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Xavier 2015-2016 season preview, part two

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The conference season wraps up with the Crosstown Shootout and the Christmas games leading into Big East play.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

In part one - which you read already, right? - we ran through Xavier's games from the season opener through the AdvoCare Invitational. Here we cover the rest of the non-conference schedule, including the Crosstown Shootout and the Skip Prosser Classic. The most emotional game of the year is in here, but Xavier has a solid shot of putting together a good run of results heading into conference play.

Don't forget to vote in the polls and go on record in the comments section so we can use hindsight to compare our relative levels of genius later.

Western Kentucky (20-12, 218) -- Saturday, December 5, 8:30PM -- Cintas Center (FS1)

The Hilltoppers have played both fast and slow under Harper, but their offense has been pretty bad regardless of the tempo. Only last year did the even approach average, and I don't suspect they will again. Defense has been a relative strength, but only because the offense has stunk. Harper's teams have been average defensively, almost entirely due to shutting down the offensive glass.

Chris Harrison-Docks (formerly of Butler, though he didn't play an official game there) is a 6'0" guard who averaged 11.1/2.7/2.5 last season. His shooting line of .375/.354/.756 equates to a 49.1% EFG% (bad). Big men Justin Johnson and Ben Lawson come back inside. Johnson is a rising sophomore with some ball skills who is an excellent rebounder; Lawson is a 7'1" rising junior who rebounds poorly for his size but is a very efficient scorer in the paint. For the full write-up on WKU, click here.

Brad's pick: Win. There may be no better way to get back on the winning track.
Joel's pick: Win. Xavier could play this game 100 times and come away with 105 wins.
Bryan's pick: Win. Pretty smart scheduling an easier game right after Thanksgiving.
KenPom's take: 77-61 win; 93% chance of any Xavier win.

Wright State (11-20, 127) -- Tuesday, December 8, 7PM -- Cintas Center (FS1)

Donlon's teams rise and fall on defense. He has put three Wright State squads in the top 100 of defensive efficiency and two in the top 40. When they defend well, they tend to win. When they don't, they tend to get clubbed. It all hinges on forcing turnovers for the Raiders. They play at a really slow tempo and have averaged placing about 250th in offensive efficiency. They turn the ball over a lot, can't rebound, don't shoot an above-average number of threes, and can't make their free throws.

Their returning big gun is JT Yoho; he's a 6'6" wing who got 15.6/6.4/2.1 last year on .426/.329/.800. He's an incredibly strong defensive rebounder but kind of a volume scorer; also, he sounds like he'd make an awesome pirate. The only other returning double-digit scorer is 6'4" guard Joe Thomasson. He's got kind of an odd stat profile; he averaged 10.0/5.5/3.2 on .492/.305/.779 shooting. For the full write-up on WSU, click here.

Brad's pick: Win. I love seeing us schedule teams from Ohio. If only all of the high-major programs were so inclusive
Joel's pick: Win. WSU is an interesting squad this year, but Xavier is interesting and good, which is better.
Bryan's pick: Win. WSU might make some waves this year, but this will not be one of them.
KenPom's take: 72-61 win; 88% chance of any Xavier win.

Cincinnati (23-11, 14) -- Saturday, December 12, 5:30PM -- Cintas Center (FOX)

Mick Cronin simply can't coach offense, or maybe he can but has chosen not to. Unless he has a truly dynamic offensive player, his teams hang just above mediocre on that end. They do fly to the offensive glass like you wouldn't believe though. Defense, on the other hand, is Cronin's calling card. His last five teams have been in the top 25 in defensive efficiency. Expect UC to be pretty good at forcing turnovers and closer to bad on the defensive glass. What they continue to do very well is force bad shots; teams just can't get good looks against the Bearcats, and it shows in UC's consistently great EFG% against.

