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Season preview, part two

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Contrary to what Jim Boeheim thinks, playing cupcakes at home doesn't get you ready for anything. Here we see Xavier setting out for true road games against teams who may well still be playing late into March.

I love sad Bearcats.
I love sad Bearcats.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

In part one - which you read at lunch, right? - we ran through Xavier's games from the season opener through the Wooden Legacy. Here we cover the rest of the non-conference schedule, including the Crosstown Shootout in February. The opponents get a little tougher here for Xavier, but that's just what they need to be ready for Big East play.

Don't forget to vote in the polls and go on record in the comments section so we can use hindsight to compare our relative levels of genius later.

Alabama (13-19, 58) -- Saturday, December 6, 8PM -- Cintas Center (CBSSN)


Anthony Grant is still at Alabama, which means Alabama will still be playing very slowly. Their offenses have been right around average under Grant, which leaves them relying on a defense that has been great at forcing bad shots and turnovers. Their performance on the defensive glass let them down last year, and the team never pulled out of the tailspin.

The big hole in the ranks for Alabama is the departure of guard Trevor Releford (18.5/3.5/3.1 on .496/.393/.848, 2.2 steals per game). The Tide returns four players who averaged at least 7.5 points last year. Guards Retin Obasohan and Rodney Cooper are both shameless, high-volume gunners, while guard Levi Randolph and forward Shannon Hale get theirs in a more efficient fashion. Grad transfer Cristophe Vardel is a capable outside shooter, and ESPN 100 PG Justin Coleman could push for early minutes. For the full write-up on Alabama, click here.

Brad's pick: Loss. I'm not entirely sure why. This pick is strictly gut feel.
Joel's pick: Win. I think Alabama will bounce back from their catastrophe of a season last year, but being at home gives Xavier the edge.
WestCoastd'Artangan's pick: Win. Last season the Tide hovered around .500 and failed to win a single road game, and this one is in Cinci. I'm calling for a Xavier win and it to not even be close.
KenPom's take: 68-65 Xavier win, 62% chance of any Xavier win

IUPUI (6-26, 324) -- Tuesday, December 9, 7PM -- Cintas Center (FOX Sports One)


Head coach Jason Gardner is in his first season in charge at any level, so it's difficult to guess exactly how he will coach. We know why he'll coach, though, and that's because IUPUI was really bad at basketball. There's no one facet of the game at which you could lay their problems; it was a total team effort. You don't get to 6-26 any other way.

IUPUI lost leading scorer Ian Chiles to transfer and second-leading scorer Mitch Patton to graduation, but neither of those players was very efficient on the offensive end. Returning G Khufu Najee (9.9/2.7/1.9 on .433/.291/.813) is the leading returning scorer, and returning wing Marcellus Barksdale (8.6/6.8/3.7) led the team in rebounds and assists. They will both lend a little continuity to a team that will feature at least three eligible transfers and up to five redshirts, as well as two freshman wings. For the full write-up on IUPUI, click here.

Brad's pick: Win. The walk-ons probably have this one circled.
Joel's pick: Win. There might be better days down the road for Jason Gardner and his team, but this year probably won't feature too many of them.
WestCoastd'Artangan's pick: Win. So far I've predicted Xavier to win every game, but this one is a definite win. A home game against a weaker side in December; Xavier will be ready.
KenPom's take: 80-61 Xavier win, 96% chance of any Xavier win

Missouri (23-12, 98) -- Saturday, December 13, 4PM -- Mizzou Arena (ESPN2)


Former AP National Coach of the Year Frank Haith left Missouri over the offseason, leaving reigning D2 National Champ Kim Anderson to take the reins. Anderson doesn't have a D1 track record to speak of, but he won almost 300 games at Central Missouri and tallied five conference titles, three Final Four appearances, and one national title. He inherits a roster that loses three players who averaged 14+ PPG as well as G Corey Haith.

Missouri does bring back a pair of bruising interior players in 6'9" Johnathan Williams III and 6'10" Ryan Rosburg, both of whom rebound and block shots at excellent rates. Transfer guards Deuce Bello and Keith Shamburger should shore up the perimeter right away, while ESPN100 PF JaKeenan Grant and ESPN100 G Montaque Gill-Ceasar offer both immediate ability and potential for growth. For the full write-up on Missouri, click here.

