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The Providence fan's guide to Xavier basketball

This is a courtesy from one top 10 team to another.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Hello, Providence fans! Congratulations on that big win over Villanova! Georgetown split back-to-back games with Xavier and Nova and seemed quite happy to do so; might I recommend the same to you? After watching X play in the A10 for a lot of years, I could get used to going out and playing top 10 opponents on the regular. I know you've probably been more focused on your team than mine, so let me get you up to speed.

Xavier personnel

4 Edmond Sumner Fr. G 6'6" 183 11.3 2.9 3.3 .429 .372 .692 A dynamic guard who can really slice through defenses, he's got as much potential as anyone on the roster. Can shoot if left open. Really clogs passing lanes on defense. The fans are really excited about this kid.
15 Myles Davis Jr. G 6'2" 188 10.9 3.3 3.6 .399 .391 .900 Best shooter on the team and their emotional leader. Not afraid of the big moment on the offensive end. Can slide over and run the point, but at his best when he's off the ball.
10 Remy Abell Sr. G 6'4" 197 6.4 1.6 2.0 .400 .341 .744 Very good on-ball defender. Tends to go through stretches where you forget he's out there, but a reliable player. Will run ahead of everyone on a fast break.
5 Trevon Bluiett So. G/F 6'6" 208 15.4 6.8 2.3 .412 .397 .824 Versatile scorer who can get a lot of baskets without forcing his way into the game. Has a really quick release. Can knock down jumpers from anywhere, including the mid-range. Has worked hard to improve defense and rebounding.
1 Jalen Reynolds Jr. F 6'10" 238 9.4 6.5 0.7 .519 .400 .656 Disruptive defensive force in the middle of the 1-3-1 zone. Certainly capable of taking over a game, but it's not clear he can get out of his own way.
Larry Austin Jr. So. G 6'2" 179 1.7 1.1 1.3 .355 .000 .611 Has the tools to be a good 10-12 minute guard off the bench, but tends to press too much and end up making bad decisions with the ball. A very good defender but prone to occasional mental lapses at that end. Coach Mack trusts Myles Davis more on the ball.
2 James Farr Sr. F/C 6'10" 244 10.8 9.1 0.6 .541 .000 .804 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.
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. Has been in and out with injuries, not likely to play today.
22 Kaiser Gates Fr. F 6'8" 217 3.1 2.7 0.2 .371 .304 .667 Stretch four. Streaky shooter, as is often the case with guys who don't get big minutes, but his confidence is growing. Has been a revelation on the defensive end in terms of being able to move his feet and guard the perimeter.
54 Sean O'Mara So. F/C 6'10" 247 4.0 2.2 0.3 .625 .000 .647 Growing into his offensive game right now; so deft around the rim. Has very good footwork and occasional bounce. Hard worker on the boards, but not a guy who is going to rebound out of his area.
55 J.P. Macura So. G 6'5" 203 8.5 2.5 2.1 .454 .302 .787 Flies to the offensive glass, scores in weird ways from all over inside the arc. Opponents and opposing fans hate him for what I'm going to call an overabundance of confidence. Very active on top of the 1-3-1. Always looks exhausted.

Xavier strategy

Coach Mack loves to defend, and he has become increasingly satisfied with doing it out of a 1-3-1 zone. The Muskies run it out there about a third of the time, but they spent almost the entire game in it against Seton Hall. Whether Xavier is in a zone or man-to-man, the same basic concepts apply: they're going to clog the middle, force teams to win with jump shooting, and try to dominate the glass. The zone does a little more to get into the passing lanes and sacrifices a little effectiveness on the glass, but the biggest weakness of either defense is that they concede the arc. If your team can lift from deep, you've got a puncher's chance.

On offense, it's all about keeping the ball moving. Xavier has a handful of guys who can hit open jump shots, and Mack likes to draw up complicated sets to try to get them where they need to be with a little bit of space. When Edmond Sumner is in the game, you'll see more ball screen action to try to get him moving towards the rim with momentum. James Farr, Jalen Reynolds, and Sean O'Mara will all get some post touches with their backs to the basket. Keep an eye out of cross-screen action on the baseline where X will run a shooter across and then have him dump it from the corner to the block for a quick bucket. It doesn't appear to be showing up on scouting film for teams we play and I'm starting to wonder if I'm just hallucinating it.

Other things to consider

  • We're all kind of looking at Edmond Sumner and looking at Kris Dunn and thinking we might have something here.
  • We have had seven different guys go for at least 15 in at least one game this year.
  • If you're at the game, watch JP Macura work when he's away from the ball and you'll understand later why at least one of your guys appears to hate him.