Xavier comes into this game something of an enigma. Poor shooting on the season was replaced by 8-17 from deep against Utah. Usually consistent post presence Sean O’Mara went 0-3 in that same game and Xavier shot under 50% from inside the arc. The Musketeers are right now something of a team in flux. The defense has been solid except for 40 minutes of basketball against Baylor and Colorado, where feckless work led to two second half collapses. The offense is 23rd in the nation in efficiency but can’t convert a free throw. Wake is yet another real test, so how will Coach Mack juggle the lineups?
Time to go small?
Xavier gets a lot of shots blocked and Wake blocks a lot of shots. Getting smaller might seem counter-intuitive in that circumstance, but eliminating weak side block opportunities by working off a five with the athleticism and passing ability of Kaiser Gates might be the key to getting more runs at the basket and fewer static post moves. Or...
Time to go big?
Wake’s blocks come predominantly from John Collins and Dinos Mitoglou, a pair of 6-10 shot erasers. Collins is more effective, but both are worthy of attention. Wake’s next significant rotation player in terms of block percentage doesn’t even get to 1% of opponent’s shots. Simply put, a two high set on offense with Gates at the three and Bluiett at the two for short stretches of time would pull Wake’s bigs away from the bucket and let Xavier’s secondary players with size have their way. If Wake’s big men sagged off, both Gaston and O’Mara can drop with them and open the lane. It would be unorthodox, but it’s an idea.
Get JP some rest
If legs are the first thing to go in a shot, JP’s 5-18 from inside the arc and 6-19 from deep over the last three games might suggest that he could use a few more than five minutes per game. Macura’s minutes are up almost 30% from last season as he’s had to handle a good deal of the scoring with Davis and Gates gone. Using Gates, or even Quentin Goodin in a smaller lineup, to rest the man from Minnesota might not be a bad idea should X need execution, and lift, down the stretch.
Don’t worry and feed ‘Shid?
Maybe all this talk of shot blocking is overrated. After all, Utah blocks their fair amount of attempts (not as many as Wake) and RaShid Gaston went off on them. Gaston’s field goal percentage at the rim has climbed to 58% after that effort. While that number is not stellar, it is a marked increase. Gaston clearly showed that once he’s comfortable, he can be a beast. If he starts like he did against the Utes again, maybe the best course of action is to feed him the ball until Wake proves they can stop him.