|TV:||FOX Sports 1|
|Radio feed:||55 KRC|
The gulf between undefeated and not undefeated is not that large - eight points in the case of this year's Muskies. Yet it's also insurmountable. Once that zero disappears from the right hand column, no amount of flawless basketball will bring it back. That is what faces Xavier right now; the season has been defined by fine margins so far, and the team's defensive sloppiness has had them coloring outside the lines too often.
Florida Gulf Coast is the next team up. Like Xavier, the Eagles sport three losses, but only one of those (home against FIU) was a particularly bad one. The shadow of Dunk City lingers over everything that Florida Gulf Coast men's basketball does, but this is a very different team than that one.
This team is a deep, veteran team, ranking 69th in the nation in bench minutes and 73rd in experience. Their offense is predicated on ball control and ball movement, with an elite assist rate and TO rate comfortably in the top 100. Their three-point shooting is a deadly 39.1%, but they are near the bottom of division one in three-point frequency. Inside the arc, their two-point percentage and offensive rebounding are both poor.
Defense is a slightly sunnier picture, as the Eagles rank 38th in the nation in defense EFG%. They aren't great at defensive rebounding, and their ability to force turnovers is downright poor. To top it all off, they send their opponents to the free throw line at an alarming clip.
|Brett Comer||POINT GUARD||Dee Davis|
|6-3, 202||Measurements||6-0, 160|
|Brett Comer may be the best point guard Xavier comes up against this season. Other players will have flashier pedigrees and more exposure, but Comer ranks first in the nation with an assist rate of 51.7, scores the basketball efficiently, draws fouls, and plays three quarters of the team's minutes. He's the straw that stirs the drink for FGCU.|
|Bernard Thompson||SHOOTING GUARD||Remy Abell|
|6-3, 195||Measurements||6-4, 195|
|Thompson can flat-out fill it up. He favors the mid-range over going all the way to the rim, but he also excels at working off the ball to get looks from distance. He's the guy who can go get the big bucket for the Eagles.|
|Julian DeBose||WING||Trevon Bluiett|
|6-3, 197||Measurements||6-6, 215|
|DeBose is a shameless gunner who has been working in and out of the starting lineup all year. Only Thompson leads him in shots% on the team. DeBose slashes where Thompson likes jumpers, but there's no doubt that his first goal when he gets the ball is to find a way to make a shot for himself.|
|Demetris Morant||FORWARD||James Farr|
|6-9, 209||Measurements||6-9, 237|
|Morant is a strong offensive rebounder and a decent rebounder on the defensive end. He's not really a scoring threat, taking almost all of his shots from at the rim, where he's shooting about 50%. His block% of 7.3% is 102nd in the nation, so he will pose an obstacle for Xavier's big men.|
|Nate Hicks||CENTER||Matt Stainbrook|
|6-10, 227||Measurements||6-10, 263|
|Like Morant, Hicks isn't a scoring threat. He has made 14 baskets on the year; 6 have been stickbacks. He is a rebounding monster at both ends and a very good shot blocker.|
Forward Jamail Jones has been in and out of the squad with suspension issues costing him five games; he's out again for this game and FGCU will miss his very good defensive rebounding and 11.1/6.1/1.7. Marc-Eddy Noriela gets starter's minutes from the bench. He's a 6'8" defensive rebounding machine who averages 10.0/6.8/1.0. Christian Terrell is a 6'4" shooting guard who averages 4.5 off the bench, and reserve guard Brian Greene, Jr. averages 1.9 assists and 1.6 turnovers in his 16 minutes of play.
-Will FGCU stretch their offense? The Eagles are a great three-point shooting team, but they don't really focus on getting shots up from deep. Xavier's defense can definitely be had from behind the arc, and whether or not Coach Dooley instructs his team to exploit that could swing this matchup.
-Will Stainbrook be available? Coach Mack mentioned in his presser on Friday that Stainbrook was struggling to keep food down. If he is limited or absent, the complexion of the game changes on both ends for Xavier.
-Is Xavier's perimeter defense up for the task? FGCU is the kind of team that relies on guards to create and often finish most of their scoring plays. If your memories are still haunted by the image of Auburn's guards running by Musketeer defenders, this likely doesn't hit your ears as good news. Cutting off straight-line drives needs to be more than just a nice idea.
-Contain Comer. Brett Comer is the dude who makes it happen for the Eagles. Xavier's on-ball defense has left plenty to be desired of late. If Comer is getting into the paint whenever he wants to, bad things are sure to follow for X.
-Defend for 40 minutes. It's likely - though not assured - that Xavier will win this game. The bigger question is if they can develop the kind of habits they'll need to win Big East contests. Defensive lapses for long stretches of time are the kind of things that get you killed in conference play, and the league is full of teams who can take advantage of those things.
-Keep the crowd involved. It's no secret that Xavier is about a billion times better at home than on the road right now. That's an issue that needs addressed, but it can't really be remedied during a home game. Instead, the Muskies should do the things that keep the home fans excited. That means no long jump shots with 27 seconds left on the shot clock, no defensive let downs, and no drifting to a listless end. Just 40 minutes of good, crisp basketball to cleanse the palette going into league play.