Brad's pick: Win. I'm calling this a win for many of the same reasons I called Alabama a loss. I think this one will look good come March.
Joel's pick: Win. Missouri lost 55 PPG in scoring from last year and will be integrating a lot of new parts; I think Xavier picks up a tough road win here.
WestCoastd'Artangan's pick: Win. Last season they won 23 games. This year their best players are both sophomores and they have a new coach. Look for Xavier to win, but it will be close.
KenPom's take: 71-69 Xavier loss, 42% chance of any Xavier win

Auburn (14-16, 137) -- Saturday, December 20, 6PM -- Auburn Arena (SEC Network)


Bruce Pearl is back, baby! No more pictures at cookouts with Aaron Craft, just up-tempo basketball with a focus on flying to the offensive glass. Pearl's UT teams could always put points on the board, and I expect that to continue at Auburn. On defense, Pearl tends to concede the three-point arc while crowding the paint and generally making life difficult inside.

Auburn lost leading scorer Chris Denson and both starting big men, but they bring back 18 PPG in K. T. Harrell and an excellent PG in Tahj Shamsid-Deen (9.5/1.5/2.9 on .408/.331/.758). Immediately eligible transfers G Antoine Mason - who scored 25.6 PPG at Niagara last year - and G KC Ross-Miller - who shot 39.3% from deep at New Mexico State add immediate backcourt impact. JuCo transfer PF Cinmeon Bowers and former Maryland signee C Trayvon Reed have big talent but checkered pasts. For the full write-up on Auburn, click here.

Brad's pick: Win. Beating SEC teams of this caliber isn't all that exciting.
Joel's pick: Loss. I don't feel good about this one for whatever reason; I'm sorry I can't be more scientific in my reasoning.
WestCoastd'Artangan's pick: Loss. Auburn may be coming off a bad season, but with Bruce Pearl as coach and a handful of transfers, I think Xavier will drop a close game on the road.
KenPom's take: 71-70 Xavier win, 53% chance of any Xavier win

Florida Gulf Coast (22-13, 157) -- Sunday, December 28, 4PM -- Cintas Center (FOX Sports One)


Head Coach Joe Dooley has the offense running smoothly, putting the Eagles in position to get easy baskets. Once they get away from the rim, though, they have had trouble hitting threes, rebounding, avoiding turnovers, and pretty much everything else you need to do on offense. Their defense concedes the three point arc but cleans up on the boards and forces tough shots from inside the arc.

Forward Chase Fieler led the team in ORtg and rebounding and was second in scoring last year while C Eric McKnight posted 6.9/5.1/0.1; both of those big men are gone. Top scorer G Bernard Thompson (15.1/4.1/1.7 on .430/.327/.790 shooting) and G Brett Comer (13.1/2.9/5.3 on .455/.355/.635 shooting) lead the returnees and are joined by athletic UNLV transfer Demetris Morant and JuCo C Eric Moeller. For the full write-up on FGCU, click here.

Brad's pick: Win. Xavier does what Georgetown can't. Except in recruiting DSR.
Joel's pick: Win. Despite the layoff over Christmas, Xavier takes their last tuneup game on the way into conference play.
WestCoastd'Artangan's pick: Win. Dunk City was fun while it lasted, but - like Guns 'n' Roses - some sequels are just not that good.
KenPom's take: 76-67 Xavier win 82% chance of any Xavier win

Cincinnati (27-7, 46) -- Wednesday, February 18, 7PM -- Fifth Third Arena (ESPN/ESPN2)


You guys know the story with UC. They're mean, they play tough defense, they struggle to score if they're not creating turnovers, and they hate losing to Xavier. Mick Cronin will have this team where he always does, and the later date for the Crosstown Shootout means that they'll have that much more experience uglying up basketball together.

UC lost their top three scorers (from a team that didn't score that well to begin with) and top three rebounders from last year. Forwards Shaquille Thomas (6.8/2.8/0.9 on .454/.263/.662 shooting) and Jermaine Sanders (5.7/3.1/1.0 via .419/.376/.684 shooting) come back, along with PG Troy Caupain. Incoming forwards Gary Clark and Quadri Moore both bring finesse on the offensive end, while Farad Cobb is a JuCo transfer with a deadly stroke from deep. JuCo forwards Coreontae DeBerry and Octavious Ellis round out the new faces for UC. For the full write-up on Cincinnati, click here.

Brad's pick: Win in a very, very close game.
Joel's pick: Win. Sorry KenPom, I've gotta go against you on this one. Xavier takes care of the ball well enough to keep UC from running and the Muskies' half court superiority wins the day.
WestCoastd'Artangan's pick: Win. Last year Xavier won the last game downtown and this year's game will be on UC's campus. While the task is daunting, Cincinnati is not returning any double-digit scorers. I think Xavier is going to win and it's going to be a shootout.
KenPom's take: 69-64 Xavier loss, 29% chance of any Xavier win

Part three is our preview of the Big East season. As such, it will run very late in December, when a couple of months of basketball have given us some more information.