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Xavier v. St. Bonaventure: Preview

Currently on pace for an undefeated A-10 season, Xavier rolls into their matchup at St Bonaventure tomorrow night seeking to equal their longest winning streak of the year. Blowouts of URI and UMass preceded a tight win over perennial conference title challenger (and reigning NIT champ) Dayton. This Saturday, Xavier will host Temple, who has been ranked in both polls this year.
But with fewer mice.

Sandwiched between these two big games - in perfect position to be overlooked - sits the St Bonaventure game. The Bonnies come into the game with an RPI of 97th in the nation and the 92nd toughest schedule. Xavier continues to inch up the rankings, sitting at 40th on the back of the 23rd toughest schedule. St. Bonaventure is sporting a 1-2 conference record, having eked out victory against Charlotte before getting clobbered by Temple and falling by one at URI. This is a classic trap game for the Muskies.

The Bonnies clock in at 107th in the nation in effective height, or about an inch taller at each position on the floor. They are one of the few teams in the country with a bench almost as thin as Xavier's, with their subs getting only 17.3% of their minutes. Xavier's reserves are currently getting 16% of the team's minutes; both of these numbers are in the bottom ten in the country.

Unlike most recent Xavier opponents, St. Bonaventure can actually shoot the ball a little bit. While their .328 rate from behind the arc is still sub-par, they feature in Davenport (.404), Adegboye (.385), and Conger (.380) three players with at least 50 attempts who are serious threat from deep. As a team, they hit more than half their two-point attempts, good for 90th in the country. They do clock in at a somewhat pedestrian .694 from the free-throw line.

Their leading scorer and rebounder is 6'9" Andrew Nicholson, a junior forward. He picks up 21-8 per game, shooting .539/.760/.200. Michael Davenport - whose three-point prowess we've already mentioned - scores 14 per game and grabs more than five and a half boards as a guard. The other two starting guards (Like Xavier, the Bonnies usually feature a G-G-G-F-F starting five), Adegboye and Conger, combine for 23 points and six assists per game, but they also each average three turnovers per game.

It is this turnover problem that really plagues St. Bonaventure. They get to the line more often than all but 45 teams in the nation, they rebound just a hair better than average, and they're a very respectable shooting team; if they could just keep ahold of the basketball, they might be scary. But they can't. Twelve percent of their possessions end in steals by the other team, 329th in the nation. Twenty-three percent of their possessions end in turnovers of some sort, which is 267th in the nation. This, combined with the fact that they are 319th in the nation in forcing turnovers, gives their opponents a lot of free possessions and really hampers St. Bonaventure.

On the road against a profligate team with an unimpressive resume, Xavier needs to handle their business before looking forward to the Temple game back at Cintas. When there are several teams vying for top spot in the conference, the difference often falls to who was able to win the games they should have won. Xavier definitely has a game that meets that description on tap against St. Bonaventure.

Keys to the game:
-Win the freebie battle: Against a St. Bonaventure team that averages four more turnovers than X does and forces fewer turnovers than almost any other team in the nation, there's no excuse for Xavier not to have more possessions than the Bonnies. Xavier needs to take advantage of this edge.

-Own the paint: After their two starting big men, St. Bonaventure features just two more forwards getting at least ten minutes per game. Marquise Simmons is a 6' 8" sophomore who has a grand total of eight points on the year, and Brett Roseboro is a 6' 10" sophomore who averages 1 point and 2 boards on a stunningly bad .208 FG%. Kenny and McLean - and even Taylor, Latham, and Robinson - should own this game.

-Bury the game early: With a big game against Temple coming up over the weekend, a blowout win would be just what the doctor ordered for Xavier's starting five. As a group, they're averaging 34 minutes per game; bumping that number down with games like this is a near necessity for this team's future.

Toughness factor:
-The only scary factors in this game are the fact that it's being played on the road and the chance that St. Bonaventure's shooters catch fire. I give this one a 1.5.