|TV:||FOX Sports 1|
|Radio feed:||55 KRC|
Xavier celebrated the start of the new year by celebrating a 1-0 start in the Big East. That put Xavier top of the Big East with Villanova, Seton Hall, Providence, and DePaul. Yes, DePaul, undoubtedly the worst team in the conference, erased a 13 point second half deficit to beat Marquette on New Year's Eve. The Blue Demons have won a combined total of five conference games over the last two season, so it's kind of hard to imagine them staying atop their perch, but for now this is a matchup of co-conference leaders.
It's that way because Xavier played arguably their best game of the season in defeating Georgetown. The defense, a combination of man to man, zone, and zone press, finally lived up to the fearsome reputation it had developed prior to last year's struggles. The offense wasn't the juggernaut it had been against lesser competition, but it was more than adequate to the task of burying the Hoyas as the game wore on. Xavier is 2-3 away from the friendly confines of the Cintas Center this year, and road conference games are never easy.
DePaul may have won a game, but that doesn't mean they are suddenly a good team. Defensively, especially, the Blue Demons are terrible. Even after the Marquette win, DePaul is 295th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency. Even more troubling for fans of Oliver Purnell's team is the fact that DePaul's deficiencies match up horribly against Xavier's strengths. The Demons allow offensive rebounds at a 35.4% clip, 307th in the nation, and allow teams to shoot 53.4% inside the arc, 311th in the nation. Xavier stands at a respectable 86th in offensive rebounding, but is an elite 15th on shooting inside the arc. The Musketeers also just decimated a Georgetown team that is much better defending the lane.
Offensively, DePaul is much better, if not actually good. They will turn the ball over and they won't hit the offensive glass, but they shoot 35.3% from behind the arc and themselves land at 57th in the nation at converting inside. The main issue for Xavier's defense will be the three point shooting. Purnell's team launches 40.6% of their shot attempts from deep. No other team Xavier has faced this year has shown such a proclivity for shooting threes. Only Northern Arizona comes close, and they don't convert at nearly as high a rate.
|Durrell McDonald||POINT GUARD||Dee Davis|
|6'2", 173||Measurements||6'0", 160|
|McDonald splits ballhandling duties with Billy Garrett, Jr., but one of them has to be listed first. McDonald is actually fairly turnover prone and doesn't generate a lot of assists. He is an excellent finisher and shoots well from both corners. He is also in the top 50 in the nation in steal% on the defensive end.|
|Billy Garrett, Jr.||SHOOTING GUARD||Remy Abell|
|6'6", 205||Measurements||6'4", 195|
|Garrett is probably the team's best perimeter player. He leads DePaul in assist rate and shoots well from all around the arc, but especially the top of the key and the left wing. His size is a huge matchup advantage; he draws 6.4 fouls per 40 minutes and has almost as many free throws as field goals attempted.|
|Jamee Crockett||WING||Trevon Bluiett|
|6'4", 205||Measurements||6'6", 215|
|Crockett is a low usage-rate player, but he almost never turns the ball over and shoots well from the corners and around the rim. He's generally less of a threat the further from the baseline he is, but he is adept at drawing fouls on his way to the rim.|
|Myke Henry||FORWARD||James Farr|
|6'6", 228||Measurements||6'9", 237|
|None of DePaul's perimeter players are the good at rebounding – especially defensive rebounding – so the bulk of that burden falls on the big men. Henry is undersized but a voracious offensive rebounder; he's also active in the passing lanes on defense and can score from inside and behind the arc.|
|Tommy Hamilton IV||CENTER||Matt Stainbrook|
|6'11", 255||Measurements||6'10", 263|
|Hamilton was suspended for a violation of team rules for the opener, and it's not clear if he'll be eligible tomorrow. We'll assume he is. Hamilton almost completely eschews the mid-range game, living around the rim but also stepping out for 8-23 from deep on the year. He is a beastly defensive rebounder and blocks shots at a high rate. He also turns the ball over like it has been covered in hot lard.|
If Hamilton doesn't start/play, look for 6'10", 222-pound senior Forrest Robinson to take his place. He averages 6.4/3.4/0.4 on .389/.345/.933 shooting and shoots three times from deep for every one attempt inside the arc. Darrick Wood is a reserve wing who averages 4.8 PPG, shooting a lot even though he's not very good at it. Aaron Simpson is a 5'11" backup at both guard positions who gets 4.1 PPG.
- Can Xavier defend the arc? Missouri got off 16 attempts, Auburn 22, FGCU 16, and Georgetown 13. The tide seems to be slowing, but none of those teams shoot from deep like DePaul does. The Blue Demons are going to follow their city's mantra by shooting early and often, and Xavier hasn't done well in those situations. It's possible that Coach Mack will use more of the zone press to keep early three point attempts from happening.
- Will Jalen Reynolds avoid foul trouble? The big man played 24 minutes against the Hoyas and went for 17/4/1. DePaul is much worse inside and Jalen should have a healthier Matt Stainbrook to play off of. He's a monster when he can stay on the floor and this game looks like a great matchup for his skill set, can he stay on the floor to take advantage of it?
- Can Xavier put a game away on the road? Xavier couldn't bury Auburn when they had a chance, and that turned into quite a debacle. The Musketeers also led against UTEP and LBSU and couldn't make the leads stick. Even at home Xavier couldn't ever drive the nails into FGCU. They took a step in the right direction against Georgetown, now they need to do it on the road.
- Turn DePaul over: The Blue Demons like to cough the ball up (20.9% TO rate) and Xavier recently has started to enjoy taking it away (21.5%). Keeping the numbers moving in that direction will keep the Musketeers from getting gashed behind the arc.
- Dominate the defensive glass: The Musketeers should have the edge on the boards on both ends, but especially when DePaul is on offense. The Demons aren't good getting after offensive rebounds and Xavier is borderline elite at preventing them. One shot possessions will keep DePaul from going on the kind of run that ended Marquette.
- Get Trevon Bluiett going again: Bluiett went for double figures in each of his first six games. Since then, he's cracked double digits twice. Against Auburn it took him going 8-8 from the line and two overtimes to make it. Bluiett was Xavier's leading scorer up until the last game, and Xavier's offense is more effective when he's clicking.