Xavier continues to chase an elusive Final Four appearance, and the Musketeers have the guard who can take them there.
Trevon Bluiett is one of the top seniors in the country — often a dubious distinction in the one-and-done world of college basketball — but he’s the kind of veteran backbone that has fueled Xavier’s staying power on the national scene.
No. 17 Xavier, which knocked off No. 2 seed Arizona in the Sweet 16 last season before losing to Gonzaga in the West Regional final, opens this season against Morehead State at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati on Friday night.
Xavier has made three Elite Eight appearances since 2004.
Bluiett missed the team’s final two preseason games because of injury, but coach Chris Mack was optimistic after Saturday’s 78-38 victory over Thomas More College that Blueitt will be ready for the real games.
“Trevon was out there in warm-ups,” Mack said Saturday night. “I feel like if everything goes the way we planned, he’ll play Friday night.”
Blueitt was second in the Big East in scoring last season at 18.5 points per game and is a two-time first-team all-conference player. He enters the season with 1,585 career points, on pace to become the fifth 2,000-point scorer in school history and a potential All-American.
Blueitt, senior J.P. Macura (14.4 points per game) and sophomore point guard Quentin Goodin lead what should be a prolific perimeter attack. Goodin stepped in for injured Edmond Sumner last season and averaged 5.3 assists while starting the final 17 games.
Guards Paul Scruggs and Elias Harden, as well as forward Naji Marshall are part of an excellent freshman class that will contribute right away. Marshall scored a team-high 16 points and had a team-best nine rebounds against Thomas More.
“He’s a great player. He’s fun to coach,” Mack said of Marshall. “He’s learning. He’s a freshman. But he’s going to be a really, really good player for us.”
Another newcomer to watch will be 6-10 graduate transfer Kerem Kanter, whose brother Enes plays for the NBA’s New York Knicks. Kerem averaged 11.3 points and 6.3 rebounds at Green Bay last season.
Morehead State opened its exhibition season with a 92-67 loss at Kentucky on Oct. 30, when the Eagles got within two points in the second half before the Wildcats’ press took its toll.
Morehead State was 14-16 last season, 10-6 in the Ohio Valley Conference. The Eagles were predicted to finish ninth in the 12-team league this season in a vote of head coaches and sports information directors.
First-year coach Preston Spradlin, who is in his fourth season with the program overall, has no seniors and 10 newcomers, including six freshmen. The one returning junior, 6-7 forward Lamontray Harris, averaged 9.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season.
“(Harris) is a guy that, when I put my staff together, we started talking about our pieces coming back as we were building our new pieces coming in,” Spradlin said.
“He’s got great ability, great talent, great athleticism. He’s a big-time competitor and he really wants to win. And wants to be a great player in this league, because that’s what we talked about from day one in recruiting three years ago.”Let's