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Xavier v. Drake: Preview

Xavier suffered a damaging loss to Pacific on Thanksgiving. A win today could go a long way toward mitigating some of that. Unfortunately, the Drake Bulldogs won't make for an easy game.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Holiday travel and the general rush of Thanksgiving has led to a limited amount of time to prepare for today's game, both for Xavier and Banners on the Parkway. While Xavier's manager did manage to make an appearance on ESPN (taunting Notre Dame) yesterday, the coaches and team have been in the gym prepping for the Bulldogs of Drake.

Three Keys to the Game:

- Rebound: Xavier beat Drexel in large part because they were able to control the glass to the tune of a 25-17 rebound advantage. Drake beat Rice in large part because Rice sucks, but also because they dominated on the boards. Jordan Clarke, especially, attacked the glass and managed 18 rebounds in the game to bump his season average to 11.3. Clarke is 6'8", 256 and will require one of Xavier's willowy big men to be willing to get beat up, or for the bullish Isaiah Philmore to have his first big game.

- Take care of the ball: Nine first half turnovers against Drexel very nearly cost Xavier a game they desperately needed to win. Dee Davis in particular was careless with the ball, coughing it up four times in the first 20 minutes. Drake is in trouble if they have to up the pace. If Xavier can keep the game quick and also keep the ball safe, they can neutralize a good deal of the Bulldogs interior advantage.

- Play a complete game: For two games the Musketeers looked like they might be a whole new program. The offense was in constant motion, the defense was stingy, and the team seemed cohesive. Since then, the Musketeers have struggled to put together much of anything. A listless second half effort against RMU was followed by three halves of garbage before finally showing some life late against Drexel. If Xavier is going to right the ship, they need to come out aggressive and maintain that energy through the entire game. This team does not have the talent for the 10 minute miracles last year's squad could produce.

Three Questions:

What happened to Dee Davis? After the first two games Davis was putting up a 15.5/2.5/7.5 line, had an A/TO of over 3/1, and was looking incredibly composed in control of the team. In the next three games Davis put up a 13.3/1.3/2.3 line and has an A/TO of .7/1. Davis has looked demonstrably slower in Anaheim and has really struggled to get the corner on any defender. More troubling, opposing players have been able to beat Dee to the lane and open up the interior of the Musketeer defense. Whether it is the 34 minutes per game or some niggling injury that is troubling Davis, it needs to be resolved soon.

Can the frontcourt produce? For Xavier to win against a team with any semblance of size, Isaiah Philmore, Travis Taylor, and Jeff Robinson have to be effective. Those three combined for 16 points and 10 rebounds in 75 minutes against the Drexel Dragons (Philmore was one assist from the dreaded trillion). That won't get the job done against a Drake team that will dominate inside if given half a chance.

Is Semaj a killer? In a recent Sunday Conversation, Joel and I debated the need for a "killer" on the team. Someone that could take over the game as the clock started to wind down. Semaj Christon went for 23/3/6 against Drexel and was, at times, all the offense that Xavier could muster. Christon scored ten of his points in the last nine minutes. If this game is close as it gets late, it will be telling if the freshman gets the ball again.