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The Baylor fan’s guide to Xavier basketball

Baylor fans can be forgiven for not having followed Xavier too closely this year. I’m here to help catch you up.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Xavier v Baylor
We do not have fond memories of this matchup.

So... how's the year going for you all so far? From the looks of things on website Ken Pom dot com, pretty well. If you log into that same page yourself, you might well see that things are also progressing quite nicely for us here at Xavier. A much as I love the patron saint of tempo-free basketball statistics though, there are some scouting holes in the information that you can find on his page, even if you lay down the $20 a year it takes to get to the really good stuff. Fortunately for you all, I'm here to fill those in for you.

Xavier personnel

Player Yr. Pos. Ht. Wt. MPG PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT% Notes
Starters
Edmond Sumner So. G 6'6" 186 34.3 14.6 4.9 4.6 .487 .200 .658 A nightmare of a lead guard to try to defend. Sumner is lethal in the open court and an explosive finisher. He spent the summer working on his jumper; when he's hitting that, he can't be guarded. His length and athleticism help him make up for the occasional lapse on the defensive end.
J.P. Macura Jr. G 6'5" 203 34.6 16.7 4.1 3.4 .430 .341 .967 Meet your least favorite Musketeer. JP is crafty, chippy, and aggressive on both ends of the court. There's nothing he loves more than being awesome and telling his opponent about it. He goes after every loose ball and offensive rebound. The kind of guy you love to have and hate to play against.
Malcolm Bernard Sr. G 6'6" 202 30.0 5.9 4.7 1.4 .429 .421 .333 After a career of making one out of every five threes he shot, the grad transfer from FAMU suddenly can't miss. He was brought in to be a defender and rebounder physical and effective enough to allow Xavier to start 6'6" guard at the 4, and he has done just that. Also, he's left-handed.
Trevon Bluiett Jr. G/F 6'6" 205 33.9 17.7 6.1 2.7 .404 .277 .794 The silky scoring soul of the offense. Trevon rarely forces his way into a game, but he has a jumper that plays from anywhere, great footwork, and a quick release. He's strong enough to do work on the glass, but his real value is finding good positions on offense and scoring from them. He's warming up after a slow start.
Sean O'Mara Jr. F 6'10" 245 17.3 8.1 3.4 0.6 .625 .000 .875 O'Mara scores really well from below the rim in the post and does a lot of work on the offensive glass. He's a bit more of a mixed bag defensively, where he's prone to fouls and not a great rebounder or rim protector. He has worked hard to get himself to where he is now.
Reserves
RaShid Gaston Sr. F 6'9" 239 16.7 6.4 6.0 0.7 .485 .000 .650 A transfer from Norfolk State, Gaston is kind of Xavier's middle post player. He's better defensively than O'Mara and better offensively than Jones, but he's not the best big man on the team at either end of the floor. He fights hard on the glass, but he has looked troublingly unable to assert his will with the ball in his hands.
Quentin Goodin Fr. G 6'4" 194 18.1 5.0 1.4 1.7 .591 .375 .462 Not a super duper shooter, but he makes up for it by shooting mostly layups/dunks or wide open threes. Very athletic and ferocious defender. He's an impressively viable reserve point guard for a dude 127 minutes into his college career.
Tyrique Jones Fr. F 6'9" 243 12.6 2.9 4.4 0.4 .474 .000 .500 Built like a brick outhouse, Tyrique has a motor that doesn't quit. His offensive game is fairly unrefined right now, but he's a really athletic forward with a nose for the glass on both ends. He brings great energy off the bench. If a Muskie throws one of your big men's shots, it will be Tyrique.
Kaiser Gates So. F 6'8" 228 12.5 3.0 2.5 0.0 .500 .500 .000 A much bigger part of the team than his numbers would suggest, Gates is recovering from an offseason knee surgery that delayed his debut. He has two games under his belt right now, but when he's going well, he can guard 1-4 and score at all three levels. A potential matchup nightmare.

Xavier strategy

I'm going to call Xavier a good shooting team off to a bad shooting start. Senior guard Myles Davis can rain threes, but he's still out on indefinite suspension. Edmond Sumner, JP Macura, and especially Trevon Bluiett are off to starts below their normal standards from beyond the arc. When that gets going, Xavier can be really dangerous. In the meantime, they are still a solid offensive team. Offensive rebounding and scoring from inside the arc have been strengths for Xavier this year. Coach Mack draws up really good set plays to get the right guys with the ball in the right places, and the offense is largely predicated on spacing and movement more than individual brilliance. As you might expect from a team effectively starting four guards, keeping the tempo high is important to the offense. If the ball stagnates, bad possessions ensue.

Mack really favors a pack line man defense if he can get away with it. Malcolm Bernard has added some stability by way of his ability to generally get at the opponent's best perimeter player, and the rest of the team has followed suit. X will concede a lot of shots from beyond the arc, but they try to compensate by really killing off possessions on the glass. When not in a man, they'll go to a swarming 1-3-1 (usually with Macura at the top) to try to speed up opponents and force turnovers. When the ball gets out, Xavier transitions from defense to offense in the blink of an eye.

Other things to consider

  • Xavier's James Farr was a monster F who rebounded the ball really well at both ends. Rather than taking a redshirt, he burnt his first year of eligibility to play just 42 minutes, meaning that he's a professional this year rather than a senior getting ready to go up against your front line. I don't know if this is anyone's fault, and I'm glad for him that he graduated and is getting paid, but it bums me out right now.
  • Edmond Sumner has 14 assists and 1 turnover over the past couple of games.
  • All of Xavier’s post men - Jones, Gaston, and O’Mara - are really foul-prone. O’Mara the least, and he still averages 6.3 fouls per 40 minutes.
  • Coach Mack is a legitimate genius on set plays. If this game comes down to him having a chance to draw one up, that favors the Muskies.