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Xavier hosts Big East leader DePaul desperately needing another home win

Every road loss puts more pressure on every home game, and this one is no different. Xavier has to hold serve at Cintas if they want to stay in the hunt in the conference.

This guy...
This guy...
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
The essentials
Time: 12:00 PM
Location: Cintas Center
TV: FOX Sports 1
TWC 317
DirecTV 219
DISH 150
Cincinnati Bell 58/506(HD)
Radio feed: 700 WLW

A hard-fought loss in overtime on the road is not the preferred preparation for any game. It's even less ideal for a game you'll have approximately 38 hours to prepare for, including the time it takes you to shower, change, and ride the bus back home.

The cherry on top of this delightful sundae of misfortune is that Xavier is coming home to take on the team that currently sits (in a tie) atop the Big East standings. After entering conference play on the wrong side of .500 and riding a six-game losing skid, the Blue Demons have suddenly caught fire, ripping off 5 wins in 7 attempts to find their way to the top of the table nearing the halfway point. Their most recent game was a road win over #24 Seton Hall.

Team fingerprint:
To say a team is getting it done with smoke and mirrors is a little insulting, so we'll just call the secret to DePaul's hot start guile. Their offense is eighth in the ten-team league, but they are first with a three-point shooting percentage of 37%. They also take almost 40% of their shots from behind the arc. Beyond that, they're good free throw shooters, turn the ball over too much, and aren't very good on the offensive glass.

Their defensive efficiency is fifth in the league. As you might suspect, they're about average in a lot of things. They force turnovers at a slightly elevated clip... and that's about it. They rebound averagely, defend the arc averagely, and defend inside averagely.

Starters:


STARTING MATCHUPS
Aaron Simpson POINT GUARD Dee Davis
Junior Class Senior
5'11", 152 Measurements 6'0", 160
5.5/2.0/1.1 Game line 9.7/2.0/5.8
.413/.367/.667 Shooting line .416/.298/.763
This guy is tiny, but he's a surprisingly efficient scorer. He's a much better shooter from the right side of the floor (for whatever reason), but mostly he's on the floor because – unlike Durrell McDonald, the man he replaced in the starting lineup – he doesn't turn the ball over much.
Billy Garrett, Jr. SHOOTING GUARD Remy Abell
Sophomore Class Junior
6'6", 205 Measurements 6'4", 195
13.3/2.6/3.7 Game line 9.8/1.7/1.7
.407/.407/.870 Shooting line .545/.449/.750
Top ten in the conference in ORtg, usage rate, EFG%, true shooting%, assist rate, and free throw rate, Garrett is the most important player on DePaul. He doesn't shoot a lot from behind the arc – just 8-20 in conference play – but he can make them when he does. He's not a great finisher and drives more to pass than score.
Jamee Crockett WING Trevon Bluiett
Senior Class Freshman
6'4", 205 Measurements 6'6", 215
11.2/3.5/1.2 Game line 12.2/5.1/2.1
.449/.329/.701 Shooting line .443/.333/.758
Crockett still loves the corner three, but his numbers are down across the board in conference play. He is a very good defensive player though, ranking in the top 15 in the Big East in steal% and block% while only getting called for 1.8 fouls per 40 minutes.
Myke Henry FORWARD James Farr
Junior Class Junior
6'6", 228 Measurements 6'10", 247
13.3/5.5/1.2 Game line 5.3/6.1/0.7
.497/.392/.722 Shooting line .415/.267/.600
Henry isn't big, but he gets after it hard on the glass and gobbles up buckets around the rim. He's only 6-19 from deep in conference play, but he's likely to get a look or two at the rim from behind the arc against Xavier
Forrest Robinson CENTER Matt Stainbrook
Senior Class Senior
6'10", 222 Measurements 6'10", 263
7.3/3.5/0.5 Game line 12.4/7.0/2.1
.407/.373/.950 Shooting line .654/.333/.757
Starting center Tommy Hamilton went and got himself suspended on the eve of league play with the team sitting at 6-7. Coach Purnell made the switch to starting Robinson, and the rest is borderline Wally Pipp/Lou Gehrig stuff. Robinson is not a great rebounder or inside scorer, but he's 12-33 (36.4%) from deep in Big East play and his ability to stretch defenses has been pivotal for the Blue Demons.

Reserves:
Deposed starter Tommy Hamilton leads the line here. He is a 6'11" center who goes for 11.1/6.2/1.2 and is good around the rim and from behind the arc. Guard Durrell McDonald leads the conference in steal% but is shooting .391/.333/.800 in conference and turns the ball over too much. Wing Darrick Wood comes off the bench and shoots a lot but makes very little; he's a decent rebounder but is also too loose with the ball.

Three questions:
-How does Xavier defend Robinson?
Robinson went 4-9 from three on his way to an all-too-predictable 17-point outburst when these teams last met. Matt Stainbrook isn't well suited to defending a perimeter big man, but both DePaul centers can step out and shoot it and Myke Henry is hardly a better matchup.

-Can Xavier control the glass? At DePaul, the Musketeers owned rebounding on both ends. This kept Xavier in a hotly contested game right down to the final horn. Since then, however, X has been average on the glass. Finding a way back to dominating the boards would be a huge boost in attempting to cool off DePaul.

-Can anyone slow down Billy Garrett? It's no secret that Garrett is pivotal for DePaul, but it wasn't a secret in the first meeting either and he still gashed X for 15/5/10. He buried a couple of very difficult threes at points when Xavier was threatening to take control of the game, and his 6'6" frame is a matchup nightmare for the Muskies again this time around.

Three keys:
-Avoid the turnover.
The only thing DePaul does above average on defense is force teams to cough the ball up. If Xavier can protect the pumpkin the way they have been in conference play, that will bode well for their ability to eventually unlock the Blue Demons' defense.

-Zone press. Two birds, one stone here. DePaul's bigs like to step out and shoot it, and the Blue Demons as a general rule are not very good at keeping hold of the ball. Any sort of zone look is going to alleviate the pressure on Matt Stainbrook to have to defend more than about eight feet from the basket, and pressure on DePaul can lead to turnovers and easy baskets going the other way.

-Bounce back. Thursday night's loss was gutting, but there's no time to lick your wounds in the Big East. Xavier has to take care of business against DePaul at home before heading right back out on the road for Georgetown on Tuesday and Seton Hall over the weekend. Xavier is the deeper team, and it may be incumbent on the reserves to provide a boost. This is the middle of a stretch of 5 roadies in 7 games; Xavier just needs to keep the pace right now.