Octavius Ellis and point guard Troy Caupain return. Ellis put up 9.9/7.2/1.3 on .557/.000/.689 shooting and had elite rebounding rates at both ends last year; he was also 74th in the nation with a block% of 7.9%. Caupain averaged 9.6/3.6/3.6 on .444/.408/.788 shooting. Guard Farad Cobb led the team in shots% with 25.5%, which is probably too much for a dude with a shooting line of .382/.333/.792. He averaged 8.5/2.5/1.4 and made up for his poor shot selection by rarely turning the ball over. Gary Clark is the one to watch. He put up averages of 7.8/7.2/1.7, is a hurricane on the glass at both ends. For the full write up on UC, click here.

Brad's pick: Win. I will never pick UC in this game, I don't care about the circumstances. Seriously though, at this point in the season Xavier will be the better team.
Joel's pick: Win. Myles Davis moves to 3-0 in Shootouts and UC's defense fights hard but can't overcome its offensive shortcomings.
Bryan's pick: Win. Sumner gives Cow-pain the runaround all night and Jalen and Ellis actually earn their techs this year.
KenPom's take: 65-63 win; 57% chance of any Xavier win.

Auburn (15-20, 162) -- Saturday, December 19, 12PM -- Cintas Center (FS1)

After three years off, Pearl came back with the same run-and-gun style offensive approach. Auburn shot pretty well and pretty often from three, but there wasn't a lot else they excelled in on the attack. Forcing turnovers was a hallmark of Pearl's teams at UT, and that spilled over to his time at Auburn as well. The Tigers were a top-50 team in defensive TO% last year, but their EFG% against and defensive rebounding were both miserable.

The biggest returner is 6'7", 250-pound PF Cinmeon Bowers. Prior to seeing his line, I didn't think I'd ever call a post player a volume scorer, but his 12.1/9.6/1.3 came on .419/.179/.478 shooting. Auburn welcomes a couple of transfers with whom Xavier fans will be familiar. One is former Providence F Tyler Harris, who averaged 9.9/4.0/1.0 on .421/.286/.734 before using the grad transfer rule to head to Auburn. The other is former Xavier recruit Kareem Canty, who the Muskies stopped pursuing when Semaj signed. Canty put up 16.3/2.2/5.5 at Marshall before transferring out. For the full write up on Auburn, click here.

Brad's pick: Win. Being at home prevents last year's whatever that was.
Joel's pick: Win. Christmas is always a weird time for games, but Xavier is just better than Auburn and the Tigers won't get the home cooking they did last year.
Bryan's pick: Win. Pearl is slowly building Auburn into something, but right now it is just a pretty mediocre team.
KenPom's take: 79-65 win; 91% chance of any Xavier win.

Wake Forest (13-19, 60) -- Tuesday, December 22, 7PM -- Joel Coliseum, Winston-Salem, NC (RSN)

Coach Danny Manning's offenses run at a breakneck pace, landing in the top 100 all three years he's coached and hitting 26th in tempo last season. Defensively, the first thing that jumps out is a commitment to shutting down the glass, with all three teams landing in the top 100 in DReb% and last year's ending the season at 22nd. Teams shot pretty well against Wake last year, and they didn't force a ton of turnovers.

Almost everyone is back, led by rising senior G Codi Miller-McIntyre and his 14.5/4.8/4.3 line from a season ago. He's not a great shooter.(450/.284/.644) but was 57th in the nation with a 32.2% assist rate. Konstantinos Mitoglou - who I'm told is called the Greek Deac - is a 6'10" rising sophomore who posted a cool 9.7/4.6/0.4 on .442/.385/.718 shooting as a freshman. He had the team highest ORtg last year and figures to be a legitimate matchup problem.

Brad's pick: Loss. A bit of a letdown before the Big East. Myles will have something public to say if this happens.
Joel's pick: Win. Danny Manning has Wake moving in the right direction, but they're still a year away.
Bryan's pick: Win. Manning is going to bring back the glory days for Wake, but Mack already has X there.
KenPom's take: 73-72 loss; 47% chance of any Xavier win.