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The Marquette fan's guide to Xavier basketball

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Hello, Marquette fans! Xavier has gone from playing the team with probably the least exciting newish coach in the Big East (DePaul) to the one with maybe the most exciting newish coach in the Big East in you all. I'm not even going to try to spell his name, but you know and I know who we're talking about. It looks from my angle that you guys have a heck of a roster that's still growing into its talent a little bit. If you haven't been following along with Xavier's season - or you have but just want to get our perspective - let me get you up to date on happenings around here.

Xavier personnel

15 Myles Davis Jr. G 6'2" 188 11.1 3.1 3.6 .411 .403 .935 A natural shooting guard deputizing at the point. Best shooter on the team and their emotional leader. Not afraid of the big moment on the offensive end.
10 Remy Abell Sr. G 6'4" 197 7.3 1.7 2.3 .424 .371 .744 At his most effective when he lets open shots come to him. Doesn't need to score much to help the team. Very good on-ball defender.
55 J.P. Macura So. G 6'5" 203 9.0 2.7 2.0 .480 .318 .783 Always gives huge effort. Big time shooter in high school, but more effective inside the arc right now. Has a reputation for chippiness that he has largely earned. Sneaky good distributor.
5 Trevon Bluiett So. G/F 6'6" 208 15.1 6.8 2.2 .415 .400 .787 Versatile scorer who can get a lot of baskets without forcing his way into the game. Has a really quick release. Started Big East play 2-15 from deep, then hit 5 against DePaul on Tuesday. Has worked hard to improve defense and rebounding.
1 Jalen Reynolds Jr. F 6'10" 238 9.9 6.7 0.7 .522 .500 .667 Has the skills to go for 18 and 12 at any point in time, but has trouble getting out of his own way. Disruptive defensive force in the middle of the 1-3-1 zone. At his best with Farr also on the court.
Larry Austin Jr. So. G 6'2" 179 1.8 1.2 1.4 .345 .000 .600 Can be an effective change of pace guard if he harnesses his energy. Can be a turnover-laden catastrophe if he doesn't. He has stepped up in the absence of Edmond Sumner to give some good minutes at the point.
2 James Farr Sr. F/C 6'10" 244 9.9 8.3 0.4 .546 .000 .744 The best rebounder in college basketball. Has developed scoring moves to both hands on the post. Very effective in protecting the rim. Has been in and out of the starting lineup
4 Edmond Sumner Fr. G 6'6" 183 11.0 3.2 3.1 .449 .406 .685 Has missed all but the first few minutes of conference play after getting injured in the opener against Nova. He's back "without restrictions" today, but he'll still be getting up to game speed. Explosively athletic; can collapse a defense to score or kick.
13 Makindé London Fr. F 6'10" 220 1.4 1.2 0.5 .294 .333 .500 Athletic but whip thin. Good shot blocker as help defender. Good range on his jumper.
22 Kaiser Gates Fr. F 6'8" 217 3.5 2.4 0.1 .379 .333 .722 Stretch four. Not afraid to shoot. Very active on defense. Streaky shooter, as is often the case with guys who don't get big minutes, but his confidence is growing.
54 Sean O'Mara So. F/C 6'10" 247 3.8 2.3 0.4 .600 .000 .656 Plays below the rim but with exceptional feel. Hasn't been able to show his potential because he's blocked by Farr and Reynolds right now. Bully on the defensive glass.

Xavier strategy

Xavier's offense doesn't have a lot of settings in which they toss someone the ball and tell him to go get a basket. Most of it is all five guys moving around the half court to try to put each player in positions that suit him the best. They're at their best working through the post to get the ball and the defense moving, but Coach Mack has plenty of sets to run to get just about any look the situation calls for. One of our favorites is a little baseline cross screen to get a layup for a big man, though I'm not sure how that will work with Ellenson and Fischer hanging out in the paint. Xavier generally shares the ball well and flies to the glass for second chances.

Defensively, Coach Mack was all man-to-man until about this time last year. He threw in a 1-3-1 then, it worked, and now it's a big part of what Xavier does to disrupt opposing teams. Teams will see zone about half the time, depending on what they do on the offensive end. If Xavier's in a man, Coach Mack packs them in and forces opponents to shoot over the top. Both defensive sets will concede a good deal of three-point shooting and count on defensive rebounding to choke off second chances at the glass. X will force turnovers, but that's more a result of being active in the half court than throwing on any sort of press.

Other things to consider

  • Edmond Sumner is expected to get 10 or 15 minutes today depending on how he looks as he gets back up to game speed, but that expectation is based largely on guess work.
  • Xavier is 3-1 in true road games this year, with the only loss being at Villanova.
  • X is shooting 40% from deep in conference play; only Georgetown sports a better mark.
  • Xavier leads the Big East in both offensive and defensive free throw rate in conference play.