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Jeff Eisenberg

Absence of key perimeter players may leave Xavier vulnerable

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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As bright Xavier's future looks in the wake of a big recruiting splash this past weekend, there are some serious concerns about the present.

The Musketeers took a major hit this week with the loss of two potential key contributors for the entire season. Xavier announced this weekend that 6-foot-1 sharpshooter Brad Redford sustained a torn ACL and the NCAA ruled on Monday night that top recruit Justin Martin is a partial qualifier academically.

The absences leave Xavier with only 10 available scholarship players and with far less firepower on the perimeter, especially considering the team already needed to replace NBA-bound shooting guard Jordan Crawford. Redford shot a conference-best 46.5 percent from three-point range off the bench last season, while the 6-foot-7 Martin was a top 100 recruit that the Musketeers were counting on to make an immediate impact.

"I'm disappointed with the NCAA's recent decision on Justin's initial eligibility," coach Chris Mack said in a statement released by the school. "Though I feel the decision is the wrong one, we will move forward, as will Justin, and look forward to his contributions on game night one year from now."

Although depth will undeniably be an issue for Xavier this season, it's certainly possible that the Musketeers can still contend in what should be a potent Atlantic 10 as long as they stay healthy.

It will take starting guards Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons improving their shooting from three-point range to make up for the loss of Redford. And it will take freshman Jay Canty proving he's ready to step in for the more highly touted Martin and absorb heavy minutes as a backup shooting guard or small forward.

Xavier's main goal for the next few years is to make its first Final Four after falling a game or two short several times the previous decade. It doesn't look like this year's team will have the depth or the firepower to make that happen, but it shouldn't be long before the Musketeers are knocking on the door again.

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