A-10: X Marks The Spot

By - October 24, 2006

In a quiet and unassuming manner, Xavier has made a pretty convincing case for Team of the Decade in the Atlantic 10, having won three conference championships since the turn of the millennium (in 2002, 2004 and 2006). Twice, the Musketeers have won four games in four days to take the league’s automatic bid -- becoming the only school in the history of the NCAAs to turn that near-impossible trick on two separate occasions.

This season, Xavier won’t be sneaking up on anyone. As the overwhelming favorite to repeat as league champs, the Musketeers are expected to hang another banner in the Cintas Center rafters. But third-year coach Sean Miller is mindful not to let the hype get to the heads of his players.

“It’s a good feeling,” Miller admitted. “But I think it’s a feeling that can leave us very fast.”

Miller, who served as an associate head coach for two seasons under Thad Matta, thinks that the preseason ranking is a statement about the quality of Xavier’s personnel above all things.

“When you look at [senior Justin] Doellman and [senior Justin] Cage, those guys are resilient. They deserve credit because they’ve been in the trenches when things are going well, and they’ve also been there when things aren’t,” Miller said. “If there’s one quality that exciting about this year’s team, it’s the fact that they’re leading it. I think any coach in our league would love to have those guys as seniors, for as much as who they are as for the fact that they’re good players.”

But while the classmates Doellman and Cage made the All-Atlantic 10 third and second teams, respectively, it was junior shooting guard Stanley Burrell who landed a first-team selection and represents the Cincinnati school’s closest thing to a star player.

“Stanley continues to grow,” Miller said. “He’s not the same person right now as he was when he came to Xavier. He’s not the same player -- he’s better across the board. I think that’s a real tribute to him.

“A year ago at the end, he had to play a lot of point guard for us and he never said a word about it. I think he’s really tried to become a better player. He’s worked really hard in the offseason and he’s got to be one of the strongest guards in our conference.”

Posted by at 03:20 PM on October 24, 2006

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