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Xavier v. Michigan: Preview, matchups, how to watch

Both teams face their first real test of the year. Will home court advantage tell, or can Xavier go north and poach a win?

Our scouting reports indicate LeVert is able to dunk.
Our scouting reports indicate LeVert is able to dunk.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Two games into the season, Xavier has played about thirty minutes of good basketball. Owing to the relative ease of the schedule, the Muskies are sitting at 2-0 and about to jump into the Gavitt Tipoff games. Their opponent will be Michigan. Just in case you thought Xavier was rocking a soft 2-0, consider the fact that Michigan's own lofty 2-0 mark comes courtesy of wins over D2 Northern Michigan and perennial CAA bottom-feeder Elon. Tonight's game will be the first real test of the season for both teams.

The essentials
Game time: 9:00 PM
Location: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI
TV: Big Ten Network
TWC 333
DirecTV 610
DISH 405
Cinci Bell Fioptics :(
Radio: 55KRC

Team fingerprint:

Boy howdy do the Wolverines love to shoot threes. They're 19-40 from behind the arc on the young season, and 36% of their field goal attempts have come from deep. They play really slowly, using up almost 2/3rds of the shot clock on an average possession. They are solid but unspectacular on the offensive glass and in avoiding turnovers, but their real goal is to make you work for a while before burying a three and then heading the other way.

Defensively, they've forced a ton of turnovers this year. I'm going to attribute that more to their competition than some sweeping strategy and just point out that coach John Beilein generally favors a 1-3-1 zone in the half court. Other than the turnover thing, the Wolverines have been fairly porous, currently landing 264th in the nation in EFG% defense. They're about average on the defensive glass, and they haven't been fouling much.

Starters:

STARTING MATCHUPS
Derrick Walton, Jr. POINT GUARD Edmond Sumner
Junior Class Freshman
6'1", 190 Measurements 6'6", 185
14.0/4.0/4.0 Game line 15.5/3.5/1.5
.643/.667/.800 Shooting line .500/.500/.650
The best EFG% and 14th assist rate in the nation have combined to make Walton one of the most efficient players on the young season. He'll probably come down a bit from the 183.6 ORtg he's currently working with, but this is a dangerous offensive player.
Aubrey Dawkins SHOOTING GUARD Myles Davis
Sophomore Class Junior
6'6", 205 Measurements 6'2", 195
11.0/4.5/1.0 Game line 7.5/2.0/3.5
.750/.750/.500 Shooting line .333/.143/.857
Dawkins has historically not been bashful about getting the ball and putting it up, and he's especially fond of the left side of the floor. He's an effective shooter wherever he turns up, though the mid-range isn't a strength for him. He was excellent at avoiding turnovers last year.
Caris LeVert WING Remy Abell
Senior Class Senior
6'7", 205 Measurements 6'4", 195
14.5/4.0/6.0 Game line 4.5/1.5/2.5
.500/.333/.875 Shooting line .231/.250/1.000
It's not entirely fair or accurate to classify LeVert as a wing, but he's not really just a point guard or a shooting guard either. He'll use more possessions than anyone else on the team and can score from all over, but he really loves working from the left wing. Defenders who overplay his jumper will find themselves in the background of a poster.
Kameron Chatman FORWARD Trevon Bluiett
Sophomore Class Sophomore
6'8", 215 Measurements 6'6", 215
6.0/2.5/1.0 Game line 14.0/6.5/1.5
.400/.000/.000 Shooting line .476/.500/.750
Despite his size, Chatman is an unspectacular rebounder who spends a good deal of his time on the perimeter. He spent a lot of time sneaking into the corners for threes last year, with mixed success.
Mark Donnal FORWARD Jalen Reynolds
Sophomore Class Junior
6'9", 240 Measurements 6'10", 232
6.0/1.5/0.0 Game line 8.0/8.5/2.0
.667/.000/1.000 Shooting line .455/.000/.857
Donnal has shot six times this year. He does okay at drawing fouls when he gets the ball, but mostly he's in the game to wall up on the other team's biggest player and make rebounding difficult for opponents. Now that I've said that, he'll probably go for 18 tonight.

Reserves:

This far into the season, just about anyone could be starting or coming off the bench, so take those distinctions with a grain of salt. With that said, Duncan Robinson is a 6'8", 210-pound guard averaging 9.5/3.5/0.0 on .857/.833/1.000 shooting. Obviously, that's pretty danged efficient. We're going to want to get a hand in this guy's face. Forward Ricky Doyle is 6'9", 250 and provides front-court depth along with 5.0/2.5/0.0 per game. Freshman forward DJ Wilson is a guy Michigan fans have high hopes for; he's getting 5.0/0.5/1.5 from the wing.

Guard Zak Irvin missed the opener but got 15 minutes last game. Spike Albrecht - you've probably heard of him once or twice - has been good for 3.5/2.0/2.0 and is getting just 13.5 minutes per game on the young season. A lot of guys have gotten minutes early, but Beilein has been making noise about tightening up the rotation against Xavier. We'll see what comes of that.

Three questions:

-How does Xavier match up? The Muskies have a big height advantage at the point, but they give it back at both of the other guard positions. Sticking LeVert is going to be priority 1; Sumner is probably the best matchup for him physically, but I doubt Coach Mack is going to throw the freshman into the fire like that. I'd imagine Remy will get first shot, but beyond that it's a gamble.

-How much zone? The answer to the matchup problem could be found in riding the 1-3-1 for long stretches. The problem with that is that Michigan can really, really shoot the ball, and they don't figure to be flustered by the zone. Good ball rotation and disciplined movement will eventually beat a zone no matter how good it is, and Michigan can bring both of those things to the table.

-Which Jalen shows up? Will it be the guy who dragged the team through the Miami (OH) game, or the one who was pulled under by foul trouble and never hit a stride against Missouri? Xavier's biggest advantage on paper is in the post, and that starts with Jalen.

Three keys:

-Check the arc. This can't be said enough. Michigan shoots and makes a lot of threes. Xavier has been vulnerable from deep for pretty much the entire Mack Era. If the Musketeers are slack in their rotations or lose their assignments, Michigan will happily chuck 'em from the cheap seats until the game is out of reach.

-Work inside out. Michigan is a massively perimeter-oriented team, but Xavier holds an ostensible advantage with Jalen Reynolds going to work on the block. The offense just flows better when Xavier rotates the ball through the post rather than taking turns being heroes on the outside. It's incumbent on Jalen and James to get good deep position, and it will be vital for the guards to dump it into them repeatedly.

-Don't settle on offense. You know about the droughts, right? If Xavier goes on another 7+ minute run without a field goal, they're not beating Michigan. The Muskies have to stay poised, run the offense, and commit to getting good shots each time down the floor.