It's almost time for the first game of the season, which means it is time for us to post the final cherry on top of the sweet, sweet sundae that is our offseason coverage. We're going to give a brief rundown of every non-conference game on the schedule, link to our full breakdown from the award-winning "Know Your Non-conference Opponent" series, and each pick a winner so we have something to argue about later. Please enjoy, and don't forget to vote in the poll and go on record in the comments section so we can argue with you later, too.
NB: teams are noted with last year's record and this year's season-opening KenPom ranking. Full write-ups include in-depth information on the team's losses, returnees, incoming players, and playing style from our "Know Your Non-conference Opponent" series.
Miami (OH) (13-19, 166) -- Friday, November 13, 7PM -- Cintas Center (FOX College)
Miami's defense is the most noteworthy thing about the team. They fly to the ball to create turnovers, though this comes at the cost of conceding the arc and giving up easy shots all over the floor. Head coach John Cooper generally concedes the offensive glass and his teams turn the ball over too much. They can score it a bit but generally come in as right around average.
The Red Hawks are led by 5'10" rising senior guard Eric Washington (14.2/3.2/5.5, .451/.329/.795) his running mate Geovonie McKnight (10.5/3.4/3.3). Six-three defensive ace Willie Moore (4.3% steal%) and a handful of less interesting forwards round out the returnees. Three transfers are the most interesting incoming players, with former Auburn G Dion Wade being joined by North Alabama grad transfer forward Jere Vucica and Southern Idaho scorer Abdoulaye Harouna. For the full write-up on Miami, click here.
Brad's pick: Win. Could be by 30.
Joel's pick: Win. The Musketeers get off and running in front of the home crowd.
Bryan's pick: Win. Miami simply doesn't have the horses.
KenPom's take: 76-63 Xavier win; 91% chance of any Xavier win.
Missouri (9-23, 167) -- Tuesday, November 17, 6:30PM -- Cintas Center (FS1)
Last year, Missou played slowly, was bad on the glass at both ends, turned the ball over too much and didn't force enough turnovers from their opponents. They were about average in three-point frequency at both ends of the court; for that team, that counts as a bright spot.
Johnathan Williams III (11.9/7.1/0.8, .412/.344/.617) and Montaque Gill-Caesar (9.1/3.0/0.5, .364/.309/.742) transferred out and assist leader Keith Shamburger ran out of eligibility. Coming back are guards Wes Clark (.348/.314/.745, 10.1/3.5/3.1) and Namon Wright (6.8/2.3/0.6, .414/.388/.556); they'll be joined by KJ Walton - a 6'3" who has stood out in the preseason - a three more freshmen. The Tigers also add a pair of JuCo teammates in guard Russell Woods and forward Martavian Payne. For the full write-up on Missouri, click here.
Brad's pick: Win. The Tigers might be even worse than Miami.
Joel's pick: Win. This team was bad last year and lost their best players from that squad; they're a warmup game.
Bryan's pick: Win. There was a time when this would be a big win, unfortunately that was 5 years ago.
KenPom's take: 74-61 win; 91% chance of any Xavier win.
Michigan (16-16, 17) -- Friday, November 20, 9PM -- Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI (BTN)
John Beilein and his high-flying offense host Xavier. Beilein's offenses always shoot a ton of threes and they rarely turn the ball over, and Michigan will be no exception this year. They don't hit the glass well or get to the line often, but boy can they score. Michigan's defense figures to be safe but unremarkable, not fouling a lot but not forcing a ton of turnovers or bad shots.
Caris LeVert (14.9/4.9/3.7, .421/.405/.810) is a 6'7" volume scorer coming back off a foot injury, and he can really light it up when he gets going. Zak Irvin (14.3/4.8/1.5, .402/.355/.697) took over the scoring load when LeVert and guard Derrick Walton (10.7/4.7/3.0, .346/.358/.833) went down and did well, and Spike Albrecht (7.5/2.3/3.9, .404/.365/.913) set the table for all involved. Michigan is a talented and veteran squad out to make up for a lost season last year. For the full write-up on Michigan, click here.
Brad's pick: Loss. The home team would win no matter where this matchup was played. I think Xavier is slightly better, but won't be quite ready for this challenge on the road.
