This is the kind of game that teams like Xavier should not ever lose. Recent opponents of the same pedigree as the Jaguars of IUPUI include Fairleigh Dickinson and Abilene Christian. Off of the Thanksgiving tournament and then a tough game against Alabama, this game provides a chance for the Musketeers to catch their collective breath. IUPUI enters this one fresh off being hammered by Evansville, 89-62.
Xavier enters this game also having just allowed 80+ points, but in a winning effort. While the merits of the defense are extremely debatable, the offense is on course to be one of the best in recent memory. After this game come the first two legitimate road games of the year, a date with Florida Gulf Coast, and then what is shaping up to be a brutal Big East slate. It's difficult to adjust the brain to seeing teams like this in the non-conference and then a conference schedule full of teams in Ken Pomeroy's top 50, but that is the new reality of life in the Big East.
Offensively what IUPUI does well is make free throws. As a team, the Jaguars shoot 73.9% from the line. After that, they don't do a single thing that earns them a spot in the top 100 nationally. Offensive rebounding is a nominal strength, with the Jags grabbing 33.9% of their misses. The only other thing that IUPUI does that could even be considered above average is the one thing that no Xavier fan wants to see right now. The Jaguars shoot 35.4% from behind the arc as a team. That's good for 126th in the nation and roughly in line with Northern Arizona (who went 8-20 against X) or Alabama (10-23). IUPUI does only take 30% of their shots from deep, a number well below the national average.
Defensively, the Jags take chances and try to turn teams over. Their steal percentage of 11.5% is good for 56th in the nation and they force turnovers on 21.3% of opponent's possessions, good for 106th in the nation. That's good, because they are absolutely dreadful in every other facet of keeping the other team off the scoreboard. Teams shoot 32% from deep (which is actually decent), 53.9% from inside the arc, grab 34% of their misses, get to the line on an astounding 58.3% of all shot attempts, and only have 5% of those attempts blocked. What that all adds up to is the 321st ranked team in defensive efficiency and an absolute field day for teams who can get the ball to a big man.
Most of that is probably due IUPUI's -2.1" of effective height. The Jaguars have no player on the roster who plays more than 40% of the minutes and stands over 6-9. The heaviest player on the team is the 6-7, 235 pound senior DavRon Williams. This team is just very, very small. They are essentially Stephen F. Austin's size without SFA's specialized offense or their skill level. IUPUI also features only three players who get 50% of the minutes or more, so they will be rotating early and often.
|P.J. Boutte||Point guard||Dee Davis|
|5'9", 160||Measurements||6'0, 170|
|Boutte doesn't start every game for IUPUI, but he is clearly the team's best option at the point. His assist rate of 35.3% is in the top 50 in the nation, and he's a tough defender (considering his size). Only his poor shooting keeps him from being a very good offensive player|
|Mason Archie||Shooting guard||Remy Abell|
|6'5", 185||Measurements||6'4", 195|
|Archie is far and away the best shooter on the team and almost their only threat from behind the arc. Despite his prowess, he is tied for sixth in usage rate among players who average at least 15 minutes per game for IUPUI. His hesitance to put up a lot of shots might free Remy Abell to defend a tougher assignment.|
|Marcellus Barksdale||Small forward||Trevon Bluiett|
|6'5", 210||Measurements||6'6", 215|
|Speaking of tougher assignments, Barksdale is just that in terms of continuous effort. He's off to a porr start shooting the ball, but he's not going to let that stop him from hunting for opportunities to score. Defensively, he's very good both at forcing turnovers and avoiding fouling in the process.|
|Aaron Brennan||Power Forward||James Farr|
|6'6", 200||Measurements||6'10", 247|
|Brennan is kind of an undersized big man, but he is relentless on the offensive glass. The offense doesn't often seek him out, but he can go get extra buckets when the ball comes off the rim. As long as Farr and Reynolds stay vigilant, they should be able to use their size advantage to neutralize Brennan.|
|Josh James||Center||Matt Stainbrook|
|6'9", 225||Measurements||6'10", 270|
|It's not immediately clear to me why James starts (if you're reading this Josh, sorry). He only plays about 16 minutes per game and turns the ball over at an appalling rate while he's out there. He is a good shot blocker, but that clearly only takes him so far.|
DavRon Williams is 6'7", 235 and gets 7.3 and 6.6 coming off the bench at both PF and C for the Jaguars. He plays 20 minutes a game and has started twice, making him more or less the de facto go-to post guy. Leo Svete is a volume shooting wing who is 11-33 from deep on the season. He has 4 boards and 1 assist, so don't look for a well-rounded contribution from him. DJ McCall will get some minutes all around the perimeter and is 4-6 from deep on the year; beyond those three, there's not much on the bench for IUPUI.
- Can Xavier defend the arc? There's not a lot going to be learned from this game, but if IUPUI manages to get up 20+ three point attempts prior to the lat game heaving they will undoubtedly indulge in, the Musketeers will have every right to be very worried. This is not a great or prolific three point shooting team. Surely they can be shut down.
- Will anyone play 30 minutes? Seasons hinge on fatigue and injury. After a week off prior to Alabama, this game should present another chance to get some of the important pieces some rest. It would be excellent to see Larry Austin Jr. log 10+ minutes and Sean O'Mara and Brandon Randolph both get a few more than they have recently as well.
- What of James Farr? In an Alabama game in which Brandon Randolph didn't score and still managed an offensive rating of 122, Farr scored exactly two points and finished with an ORtg of 81. Last year Farr was wildly inconsistent but frequently threw up big offensive numbers. This year Farr has scored double figures once (Murray St). James' rebounding and defense have been excellent, this would be a great game for him to take his offense to the same level.
- Play some defense: If this game is anything resembling a contest it will be an absolute travesty. Xavier is a vastly superior team that has matchup advantages literally no matter what IUPUI tries. There aren't any great keys to victory for this game. The Musketeers should simply have to arrive at the Cintas to beat teams like IUPUI. The Any Given Sunday principle really shouldn't apply when the gulf in class is this great. What Xavier absolutely has to do is take this opportunity to tighten down the defense. After holding teams in the 50s or lower eight times last year, X hasn't done it once yet this year. This is the opportune time to change that and get some bite back on the defensive end of the floor.