Already weakened by the graduation of star guard Tu Holloway and top big man Kenny Frease and the transfer of high-scoring Mark Lyons, Xavier has now sustained another crushing loss.
Potential breakout star Dezmine Wells, easily the Musketeers' top returning player, was expelled from school on Tuesday for an undisclosed "serious violation" of the school's code of conduct.
CBSSports.com reported that Wells' expulsion was the result of a "sexual incident." No charges were filed, but Xavier decided to act anyway.
"While we understand there is heightened interest in this situation because it involves a student-athlete, we must reiterate that first and foremost Xavier's interest and responsibility to all of our students is to provide a quality education in a safe and nurturing environment," the statement from Xavier read. "A serious violation of Xavier's Code of Student Conduct will not be tolerated. All Xavier students are subject to the same protections and consequences."
Xavier officials must have felt they had little choice but to expel Wells because he was the one returning player the team could not afford to lose. The Musketeers have appeared in 12 of the last 13 NCAA tournaments and captured at least a share of six of the past seven Atlantic 10 titles, but just making the postseason at all will now be very difficult next season in a loaded league.
Wells, a 6-5 sophomore, started 32 games as a freshman and averaged 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds on a veteran team. He was the obvious choice to assume the role of go-to scorer after the departure of Lyons, Holloway and Frease.
The leading returning scorer for Xavier now is 6-foot-8 forward Travis Taylor, a former Monmouth transfer who averaged 4.5 points per game off the bench last season. Highly touted freshman point guard Semaj Christon will certainly help, as will shooting guard Myles Davis, but that's not nearly enough to contend with the likes of VCU, Saint Louis, Butler, Temple and Saint Joseph's in the upper echelon of the Atlantic 10.
Instead, 2012-13 looks like a rebuilding year for Xavier, a rarity for a program that has been as consistent as any non-power six team in the nation the past decade. It's up to coach Chris Mack to ensure that this is an aberration rather than the start of a downward trend.
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