Texas Basketball: 3 Musketeers who could hurt the Horns
Texas basketball is into its first Sweet 16 since 2008 after defeating the 15-seed Colgate and the 10-seed Penn State in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
Although the appearance alone is fantastic for a program that has been looking to get the March monkey off its back for a while, this Texas team has much bigger aspirations. As Brock Cunningham eloquently says, “we are taking it game by game.”
The Longhorns will square off against the three-seed in the Midwest, the Xavier Musketeers, on Friday night in Kansas City. The Musketeers are a well-balanced offensive machine led by one of the best coaches in college basketball, Sean Miller.
In the first year of his second stint at Xavier, Miller has led the Musketeers to their first Sweet 16 since 2017. As a coach, Miller is known for never getting over the hump and into a Final Four. That said, he is 4-3 in his career in the Sweet 16 and will have his guys ready to play after four days to prepare for this matchup.
Speaking of his guys, Miller has a loaded group of offensive talent on this Musketeer team. As a team, Xavier currently ranks seventh in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency and third in three-point shooting percentage. They will provide many problems for head coach Rodney Terry and the Texas defense.
Coach Miller condensed the Xavier rotation to six players during their two NCAA Tournament victories. Here are three that could provide significant problems for the Longhorn defense.
Three Musketeers who could spoil Texas basketball’s March Madness run.
1. Souley Boum, G, #0
Sixth-year senior guard Souley Boum is the engine that makes this high-flying Xavier offense go.
Boum started his college career at San Francisco University in 2017. He transferred to UTEP and spent his next three collegiate seasons in El Paso. Now, in his first year with the Musketeers, he is looking to etch his name in the Xavier history books.
Boum is a wiry 6-foot-3, averaging 16.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.3 assists. He shot 40.8 percent from three and 86.8 percent from the line and was an All-Big East First Team selection.
He is a very crafty offensive player with a versatile skillset that allows him to be effective from all spots on the floor. Boum is the pseudo-point guard for Xavier and plays with the ball in his hands a fair amount. From the top of the arc, he is very adept at using his body in pick-and-roll situations to create an advantageous downhill driving lane. Boum quickly gets defenders on his hip and always seems to make the right play with the basketball.
He is not afraid to come off a screen ready to fire, shooting as well off the dribble as the catch. Boum attempts a team-high 5.3 threes per game and connects on nearly 41 percent of them.
Boum has a lot of traits you look for in guards that are successful in March. He is a high IQ and unselfish player who will take and make tough shots. He has 14 games of 20+ points this season, and his offensive versatility is a skillset that could run the Longhorns out of the tournament if they are not careful.
2. Jack Nunge, F, #24
24-year-old Jack Nunge is in his sixth and final year of college basketball. He looks poised to make this run last as long as possible.
The 6-foot-11, 245-pound forward was an Honorable Mention All-Big East selection this year after averaging 14.1 points and 7.7 rebounds. Looking at him, you might think Nunge is a prototypical back-to-the-basket forward. He is anything but.
Nunge shot 40.2 percent from deep on 2.7 attempts per game this season. He has some of the best range for a player of his size in the country. He gets a lot of his looks as a pop man off pick-and-rolls with the aforementioned Souley Boum. Because of his three-point ability, defenses have a tough time guarding the Xavier high-ball screen offense.
Nunge will also operate in the post and has a nearly unguardable right-handed hook. The key is to keep him from establishing position down low. If he catches it within five feet of the rim on the left block, it is a bucket nearly every time.
Although he does not move very well and is not a threat to beat you off the bounce, Nunge’s combination of size and skill makes him one of the more unique offensive players left in the tournament. He has six 20+ point games this season and will provide Dylan Disu and Christian Bishop with a matchup they have yet to see this season.
3. Adam Kunkel, G, #5
Xavier guard Adam Kunkel has the ability to heat up and change the complexion of this Sweet 16 matchup. The fifth-year senior is a knockdown three-point shooter unafraid of the big moment.
Kunkel averages 10.6 points per game, with 55 percent of his scoring production coming from beyond the arc. He has a quick and pure release that is very hard to guard if you are not shadowing him. He is a great off-ball mover and will run the baseline waiting for his opportunity to get a clean look off an off-ball screen.
In Xavier’s Round of 32 victory over Pittsburgh, Kunkel knocked down five of his eight three-point attempts. He has eight games this season where he hit three or more threes. Kunkel is the type of shooter that can heat up instantly and is someone whose primary defender must always be engaged.