Thursday, November 04, 2010

Xavier Loses Another: Jamel McLean

The season hasn't even started yet and Xavier is already down three players. I talked last week about Brad Renford being lost for the season, and 2010 swing forward recruit Justin Martin was ruled ineligible for the season by the NCAA. They've now lost Jamel McLean for 4-6 weeks with a fractured orbital bone after he was elbowed in the face during an exhibition game against Northern Kentucky University two days ago.

McLean was one of two frontcourt starters for Xavier last season, along with Jason Love. Love has graduated, and McLean is expected to start this season alongside 7-footer Kenny Frease. Frease was a bit of a stiff in extended minutes last season, but he supposedly lost more than 20 pounds during the offseason and is expected to be far improved. While Xavier is without McLean they will likely start Andrew Taylor, who played ten minutes per game last season. Xavier could also turn to Jeff Robinson, who played fairly well in limited minutes as a freshman in 2009-10, or top 2010 recruit Jordan Latham.

McLean is a key man for Xavier's defense because he is by far the best returning defensive rebounder. Xavier doesn't force a lot of turnovers (their defensive turnover percentage of 17.9% was 10th in the Atlantic Ten last season, and they lost Jordan Crawford - who led them in steals - to the NBA), so the only way they're getting the ball on offense is by giving up baskets or locking down defensive rebounds. Despite his height, Kenny Frease wasn't much of a rebounder last season. Either he or somebody else is going to have to show some increased rebounding proficiency or Xavier's defensive efficiency will plummet without McLean.

Two months ago, Xavier was the clear favorite to win the Atlantic Ten ahead of Temple. But at this point? I think Temple has to get the slight edge. Xavier has to be particularly concerned about their out-of-conference resume if McLean can't get back in the lineup for three very difficult games in early-to-mid December against Butler, Wake Forest and Gonzaga (the Zags game will be on the road, the other two at home).

At the very least, Xavier fans must hope that bad news really just does come in threes, and that there isn't more trouble ahead.

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