1. Will the Owls recover from losing Mark Tyndale for the first semester and Wayne Marshall for the season?
YES – They have enough backcourt talent to replace Tyndale until his return, and Sergio Olmos and Anthony Ivory could provide some inside support with Marshall out for the year. Look for freshmen Luis Guzman and Ryan Brooks to play in place of Tyndale.
NO – They may get by without Tyndale, but they’ll struggle to find someone who can replace Marshall’s interior force. Despite being a fan favorite, Olmos is soft and struggled to haul in the boards last season. Ivory is inexperienced.
2. Will sophomore Dionte Christmas emerge as a consistent scorer?
YES – He showed what he’s capable of in an early-season loss at UCLA, when he posted 12 points and seven rebounds in 33 minutes. His outside shot fluctuates, but his 6-5 frame should help him muscle for points down low.
NO – Christmas only made a dismal 28 percent of his shots last season. He’s also very streaky. He went 0-for-11 from the field in a five-game stretch in 2005. In another four-game stretch, he hit just two of 13 field goals. Such percentages hardly make him a playmaker.
3. Will the Owls improve on an 8-8 Atlantic Ten Conference record?
YES – The Owls underachieved last season when they were one of four teams to finish 8-8. Only Xavier has set itself apart from a conference packed with unproven, middle-of-the-road teams. The Owls are as good as any of them.
NO – The A-10’s coaches don’t think so, ranking the Owls ninth of 14 teams. The Owls lost last season’s top two scorers (including one to the NBA Draft), so consistency in terms of wins and losses will be hard to come by this season.
4. With John Chaney retired, will the players positively respond to Fran Dunphy’s coaching style?
YES – The once-unproven players certainly will. The Owls were on-edge playing under Chaney. They belief was that one mistake would land a player on the bench. Now, the players can relax, knowing one mistake isn’t the end of the world.
NO – His 6 a.m. practices are out, and so is the charismatic Chaney. The Old Man was cold on the exterior and Dunphy is kind of the same. He’s hard-nosed and isn’t afraid to show it, often doing pushups alongside his players at practice. That’s tough to embrace.
5. Will 30 minutes per game be too much to expect from Dion Dacons, a former reserve player?
YES – Dacons knows what it takes to win, arriving here from high school powerhouse Oak Hill Academy. But with career highs of 30 minutes and nine points, Dacons could be stretched a bit too thin under Dunphy.
NO – Dacons has played 30 minutes just once in his collegiate career, but his seven points and 11 rebounds in that game were career highs. Dacon’s 1.3 points per game average last season may not intimidate anyone, but his team-high 63 percent shooting certainly will.