The Skip Prosser Classic closes out the non-conference slate for Xavier this year. It has been a non-conference run of unprecedented success. Xavier is off to the best start in program history at 11-0, they have a claim to be playing the best basketball the program has ever played, and they sit in the top 10 in both major media polls. A team that we all suspected was loaded with talent is flashing it earlier and more often than even the most optimistic of fans may have expected.
The Wake Forest team that Xavier runs into isn't having nearly that level of success, but they are showing the signs of a program on the rise. They sit at 8-2 with losses only to Richmond (KenPom #63) and Vanderbilt (#17). Most of their wins aren't over impressive competition, but the one over UCLA certainly is. That win was the best for the Demon Deacons in nearly two full calendar years. Danny Manning's squad isn't the pushover they were the last time these two teams met.
Where Wake wins is with offense. That's not to say their offense is elite, though it isn't far off, but their defense falls well below that line. The Deacs don't shoot the ball well from deep, where they make only 33.7%, but they don't shoot from behind the arc enough for that to cripple them. Where they excel is shooting inside the arc (51.4%) and offensive rebounding (37%). If that calls to mind UC well, it should. Wake doesn't take care of the ball and they don't shoot well from the line. If they did either of those things, they could truly be dangerous.
Simply put, Wake is wretched on defense. They don't turn teams over at all (14.2%), they don't rebound well, and they allow above average shooting numbers from anywhere you choose to measure it. They do block shots at a 12.9% rate, 53rd in the nation. If they didn't do that, they would get gashed more often than they already do.
The Demon Deacons are disciplined. They don't send teams to the line a lot and they do get there a lot themselves. They also like to play quickly in an attempt to outscore their defensive deficiencies. Wake also manages to play even taller than Xavier does.
|Bryant Crawford||POINT GUARD||EDMOND SUMNER|
|6'3", 190||Measurements||6'6", 185|
|Bryant uses the ball a lot because he shoots a lot and he throws the thing around. He can distribute well, but he's also very prone to coughting it up.|
|Mitchell Wilbekin||SHOOTING GUARD||MYLES DAVIS|
|6'2", 165||Measurements||6'2", 188|
|Wilbekin is a glue guy who takes good care of the ball. He's taken nearly 30 more threes than twos, and nearly as many free throws as twos. He's not out there to shoot the ball, but he's not bad when called on from deep.|
|Greg McClinton||SMALL FORWARD||REMY ABELL|
|6'7", 200||Measurements||6'4", 185|
|McClinton gets on the offensive glass at a 14.1% offensive rebounding rate and is the 138th best two point shooter in the nation. Fouling him before he can put the ball back up is clearly the way to go.|
|Devin Thomas||POWER FORWARD||TREVON BLUIETT|
|6'9", 255||Measurements||6'6", 215|
|Only 51 players in the nation use the ball more than Thomas. He's currently putting up the numbers that Xavier fans probably wanted from Jalen Reynolds this year. He's tough on the glass on both ends and passes well for a big man.|
|Konstantinos Mitoglou||CENTER||JALEN REYNOLDS|
|6'10", 225||Measurements||6'10", 238|
|If Thomas and Crawford didn't shoot so much, Wake could feed the much more effective Mitoglou. He'll step out behind the arc at will and he's excellent from the line. He's not a tremendous rebounder, but he gets the job done. Don't be stunned to see Trevon switch to Mitoglou if he starts roaming away from the rim.|
John Collins is a 6-10 freshman who uses the ball more than anyone else off Wake's bench. he goes for 9.4/5.5/0.1 and does all his damage inside. He's rebounding rates are through the roof. Cornelius Hudson is a 6-7 swing man who doesn't shoot well from deep or from close, but shoots the ball enough to score over 10 per game anyway. Trent VanHorn is a 6-3 backup guard who is the only guy who plays a lot off the bench that isn't also 6-7 or taller. After those three, Wake throws out an amalgam of whoever is playing well that game with no real standouts.
- Will Xavier run the table? This, I admit, doesn't have a lot to do with in game strategy or analysis, but everyone is looking to see if Xavier is going to go into Big East play undefeated. Wake doesn't look like a terribly intimidating opponent, but it is a true road game against a team that can score, and there will be a lot of latent emotion for Coach Mack.
- Is Sean O'Mara coming into his own? The man behind Jalmes Farrnolds on the depth chart played 14 minutes and tossed up a line of 10/6/1 against Auburn. He's now playing about 20% of the minutes and has a usage rate of right around 20% as well. All of this is leading to a Sean that looks very confident with the ball on the post. He's not a leaper, but he knows how to play the game.
- Are free throws the way to beat Xavier? Dayton has been the team that had the highest free throw rate against Xavier so far. We all know how that ended. Wake likes to get to the line, though, and Xavier commits a fair amount of shooting fouls. It may be the way to derail this team is to get hacked and get to the line.
- Knock down threes: Wake will let you have them and let you make a good amount of them. Right now Xavier is making 37.3% of their attempts from deep. If they keep shooting like that, this game won't be a contest, because the Demon Deacons are ill-equipped to stop a team that stretches the floor.
- Meet the rebounding challenge: Xavier is going to get on the offensive glass and the Deacs probably won't be able to stop them. On the other end, Wake presents as serious a challenge to Xavier's defensive rebounding prowess as any team has thus far. Right now Trevon Bluiett has a higher defensive rebounding rate than Jalen Reynolds. That's an observation as much as it's anything, but it would be nice to see Jalen end a lot of possessions this game.
- Keep getting to the line: Wake doesn't foul a lot and Xavier lives at the line. Those things can't exist in harmony with another, so it's vital that Xavier attacks the rim and gets fouled. The Deacons are going to try to block shots, but they haven't seen a lot of guys like Sumner and Bluiett. This may seem a bit incongruent with key number one, but the Musketeers need to get in the lane, too.