Xavier, loser of four of its last five games, finds itself reeling after its Crosstown Shootout defeat to Cincinnati on Thursday night. The Musketeers now stand at 14-6 (4-3, fifth in the Big East) and have already lost as many games as all of last year. In a lot of ways, Xavier’s shaky play is not surprising. Having lost their two best big men from last season (Jalen Reynolds and James Farr), a certain level of drop-off was reasonable. What Chris Mack did not plan for, however, was the major hit his backcourt took when senior guard Myles Davis announced he would be stepping away from the program. After a two-month suspension to start the season, Davis only played three games before announcing his abrupt departure. It is clear that the Musketeers are still clearly missing their primary playmaker.
As a junior, Davis was one of the more under-appreciated distributors in college basketball. He boasted a solid 24.6 percent assist rate and was great at keeping the ball moving in an offense that relied heavily on precision passing on the perimeter to find open shooters. Davis also led the Musketeers in assists – averaging more than four per game – but he was so valuable because of his ability to see one pass ahead in the hockey-assist style (the pass leading to the assist). Per Hoop Lens, Xavier averaged a robust 1.13 points per possession with Davis on the floor last season, best on the team. When he was off the court, Xavier’s resulting drop of 0.18 points per possession was noticeable. More data: The Musketeers’ effective field goal percentage was almost seven points higher with its top play-maker on the court, as much as a result of his scoring in addition to his passing — Davis ranked second on the team in both three-point percentage and threes made last season.