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Crosstown Shootout: Should James Farr start?

Xavier's main strength is rebounding, but their best rebounder usually comes off the bench. Is it time to switch things up?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Xavier hasn't changed the starting lineup all year. Jalen Reynolds, Trevon Bluiett, Remy Abell, Myles Davis, and Edmond Sumner are Coach Mack's guys and he's sticking with them. In the words of Coach Dale: his team is on the floor. Xavier has won this year by obliterating opponents on the glass on both ends. The Musketeers are in the top 20 in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate. That's basically unheard of for a team that plays such a high level of competition. James Farr is a major reason for this. He's probably the best rebounder in the nation and currently stands fourth in offensive rebounding rate and 22nd in defensive rebounding rate.

Those are the facts of the case, and they are undisputed. They also point to a potential issue for the Shoorout. See, UC is one of the few teams in the nation that comes anywhere close to matching Xavier on the glass. Octavious Ellis, Gary Clark, and Shaq Thomas all stand 6-7 or taller and all go the glass. To counter that, Xavier starts Jalen Reynolds and Trevon Bluiett. Starting at the swing for Xavier is Remy Abell, who is three inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter than Thomas. That kind of edge is not insignificant in a game that is going to be decided by free possessions.

So, should Coach Mack start James Farr? Farr could slide down to guard Gary Clark who is energetic, but isn't going to take the big man outside. That would leave Trevon on Shaq Thomas, a player he is quite simply better than. Offensively Xavier would lose some of their flexibility because Big Game James no longer fancies himself a three point shooter, but they may gain extra possessions that they wouldn't with Abell because Farr just cannot be kept off the glass. The Bearcats may present one of the few matchups where Farr's lack of footspeed on defense wouldn't be an issue.

Of course, there is the ever present elephant in the room. One reason we've seen Jalems Farrnolds this year is because both of Xavier's big men love to foul. Like voters in Chicago, they foul early and often. They also foul late and often, and in the middle and often. One problem with going to Farr over Abell to start the game is that it could mean big minutes for either Makinde London or Sean O'Mara. Outside of members of the London and O'Mara families, that's not a situation anyone is fantasizing about.

So, what should Coach Mack do? Is it time to gamble on some intelligence from the bigs and try to show UC how the Big East rebounds, or should the Musketeers stand pat with what got them there and hope Remy Abell devotes his considerable physical prowess to keeping Thomas off the glass? It's decisions like these that swing games.