Quick Reference to the 2012 DirecTV Classic

Erik Stenger and Xavier are going to need their best collective effort to win the DirecTV Classic. - Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

As you well know, the young men of the Xavier basketball program are traveling to Anaheim this weekend to play some basketball. These events are often filled with teams that don't regularly play one another, and this is no exception. Xavier you know and Pacific we'll cover in more detail in the preview; this, then, is a brief guide to the other six teams in Anaheim.

The bracket at this event is somewhat convoluted, as are all brackets when every team is promised three games. The one on Wikipedia is actually the easiest to read, but if you don't want to click there or Wikipedia is blocked on your computer, the outline is basically as follows. If a team wins twice, their third game is the championship. If a team wins and then loses, their third game is for third place. If a team loses and then wins, their third game is for fifth. If a team loses twice, their third game is for seventh, which is not cool.

Xavier's first round game against Pacific is set in stone. X will then play one of Drexel and St. Mary's. Finally, Xavier will play one of the four teams from the bottom half of the bracket: Rice, Georgia Tech, Drake, and California.

Drexel Dragons (1-2)
Strengths:
-Defense. Drexel is holding opponents to 27% behind the arc this year, which goes a long ways toward explaining why the Dragons are 60th in the country in defensive efficiency.
-Offensive rebounding. Drexels forwards fly to the glass, and they rake down 41% of their own misses as a team.

Weaknesses:
-Ball security. They turn the ball over on 23.5% of their possessions, which is borderline crippling for an offense. Junior guard Chris Fouch is having season-ending surgery, which is only going to exacerbate the issue.
-Shooting. An EFG of 46.6% puts Drexel at 207th in the country as of this writing. When you can't protect the ball and can't put it in the basket, you are going to play some ugly games.

Top players:
-Frantz Massenat, 6'4" G, 11.0/3.3/6.3 on .269/.000/.826 shooting.
-Dartaye Ruffin, 6'8" F, 10.0/8.7/1.0 on .636/.000/.333 shooting.

St. Mary's Gaels (3-0)
Strengths:
-Shooting. Saint Mary's is shooting .506/.418/.683. as a team, which is fairly excellent. Their top three scorers are shooting 22-46 (.478) from behind the arc.
-Ball security. The Gaels only turn the ball over on 16.5% of their possessions, the 35th best mark in the nation. Between that and their shooting, it's no wonder they're in the top 25 in offensive efficiency.

Weaknesses:
-Rebounding. St. Mary's gets crushed on the glass. Their offensive rebounding percentage is 286th in the country and their defensive rebounding percentage is 300th. They can be had on the boards.
-Forcing turnovers. In that they are good at controlling the ball, they also don't put a ton of pressure on the opponent in that area. Only nine teams in the nation are currently worse in this department.

Top players:
-Matthew Dellavedova, 6'4" G, 16.7/3.3/5.3 on .485/.450/1.000 shooting.
-Stephen Holt, 6'4" G, 14.7/3.7/2.7 on .500/.636/.786 shooting.

Rice Owls (1-2)
Strengths:
-Perimeter defense. Rice opponents have shot 15% from deep on the year. This is in part because Rice has played two non-D1 teams, but finding any strengths on this squad is hard to do.
-Free throw shooting. Credit where it is due: Rice shoots 78.6% from the line.

Weaknesses:
-Rebounding. You're almost spoiled for choice when it comes to the red ink on Rice's KenPom page, but rebounding jumps out. They are 276th in defensive rebounding percentage and 347th - dead last - on the offensive glass.

-Interior defense. I suspect part of the reason Rice looks so effective on the perimeter is because opponents know not to waste any time there. Teams shoot almost 60% from inside the arc against the Owls. This is a team that lost by 13 to St. Thomas of Texas, an NAIA school that has only had a basketball program since '09-'10.

Top players:
-Tamir Jackson, 6'3" G, 14.0/10.7/1.7 on .286/.278/.722 shooting.
-Max Guercy, 5'9" G, 12.7/2.7/1.7 on .550/.400/1.000 shooting.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-0)
Strengths:
-Rebounding. With the caveat that they haven't played tough teams, the Yellow Jackets have owned the boards. Tech is currently 44th in offensive rebounding percentage and 4th on the defensive end.
-Ball security. Turnovers on 14% of their possessions; any coach would be happy to take that.

Weaknesses:
-Perimeter shooting. They have made six three-point baskets as a team. Their leader has two. If they're not scoring inside, they're not scoring.
-Coaching. It's Brian Gregory. If experience holds from his time at Dayton, there will be some points left out there through nonsensical substitutions and questionable strategic changes.

Top players:
-Marcus Georges-Hunt, 6'5" G/F, 12.0/5.5/1.5 on .526/.000/.800 shooting.
-Daniel Miller, 6'11" C, 8.5/9.5/3.5 on .545/.000/.625 shooting.

Drake Bulldogs (1-1)
Strengths:
-Shooting. Their 55.5% EFG is 34th in the country and comes on a .526/.524/.611 shooting line. Given a whisker of space, Drake will knock down shots.
-Defensive rebounding. They only allow opponents to grab 27% of their own misses, good for 61st in the nation.

Weaknesses:
-Everything else on offense. Drake turns the ball over too much (22.4%) and is 336th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage. They're also really bad at free throws.
-Everything else on defense. Drake forces turnovers on only 18.6% of opponents' possessions, allows teams to shoot almost 54% from inside the arc, and can't block shots. There's a reason a team that shoots so well hasn't beaten a D1 opponent this year.

Top players:
-Ben Simons, 6'8" F, 18.0/3.0/2.5 on .500/.583/.600 shooting.
-Richard Carter, 5'11" G, 14.5/3.0/4.0 on .550/.667/.375 shooting.

California Golden Bears (3-0)
Strengths:
-Getting inside. Cal can stroke it a bit from deep, but their real strength lies in getting opportunities inside the arc. Despite a 42.9% success rate from beyond the arc, Cal scores fewer than 20% of their points from long range.
-Interior defense. Opponents shoot 38.6% from inside the arc against Cal, due more to swarming defense than any great shot-blocking by the Bears.

Weaknesses:
-Forcing turnovers. Part and parcel of the Cal defense's concentration on choking out the middle is a complete absence from the passing lanes. They force turnovers on only 18% of opponents' possessions.
-Balance. More than 62% of Cal's points come from two players. Foul trouble or an injury could really hamstring this team.

Top players:
-Allen Crabbe, 6'6" G, 26.7/5.7/2.7 on .574/.588/.941 shooting.
-Justin Cobbs, 6'2" G, 20.7/4.7/3.0 on .686/.500/.917 shooting.

As you can see, there is some tough competition in Anaheim for the Musketeers. It's not impossible that Xavier comes home with the silverware after this tournament, but it's likely that they will have to beat a couple of very tough teams to win it. As a first road trip for a young school, this should be both a great learning experience for X and a chance for the program's fans to measure exactly where the team is right now.

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