Xavier will host Division-II Kentucky State at the Cintas Center Saturday night at 7 pm as the men's final tune-up before regular season play starts.
Expectations for the Musketeers may be down heading into the season, but interest has never been higher with plenty of storylines heading into the start of games that will play themselves out.
Here is what I'm looking for in Saturday's exhibition with Kentucky State:
Who wants to score?
It's becoming increasingly clearer that Semaj Christon is this team's most talented option on offense. He very well may lead the team in scoring, and if not, he'll at least be in the top two.
Other than Christon though, it's a complete unknown as to who will step up and assume a scoring role.
This team strikes me as one that will look more like the 2007-08 Xavier squad, which placed four players in double figures and had two more averaging 9.7 and 9.9 per game in Stanley Burrell and B.J. Raymond respectively. They will have several different guys lead them in scoring on a given night throughout the season, and the overall point distribution may be more equal. Or at least that's my thinking right now.
No one really knows for sure though. The only thing we know is that someone needs to score those points, and nobody has proven it at this level yet. There will be plenty of shots and scoring opportunities available to whoever decides they want to step up and takeover.
That's why I'm interested in who wants to score against Kentucky State. Whoever is willing to be aggressive on offense will separate themselves pretty quickly on this team.
How will Justin Martin play?
For most everything that happens in this scrimmage, we'll have to take it with a grain of salt. The Musketeers are playing against a Division-II school and it's their first real game of the season.
One player whose performance we'll be able to read a little bit further into is Justin Martin's.
For Martin, the level of competition or the pressure of the bright lights has never been the problem. With him, it's more about being locked in mentally, giving a great effort and playing every possession like it's against Baylor in the Sweet 16 last season.
It might be more important for the Musketeers to get Martin going early than any other player on the team. They need him to be productive on the wing this year with their lack of depth, and in order for that to happen, he has to be in the right mindset. That mindset includes being focused and aggressive on both ends of the court.
Saturday night, against a D-II opponent, where Xavier might have a comfortable lead at some point will give us an idea of where Martin is right now. They don't need a lot of points from him necessarily, but a solid game with 6-10 points, a handful of rebounds, no turnovers and few if any mental lapses on defense would be a good start.
How big is Erik Stenger's role?
Coach Mack's post rotation is going to be one of the more fascinating storylines to watch as this season develops, and we really won't get a great feel for that against Kentucky State or even early on in the season.
Isaiah Philmore will have to miss the first three games and all of the post players are still a work in progress. No one has really separated themselves yet, other than Travis Taylor. Taylor is going to play a lot of minutes it would seem, but there are more minutes and more importantly a huge role still available for someone to claim.
One guy that we don't talk about quite as much because he's not on scholarship but that will definitely be in the mix is Erik Stenger. The 6-foot-8 St. Xavier product and NKU transfer is going to play this year. The question is, how much?
Stenger has great physical tools. He's a great athlete, quick off his feet around the rim, very strong and moves better laterally than any big on the team with the exception of maybe Taylor. In practice, it's hard not to think that Stenger might be one of the Musketeers' best options in the post sometimes.
We'll get a feel for how comfortable Mack is with playing him on Saturday. We may not be able to gauge exactly how many minutes he'll get on average, but we'll have a much better idea of whether he's going to be a contributor to this team or not.
My prediction right now is that he'll have an Andrew Taylor like impact on this team. Taylor averaged right around 10 minutes per game his final two seasons, while averaging a bucket and a pair of rebounds. Stenger could very well be a little more productive than that, but he'll have to prove he's reliable first.