Joel's pick: Loss. Michigan has a veteran back court and is playing at home; Xavier will hang for 30 minutes but Michigan will close the deal down the stretch.
Bryan's pick: Win. If Remy and Sumner do a job, Michigan is still a team capable of losing to NJIT.
KenPom's take: 70-65 loss; 28% chance of any Xavier win.
Northern Kentucky (13-17, 271) -- Monday, November 23, 8:30PM -- Cintas Center (FS1)
NKU welcomes first-year coach John Brannen. It's hard to say exactly what his tactical style is going to be, but prior to joining the coaching ranks, Brannen was the leading scorer in the SoCon as a senior in '96-'97 and a Rhodes Scholar finalist. Neither of those accomplishments is anything to sneeze at.
Rising senior Jalen Billups (11.1/5.9/0.6, .696/.000/.625) is a 6'6" center. Rising senior guard Tyler White (10.2/1.9/1.2, .398/.377/.618) his 66 threes last year, and classmate Todd Johnson hucked in 52 more. Incoming freshman Brennan Gillis is the team's tallest player; he stands 6'7". For the full write-up on Michigan, click here.
Brad's pick: Win. I'm going to be in attendance for what could be another 30 point victory.
Joel's pick: Win. We have guards as tall as their center.
Bryan's pick: Win. Duh.
KenPom's take: 79-60 win; 96% chance of any Xavier win.
Alabama (19-15, 77) -- Thursday, November 26, 12PM -- ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Orlando, FL (ESPN networks)
Alabama will be led by first-year college head coach Avery Johnson, who possesses a wealth of NBA experiences. In the NBA, Johnson really favored an attacking, fast break style offense, emphasizing a five-man commitment to the defensive glass followed by a structured but aggressive flow to the offensive end of the court. He ran a lot of iso in the half court, for whatever that's worth.
In Levi Randolph, Ricky Tarrant, and Rodney Cooper, Alabama lost all three of last year's double-digit scorers and a combined line of 39.6/11.0/6.1 per game. Coming back is 6'8" forward Shannon Hale (8.2/3.2/1.1, .417/.302/.701). He's joined by reserve guard Retin Obasohan (6.2/2.9/0.8, .447/.378/.606) and bigs Michael Kessens, Riley Norris, and Jimmie Taylor. 'Bama brings in three four-star freshmen in big man Donta Hall and wings Dazon Ingram and Brandon Austin. For the full write-up on Alabama, click here.
Brad's pick: Win. This will be a good game, but the Musketeers have more talent and a deeper bench. After this win, The Holiday Curse kicks in.
Joel's pick: Win. Alabama will make some noise this year, but I think they'll still be gelling when this game is played.
Bryan's pick: Win. A lot of things are in flux for Bama, and an X squad that is humming should handle them.
KenPom's take: 69-65 win; 67% chance of any Xavier win.
AdvoCare Invitational Games 2 and 3 -- Friday, November 27 and Sunday, November 29, times TBD -- ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Orlando, FL (ESPN networks)
After game one against Alabama, Xavier will take on either a veteran Wichita State team being tagged as a Final Four dark horse or a USC squad bringing back three 12+ PPG scorers and rising from the ashes of the Tim Floyd Era. Game three will be against a beastly Notre Dame team, an Iowa group that is touted to be a tournament contender this year despite having just lost an exhibition game to a D2 team, or Dayton. Monmouth is also in the mix, but something very bad (or very surprising) has happened if Xavier plays them. For more on Xavier's possible opponents over the weekend, click here.
Brad's pick: I'm just assuming this will be a complete disaster until the team gives me a reason to think otherwise. Things go downhill after beating 'Bama. 0-2.
Joel's pick: I'm an optimist. Xavier has the chops to knock off one giant over the weekend, but I don't think a sweep is in the cards; put me down for 1-1 over the last two games.
Bryan's pick: I have been burned too many times before. I will count on Brad and me pulling off another baking miracle for my victories over the holiday. 0-2.
That gets us through Thanksgiving, the unofficial halfway point of the non-conference season. Come back later on today for part two of our season preview, which will take us right up to the cusp of conference play.