There is a certain afterglow that comes with beating Dayton. The snow doesn't seem quite so dreadful, the temperature isn't quite so biting, and the wind chill isn't quite so chilly. Until the day that Xavier beats Dayton in a national championship game though, the warm blankets will always have to be thrown back to step out into the frigid air of another game. Today, that game comes in the form of a trip to Richmond.
The Musketeers, thanks to Saint Louis beating Butler, are tied with Virginia Commonwealth atop the Atlantic 10 standings. Richmond will come in to the game at 3-4, two games out of the lead but only a game and a half out of one of the coveted tournament byes. The Spiders, like every other team in the conference, have been up and down this year. Wins over Air Force and VCU are somewhat obscured by losses to George Mason and a struggling UMass. Currently, Richmond stands 85th (Xavier is 90th) in the KenPom rankings, 75th (X is 74th) in the RPI.
Offensively, Richmond is very nearly as good as the Dayton team that Xavier just held to 61 at the Cintas. 45th in the nation in offensive efficiency, the Spiders take 43% of their shots deep, where they are 28th in the nation with a 38.1% mark. Things don't drop off much inside (49.2%) or from the line (73.1%). That all adds up to effective field goal percentage of 52.6, good for 35th in the nation. In short, Richmond doesn't shoot and miss much. When they do miss though, they don't go get it very well, recovering less than 28% of their own misses, a number that lands them well into the bottom third of the nation.
Defensively, Richmond wishes they were back on offense. While their numbers are middle of the road as far as shooting percentages allowed it basically all comes down to forcing turnovers. In six out of the Spiders nine losses they have failed to turn their opponent over their average of 23% of the time. When Richmond's harassing defense forces opponents under a 50% effective field goal rate, the Spiders are 11-2, when their opponent hits that 50% mark, the Spiders are 2-7. Xavier's season effective field goal mark? 50.8%
The Spiders will play about two possessions faster than the crawl that Xavier is currently favoring (64.3-62.5). Richmond's rebounding struggles should continue though, as they give up nearly four inches of effective height to the Musketeers. The Spiders also feature a deep bench, from which they get 36% of their minutes, and work mostly out of a man to man defense.
The player: 6-3, 200 pound senior guard Darien Brothers.
The numbers: 16.2/2.5/1.4 on .448/.474/.882 shooting.
More numbers: 121 ORtg (85th nationally), 63.3% true shooting (45th nationally).
The words: Brothers is a shooter who can also get into the lane and create. The senior guard fills it up from everywhere but prefers to do his damage from behind the arc, where 137 of his 241 field goal attempts have come from. His assist rate is nothing special, but Brothers is careful with the ball and manages to do his thing without even leading the team in shot percentage.
The player: 6-0, 190 pound junior guard Cedrick Lindsey.
The numbers: 9.6/2.6/3.2 on .416/.309/.754 shooting.
More numbers: 1.6 steals per game, 1.4 fouls per game, 23.8 assist rate.
The words: Cedrick Lindsey is on the floor to do the things that Darien Brothers is too busy scoring to handle. Lindsey is a poor, verging on terrible, shooter but can finish inside. Where the Spiders primary ball distributor excels is causing turnovers by playing very active, but very clean, defense. On the other end, Lindsey sets his teammates up well enough to be in the top 500 nationally for assist rate.
The player: 6-5, 220 pound senior forward Greg Robbins.
The numbers: 6.8/3.5/2.8 on .513/.341/.636 shooting.
More numbers: 1.2 steals per game, 57.1% effective field goal, 57.9% true shooting.
The words: Robbins is a glue guy who tends to let his penchant for shooting threes get the best of him. Robbins has made more than one three in only two games this year, but that hasn't stopped him from lifting. Inside the arc, Robbins shoots the second best percentage on the team and is a capable enough scorer to punish defenses that sag off him. Undersized, Robbins rebounds poorly for his position.
The player: 6-9, 210 pound freshman forward Nelson Alonzo-Ododa.
The numbers: 3.5/4.0/.7 on .380/.200/.459.
More numbers: 1.6 blocks per game, 9.6 block percent, 19.1 defensive rebounds percent.
The words: As awful as Alonzo-Ododa is on the offensive end, and he's very awful, his blocking ability is enough to earn him a spot in the starting lineup. With much less fanfare, the freshman has managed the same block percentage as CJ Aiken of St. Joe's. Other than that though, Alonzo-Ododa is borderline shockingly bad for a starter. The fact that he has taken 25 three pointers boggles the mind.
The player: 6-7, 190 pound freshman forward Deion Taylor.
The numbers: 3.9/2.4/.6 on .469/.462/.467 shooting.
More numbers: 117 ORtg
The words: Taylor has only been starting because of injuries to Derrick Williams and Kendall Anthony. On the plus side, it doesn't matter where he is on the court when he shoots, it has roughly the same chance of going in. On the minus side, that makes him a dreadful foul shooter. Taylor is young, rail thin, and not much of a rebounder.
Both Derrick Williams and Kendall Anthony are questionable for the game, but both could make a huge impact if they play. Williams is a 6-6, 285(!) pound forward who is an extremely effective inside scorer and in the top 350 nationally in both offensive and defensive rebound percentage. Anthony is almost the polar opposite, a 5-8, 140 pound guard who loves nothing more than to shoot three pointers. Anthony leads the Spiders in usage rate despite both Williams and Brothers being more effective scorers. Wayne Sparrow is a 6-3, 175 pound guard who will fill in for either guard spot and focus mainly on defense. Sparrow averages a steal a game despite playing getting only 17 minutes.
- Who will play? For Richmond, both Williams and Anthony are questionable. For Xavier, Isaiah Philmore is still nursing an ankle he injured in what was unquestionably his best game in a Musketeer uniform. Williams would give Richmond beef they desperately need down low, while Anthony would stretch Xavier's perimeter defense. Philmore playing would give X an even larger edge than they should already have in the paint.
- Is Dee Davis back? Another game, another Dee Davis question. The guard that scored 14 against Dayton and harassed Kevin Dillard into a 4-14 night from the floor is a far cry from the one that had a line of 8/3/5 in the previous two games combined. With Davis running the offense and scoring enough to lift a bit of pressure off Christon, Xavier is a much better team.
- Can Xavier dominate the glass again? Dayton should have crushed the Musketeers on the boards but instead surrendered to the Xavier bigs to the tune of 38-16. Richmond shouldn't present nearly the challenge that the Flyers should have, but Xavier has struggled to make consistent rebounding effort all season. Another 22 rebound margin is a lot to ask, but the Musketeers need to hold a significant edge again.
- Be effective with the ball: Richmond scores efficiently when they can turn the other team over and go. Conversely, they lose when teams are patient enough to break them down in the half court. Xavier will be looking to play slowly, just like they always do. If they can grind effective possessions and not commit brainless turnovers, the Spiders will surrender points.
- Contain Darien Brothers: Only 23 teams in the nation get more points from their point man than the Spiders do from Brothers. Containing him can be difficult, he torched Charlotte for 39, but Brothers can be stopped as games of 2, 5, 7, 8, and 11 indicate. If Dee Davis plays Brothers like he did Dillard, the Spiders biggest threat could disappear.
- Play 40 minutes on the road: The Musketeers are 2-4 in true road games this year. In all four away losses (Wake, UT, St. Joe's, Charlotte) Xavier was outscored in the final ten minutes of the game. If the Musketeers jump on Richmond early they cannot afford to make it five for five in quarter four letdowns.