This is the second time Xavier has played Tennessee in three weeks, so you're probably already fairly familiar with what the Vols bring to the table. For a refresher, check out Brad's preview of the first game and our offeseason look at UT.
Since that preview, not much has changed. Tennessee has picked up three wins against cupcake opponents and fallen to Xavier and UTEP, the only two meaningful teams in their schedule at this point. About the only news of note has been the fact that Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon are struggling to to gain traction inside, and the scoring is being handled mostly on the perimeter by Jordan McRae and Antonio Barton. Here's a quick look at their output from the nice folks at statsheet.com:
-Can Semaj go? If there's one thing that's probably not going to help a player with a cramping problem, it's a second game basically half a day later. The combination of Christon's absence and Iowa's switch to a zone last night torpedoed Xavier's hopes for a big win, and that likely wasn't lost on opponent scouts. Christon is the catalyst for a lot of good things for Xavier, and X needs him to be physically capable of competing today.
-What's plan B? There is other talent on the Xavier roster, though, and last night was not a great demonstration of their skills. If Christon is limited - and it seems likely that he will be - the Musketeers need someone else to step up or a scheme to keep the ball heading towards the basket. Christon has struggled with cramps his entire career; it would behoove Xavier to be prepared for that.
-Do we dare hope that was the new JMart? Probably not. Martin once again looked like a player with the skills to take over a game off and on last night, going for 15/5/3 with 1 turnover and posting an ORtg of 127. We've all been burned by Martin before, counting on him to be a cog in the machine just to see him disappear for games on end. By the time he graduates, he'll be closer to being eligible for AARP than he is to the date of his birth; you'd like to see him iron out the kinks before too long.
-Feed Stainbrook. Whether or not Christon can play, the half court offense is most effective when Xavier boards the Stain Train. Matt was effective when he turned to score last night, and his distribution from the post led to three assists and a handful of other baskets off of quick ball rotation. The more touches he gets, the better off Xavier will be.
-Please, for the love of God, hit free throws. Xavier is currently 325th in the nation in FT%. Teams above them on the list include New Jersey Institute for Technology, Texas Pan-American, UMass Lowell, Prairie View A&M, and 320 others. This is becoming an issue and a vexation.
-Win the boards. Tennessee is not a great shooting team, but they are third in the nation in OReb%. Their offense is predicated in part in getting to the glass and sticking the ball back. Jarnell Stokes has 10 of the team's 21 stickback baskets on the year; Xavier needs to be especially alert to his presence and swarm he and his teammates off of the glass.