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Long Beach State comes into the game sitting at 3-4, having perfectly alternated wins and losses for their whole schedule. That, of course, makes them due for a victory right now, so the odds are immediately stacked against Xavier. LBSU handled Western Michigan pretty easily in the first round of the Wooden Legacy before falling into the third-place game by virtue of a ten-point loss to Washington.
Xavier, as you probably know, sits at 5-1. Like the rest of the Big East except for Marquette, they are off to a flying start to the season. X knocked off San Diego in the opening round but lost by four to a determined UTEP squad on Friday. Today represents a chance to amend for some of the defensive woes that cost the team its perfect record.
The Beach likes to get out and go, playing an up tempo game on both ends of the floor. They shoot very well from both inside and beyond the arc, with their EFG% of 55% sitting 37th in the nation. That's mostly where the good news ends for them though. They've been mediocre on the offensive glass, bad from the free throw line, and horrible at avoiding turnovers.
Defensively, they've been a shambles. They don't rebound or force turnovers very well, they allow more than 40% of opponents' shots to come from behind the arc, and they don't defend the paint in a particularly convincing manner. The numbers aren't helped by the fact that all but one of their opponents has been in the KenPom top 100, but this is not a great defensive team as it stands right now.
|Michael Caffey||Point guard||Dee Davis|
|6'0", 175||Measurements||6'0", 160|
|Caffey is the straw that stirs the drink for Long Beach, leading the team in usage rate, shots percentage, assist rate, and Ortg. He's also leading the team in steal percentage. Almost everything they do on the offensive end flows through him. He went for 20/2/3 on 8-14 last time these teams played; maybe stopping everyone else should be the goal.|
|McKay LaSalle||Shooting guard||Remy Abell|
|6'3", 185||Measurements||6'4", 195|
|Two things you need to know about McKay LaSalle: he is dead last on the team in usage rate, and he's 0-0 from inside the arc on the year. He's not out there to do much but chuck the occasional three, and he's very good at it when the need arises.|
|Tyler Lamb||Small forward||Trevon Bluiett|
|6'5", 205||Measurements||6'6", 215|
|Tyler Lamb is a skilled scorer who is off to a really slow start this season. A lingering groin injury has limited his effectiveness on both ends of the floor. He has always been a bit of a volume shooter, but he is really struggling to score efficiently this season. He did have 17 on 6-12 shooting against X earlier this year though.|
|David Samuels||Power forward||James Farr|
|6'7", 225||Measurements||6'10", 247|
|Samuels is an elite offensive rebounder, posting an OReb% of 10.5% on the season. He's decent on the defensive glass and not a big part of the offensive game plan. He is also fairly turnover prone for a big man.|
|Temidayo Yussuf||Center||Matt Stainbrook|
|6'7", 260||Measurements||6'10", 270|
|Eric McKnight started here last time against Xavier, but Yussuf has been getting looks in the starting lineup recently. He's an incredibly aggressive offensive rebounder who is effective in both drawing fouls and getting to the line. Of course, he's a miserable free throw shooter and prone to committing fouls in bunches, so that has limited his effectiveness this year.|
Forward Eric McKnight is an occasional starter who provides depth at the post and 2.6/3.1/0.3 per game off the pine. Deontae North is a 6'4" guard who comes on looking to shoot and averages 8.0 and 2.7 on a shooting line of .405/.500/.792. Branford Jones is a ballhawking guard and good for 6.6/2.3/1.1 and 1.1 steals per game. Jack Williams is a 6'8" freshman forward who is good for 20 minutes per game and averages of 4.7 and 3.3.
-How does travel play? Nobody Xavier has played in the Wooden Legacy had to travel as far as Xavier, and LBSU will be the second west coast team they have taken on in California. Xavier handled them back in Cintas; will the 2,100+ miles of difference change the outcome of the game?
-Can Stainbrook force the double team? Matt Stainbrook's game is bolstered by a cultured approach in the post and the ability to find the open man when the defense sags. If he's not making the other team double him, though, it becomes a lot harder for him to pick out passing lanes. An early outburst of baskets from the big man is what Xavier needs to put Long Beach on their heels.
-Can Jalen Reynolds stay on the floor? This is a game primed for Reynolds to put up some monster numbers, but his propensity for slapping any carbon-based life form in his vicinity once again has him spending long stretches of the action in a purely observational role. The young man just needs to learn to keep his hands to himself out there.
-Dee is for defense. It's not a mystery to anyone that Xavier's defensive lines have been fairly permeable so far this year. What is somewhat more confusing is the role that Dee Davis has played in it. His on-ball defending has been poor, and the already shaky defense doesn't need extra help collapsing. It has to start with the point for Xavier.
-Check the arc. Long Beach State loves to chuck them from deep. Xavier loves to watch opponents chuck them from deep. That, as we have seen, is a recipe for defensive disaster. Not much more needs said on that subject.
-Finish strong. After this game, Xavier has the long ride home and six days of relative rest before taking on Alabama. While obviously not the team's goal when they boarded the plane to head to Cali, a 2-1 record over the long weekend is nothing to sneeze at. The Musketeers need to attack this game early so they can head back to Cinci feeling good about their work over the holiday.