Xavier will get take the court at the Cintas Center against an opponent for the first time this season, and that in and of itself should be exciting. Chances are, we will not learn a whole lot about Xavier from this game, given that the opposition is Division II's Northwood University, but just the thrill of seeing our beloved Musketeers back on the court will be enough for most fans to be satisfied. Northwood is not an entirely unfamiliar opponent for X, given that they also traveled to Cintas for an exhibition last season, so there should hopefully be an air of familiarity to proceedings as the game goes on. I say hopefully because Xavier walked out of that game 34 point victors, but the Timberwolves will come in to this one on a cresting wave of confidence, coming off two exhibition wins in which they eclipsed 100 points each time. Northwood is hoping to improve on last season's 15-14 showing, when they bowed out of the GLIAC Tournament Quarterfinal to Lake Superior State, ending a season in which they only lost twice at home.
Three Players to Watch
The backcourt is where most of Northwood's scoring has come from this year, with three guards all going into double figures in both exhibitions so far. The headliner with 49 points in two games is 5'7" 155 lb. Senior Maurice Jones-
Drew. Jones averaged 14.8 points per game last season, although it took him 13.6 shots to get there, bolstering his numbers with a solid 72.1 percent showing from the line. Jones also garnered 6.6 assists per game, but once again with the caveat that he turned the ball over 2.5 times to go along side it. His 20.7 three point percentage coupled with his penchant for turnovers indicates that Jones likes to put the ball on the floor and create, although it does not always work out for the best. He had 17/3/8 against X a year ago but at the cost of a 5-14/1-4/6-8 shooting line.
Bringing a little more size to the table at the guard spot is 6'4" Senior Dylan Langkabel, who fits the bill of an efficient scorer better than Jones. Langkabel got 15.6/3.5/1.2 a game last year on a pretty good shooting line of .495/.414/.849, showing that he can score the ball very efficiently when called upon to do so. His ball control can be sporadic, but he has gotten off to a solid start with 13 and 14 point showings so far this year.
The other of Northwood's major triumvirate of guards is Sophomore Nick Spitzley, who has come out shooting the ball like a house on fire. After a 43% showing from three in limited time last year, Spitzley has gone 7-9 from outside in the two exhibitions thus far, accounting for 33 points in 28 minutes of play off the bench. Spitzley has also pulled down 6 boards in that time span, but is mostly on the court for his outside shooting, which has been dialed in.
Three Keys to the Game
1. Pound the interior- Northwood has two players 6'9" or taller, one of whom is a freshman who has only player 13 minutes thus far. Obviously X has a slight size edge down low, and getting Reynolds, Farr, and O'Mara chances to take advantage of that will be very helpful early on.
2. Take Care of the Ball- The Timberwolves opponents have averaged 22 turnovers this season and last year X turned it over 14 times. With the departure of Dee Davis, Xavier has to establish the ability to handle pressure against less skilled opposition.
3. Don't get hurt- The last thing Coach Mack and Xavier need is someone going down in an exhibition game a week before the season starts. This will be fun to watch and important for the players in gearing up for the season, but this is not Georgetown or Villanova, so some extra caution is both acceptable and in order.
Who is the point?- We have spent basically the entire summer wondering about who replaces Dee Davis at the wheel for Xavier and this game may give us our first hint as to who gets the starting role.
What about the new guys?- It is always fun to see the new faces on the roster run out and get some time in games like this and Xavier fans will be excited to see Makinde London, Kaiser Gates, and really Edmond Sumner as well, get out there and show what they can do.
Will Cintas Center still be loud for an exhibition game?- You know it will be.