Tournament time is here! The Committee put 68 teams into the bracket last night (not all of whom were well received by the public at large); of those, 64 know who they will be playing. The leaves 4 teams who don't know who their next opponent will be; two of them are one seed who will trounce their foe, whomever it ends up being. That leaves just two teams whose opponent will actually matter than don't know who it will be yet. Xavier is one of those.
Unless you're just an unstoppable juggernaut, the tournament is all about matchups. That leaves the Xavier fan with an obvious question: who do we want to be matched up against? Let's try to answer that together.
BYU (WCC at-large)
Best win(s): Stanford, Saint Mary's, @Gonzaga
Worst loss(es): Pepperdine (x2)
KenPom offense: 9
KenPom defense: 139
KenPom overall: 31
BYU's strength lies in its offense, which is efficient and very, very fast. In fact, no team in the country has quicker offensive possessions than BYU; they're looking to lift as soon as they have the basketball. They're an excellent shooting team, putting up a team line of .467/.388/.768 against D1 teams. They also rarely turn the ball over (16.4% TO%, 33rd) and are a top-100 offensive rebounding team. Despite being an excellent three-point shooting team, they don't rely on the three. 36% of their shots come from deep, 121st in the nation. Their pace is helped by their depth; they get more than 36% of their minutes off the bench.
How does a team that scores like that land in the play-in game? Other than the fact that the Committee was apparently day drinking this year, the answer is a miserable defense. They rebound well defensively and are about average in defending the arc. Beyond that, it's all bad. They rank below 200th in forcing turnovers, 2P% defense, avoiding fouls, and block% and narrowly avoid that ignominy with a 197th ranking in EFG%.
Senior Tyler Haws is the team's main threat, averaging 21.9/4.4/2.3 on .476/.355/.876 shooting and playing both forward positions. Junior wing Kyle Collinsworth has six triple-doubles this year and averages 14.0/8.7/5.8 on .479/.286/.740 shooting and boasts a steal% of 3.3%. Guards Skyler Halford, Chase Fischer, and Anson Winder can all fill it up from deep. Interestingly, nobody of 6'6" averages more than 3.3 PPG for BYU; this is a team absolutely reliant on perimeter play on both ends of the floor.
Ole Miss (SEC at-large)
Best win(s): UC, Oregon, Arkansas, Florida (x2), Texas A&M
Worst loss(es): Charleston Southern, Western Kentucky
KenPom offense: 22
KenPom defense: 125
KenPom overall: 44
Nobody plays as fast as BYU, but Ole Miss gives it a shot, ranking 40th in the country in offensive tempo. Their twin focuses (focii?) on offense are ball security (16.9% TO%, 48th) and offensive rebounding (35% OReb%, 49th). It's good that they focus on not giving away free possessions, because they're not a very good shooting team. Their team shooting line is .426/.338/.778, which leads to an EFG% of 48.2% (208th). They don't shoot very well or very often from behind the arc. They are deep (37.3% of minutes off the bench) and very experienced as a team.
Their defense inside the arc is excellent. They only allow teams to shoot 43.4% on two-point attempts and they block 11.2% of those shots. Beyond that... they can't force turnovers, can't rebound, foul like they're coached by Jalen Reynolds, and are miserable in defending the arc in terms of both percentage and frequency.
Shooting guard Stefan Moody takes his position description literally. He takes almost a third of the team's shots when he's on the floor despite a line of .385/.348/.901, which is overtly gruesome. He averages 16.3/3.5/2.2 largely on his ability to get to and convert from the line, and he's also a very disruptive defender. Point guard Jarvis Summers is barely more bashful than Moody, gunning his way to 12.4/1.8/4.6 on .344/.261/.763 shooting. An assist rate of 33% keeps him on the floor, but it's not clear why he still has the green light to lift. Wing LaDarius White is a more respectable .417/.414/.759 shooter on his way to 11.2 per game, and 6'9" forwards Sebastian Saiz (7.6/5.4/0.3) and MJ Rhett (6.9/4.8/0.5) add offensive balance inside.
I guess who you'd rather see boils down to what worries you more. BYU has the kind of shooters that we've seen give Xavier's defense fits, but their defense is insanely weak right where Xavier's offense is the strongest. Ole Miss can't really score the ball from beyond the arc, but their lone defensive strength happens to match up really well with what Xavier wants to do on offense. Both teams rely on a lot of scoring to mask weak defenses. Both teams like to get the ball out and push the tempo, trusting their depth to keep them fresh.
For my part, I'd rather see Ole Miss. I've been too scarred by watching shooters gun Xavier out of the building to feel comfortable pulling for that BYU matchup. Be sure to vote in the poll, then let us know what your thinking was in the comments section below.