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Xavier v. Miami (OH): Preview, keys to the game, how to watch

The pretend games are over; it's time for Xavier to put a number in the win column for real.

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

There was a wind chill this morning. That was only the second most prominent sign of the end of summer though, because BASKETBALL IS BACK! After more than 230 days of transfer speculation, recruiting coverage, and endless gossip about practicing performance, we're finally on the cusp of actually having something to sink our teeth into as fans.

The essentials
Game time: 7:00 PM
Location: Cintas Center
TV: FOX College Sports
TWC 319
DirecTV 608 or SportsPak
DISH 451
Cinci Bell Fioptics 220
Radio: 55KRC

Miami (OH) hasn't changed since we looked at them in the season preview series. They're coming to Cintas to pick up a paycheck and Xavier is hosting them to pick up a win. What at one point in time would have been a nice early matchup for the Muskies is now not much more than a buy game to get things started on the right foot.

The RedHawks aren't entirely without intrigue though. They bring back nearly 25 PPG of production from a veteran back court, to which they have added Auburn transfer guard Dion Wade. North Alabama transfer forward Jere Vucica can hurt defenses that give him space, and Southern Idaho transfer Abdoulaye Harouna is a streaky shooter who can be dangerous. By and large though, Xavier will have the raw skill advantage at every position and will be expected to welcome the new season with a victory.

Three questions:

-Can Xavier defend without fouling? Xavier is loaded to the brim with guys who can score, but defense is not a strong suit for this team. Going to the 1-3-1 helped a bit last year, but this year the NCAA is renewing an emphasis on freedom of motion on the perimeter. Miami isn't the toughest team Xavier will have to guard, but if JP, Myles, and Trevon can't stay out of foul trouble outside and Jalen and James can't do the same in the middle against the RedHawks, this could be a long year.

-Who runs the point? I would anticipate that minutes will be split fairly evenly between Sumner and Larry Austin, but someone has to start and someone will have to play the big minutes. I'm hoping there isn't any crunch time in this game, but if there is, it will be illuminating to see who Coach Mack trusts will the ball when it's coming down to it.

-Did Jalen's preseason mean anything? My inclination is that it didn't, but Jalen wasn't exactly a dominant force in either the team intrasquad scrimmage or the exhibition game. There are a million reasons this could be, and none of them necessarily point to a disappointing campaign for him.

Three keys:

-Protect the ball. Miami does one thing to a noteworthy level, and that's force turnovers. I like that Xavier is starting a season with point guard uncertainty against a team that tries to swarm the ball. This will be a good first test for LAJ and Ed Sumner in the driver's seat.

-Attack. In that avoiding foul trouble will be an issue for Xavier's defense, it should be an even bigger one for Miami's. Sumner and Austin should be looking to get the ball on the deck and get into the middle of the defense whenever possible. With their quickness, they should either be making plays at will or living at the foul line.

-Get the walk-ons in. These guys work just as hard as the scholarship players but have significantly less to show for it. Xavier's schedule isn't full of chances to put a game away after 30 minutes; when they have the chance, they should take advantage of it.