and sometimes three times a season between 1980 and 1994 when they both played in the MCC. Five years ago Marty Simmons brought his Aces to Cintas and led most of the game finally losing 63-60. Semaj Christon led Xavier with 19 points. Matt Stainbrook posted a 10 point 10 rebound double-double.