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Xavier v. Providence: Preview

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Offensively it's not much more than Dunn and Henton, but that doesn't mean that stopping the Friars will be easy for this Musketeers defense.

Trevon Bluiett has to try to stop this guy.
Trevon Bluiett has to try to stop this guy.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Through six games (for most teams) of Big East play the conference has been pretty much what it was expected to be. Tightly contested at the top with one team beating it's closest competitor and establishing a small margin and desolate at the bottom, with one team currently winless in conference. Unexpectedly though, it's Georgetown that has eked out a half game lead at the top and it's Creighton that sits at 0-6 all the way at the bottom. There is no team in the conference that hasn't lost at least twice already.

That parity means that 3-3 Xavier is sitting 1.5 games behind a first place team they've already beaten. Providence is 4-2 and in a massive tie for second, ahead of Seton Hall at 3-2 and then Butler and Xavier at 3-3. What this all means is that Xavier can jump right back into the thick of things with a win, or watch Providence start to distance themselves a bit with a loss. Right now, Ken Pomeroy sees this as a one point win for the Friars, an essential mathematical toss up.

Team fingerprint:

On Xavier's defensive end is where this game will be won or lost for the Musketeers. The Friars are 51st nationally in offensive efficiency with a 108.5 rating, but that has dropped to 104.4 in conference play. That mark would be below 100th in the nation and represents a pretty significant step down. The Friars protect the ball and hammer the offensive glass. What they don't do is shoot or make three pointers, ranking below 230th nationally in both. They shoot a solid 50% inside the arc. In short, they are a decent but not spectacular offense. Xavier's defense should be able to hang with them, because the Musketeers strengths match up relatively well with those of Providence.

On the other end, the Friars defense is suspect. Providence allows teams to shoot 46.7% inside the arc and turns opponents over on less than 20% of possessions. What they will do is block a shocking 15% of opponents attempts, good for 15th in the nation. The manage to do that without fouling a great deal, sending the opposition to the line on only 36% of their shot attempts. All that shot blocking and not fouling does lead to Providence allowing an offensive rebounding percentage of 30.5%, only 143rd in the nation. Teams only shoot 30.6% from deep against the Friars, and don't generally try their luck from deep much.

Starters:

Kris Dunn Point Guard Dee Davis
Sophomore Class Senior
6-3, 205 Measurements 6-0, 160
14.2/5.6/7.6 Game line 9.7/2.0/5.8
.469/.290/.667 Shooting line .416/.298/.763
Dunn sports the highest assist rate (50.8%) in the nation. He adds to that the second highest defensive rebounding rate on his team and a 50.3% mark from inside the arc. He's a player. Look for some Remy Abell here.
Jalen Lindsey Guard Remy Abell
Freshman Class Junior
6-7, 195 Measurements 6-4, 200
4.5/1.8/0.3 Game line 9.8/1.7/1.7
.365/.322/.800 Shooting line .545/.449/.750
I refuse to believe that Remy won't start. If he does, he'll take time on Dunn but Lindsey's size creates a real matchup issue with Dee. Lindsey hasn't been starting all year, but he went for 8/5/0 in 34 minutes against Creighton.
LaDontae Henton Forward Trevon Bluiett
Senior Class Freshman
6-6, 215 Measurements 6-6, 215
21.1/5.4/2.1 Game line 12.2/5.1/2.1
.473/.352/.745 Shooting line .443/.333/.758
Henton is a monster. He's going to get his, but he's not extremely effiecient in doing so. This is going to really be a test of Bluiett's defensive ability and he may need help.
Ben Bentil Forward James Farr
Freshman Class Junior
6-8, 230 Measurements 6-10, 237
4.7/3.7/0.6 Game line 5.3/6.1/0.7
.436/.316/.517 Shooting line .415/.267/.600
This is a battle of bigs who shouldn't be shooting threes but occasionally do anyway. Farr is the superior rebounder, and Tyler Harris will end up playing more minutes than Bentil.
Carson Desrosiers Center Matt Stainbrook
Senior Class Senior
7-0, 250 Measurements 6-10, 263
7.6/5.4/0.9 Game line 12.4/7.0/2.4
.463/.556/.696 Shooting line .654/.333/.757
Desrosiers is seventh in the nation in block rate at 13.7%. That's insanely high. It will take all of Matt's bag of tricks to get free. If Xavier's big man can get Desrosiers thinking block, he'll have plenty of interior passing lanes.

Reserves:

The aforementioned Tyler Harris is a 6-9 junior who has started but currently backs up the forwards to the tune of  10.8/4.6/1.3. Pascal Chukwo is a 7-2 freshman who will come in to block shots and commit fouls, though not necessarily in that order. The guards for Providence are generally relieved by Kyron Cartwright, a 5-11 freshman from Compton. Cartwright is a solid backup who gets 2.8/1.7/2.8 per game. Providence isn't deep and will only get 29.5% of their minutes off the bench.

Three questions:

- Is the experimenting over? In each of the last two games, Coach Mack has debuted a new lineup. Neither of those games have started well, and Villanova was a disaster. Xavier needs a road win at some point along the line, so Remy Abell needs to be back in the starting five.

- Can Stainbrook limit Desrosiers effectiveness? Stainbrook won't pull Providence' big man away from the basket with his shooting ability, but his willingness to head fake, work angles, and make passes could come in very useful here. If Stainbrook can pass around Desrosiers rather than try to challenge him at the rim, Xavier's guards and specifically Trevon Bluiett should have slashing lanes.

- Will Xavier start hot? Against Villanova it was an 11-2 deficit right away. Against Marquette the Musketeers fell behind 10-2. Spotting conference opponents large leads to start the game is not a recommended way of doing business. Xavier needs to get going early in the game and prevent themselves from falling into yet another hole.

Three keys:

- Make threes: Desrosiers is going to limit inside effectiveness, no matter how well Stainbrook plays. If Xavier's big man finds shooters as well as he normally does, the shots need to go. Abell and Myles Davis are shooting well right now, Dee Davis is not.

- Finally stop someone: Providence doesn't shoot often or well from deep. This plays into Xavier's defensive strength, if such a thing exists. The Friars hit the offensive glass well, and Xavier defends it well. This one could come down to interior shooting and second chance points.

- Get a road win: Any way possible, by any means necessary.