The term "boat raced" comes from an annual rowing competition between Oxford and Cambridge in which the first side to get ahead can move to the middle of the river where the current moves the fastest. Once a team is into the current, they more or less run away from the opponent. I only bring that up because, after going stroke for stroke with Baylor for 30 minutes on Saturday, Xavier got distinctly boat raced as the Bears got into the current and pulled away over the last 10 minutes of the game. A contest that once sat at 51-50 ended 76-61. It was pretty lame.
Aside from that dreadful closing stretch in Waco, Xavier has been pretty solid this year. They opened the season with seven wins on the trot, picking up neutral-site wins over Clemson and UNI on the way to winning the Tire Pros Puerto Rico Tip-off Invitational in Orlando. That's the season in broad strokes, here's a little more specific information to get you ready for tonight's game.
|Edmond Sumner||So.||G||6'6"||186||34.6||15.1||4.6||4.3||.483||.222||.688||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||34.8||15.5||4.4||3.4||.382||.319||.912||JP is a lot like Pistol Pete with better hair, right down to the fact that he's not going to stop shooting just because he's missing. A 2-16 performance against Baylor has marred his line, but he can really fill it up. When he's not trying to expand his YouTube reel, he flies to the offensive glass, patrols passing lanes, and generally makes a nuisance of himself.|
|Malcolm Bernard||Sr.||G||6'6"||202||29.4||5.1||4.5||1.3||.385||.364||.333||Malcolm transferred in from FAMU and we're still trying to figure out exactly what he is at this level. He defends really well and puts in a shift on the glass. His offensive performances have been all over the place so far, but I guess there's the potential he gets hot and makes someone look silly.|
|Trevon Bluiett||Jr.||G/F||6'6"||205||33.8||18.4||6.3||2.5||.421||.333||.821||Tre is more or less a jump shooter masquerading as a scorer, but dang if his jumper isn't the stuff people used to write poems about. He can hit from all over, and he has great footwork and a quick release that help him score even when the opponent knows what he's about to do. He's strong enough to defend most fours, and he does good work on the defensive glass. Probably our best player.|
|Sean O'Mara||Jr.||F||6'10"||245||16.8||7.4||3.3||0.5||.619||.000||.700||O'Mara isn't going to put anyone on a poster, but he has solid footwork in the post and can score to either hand. He had trouble against the length of Baylor's front line, but he is usually a reliable below the rim scorer. His rebounding is splint almost evenly between the offensive and defensive glass.|
|RaShid Gaston||Sr.||F||6'9"||239||16.9||6.0||6.3||0.6||.459||.000||.583||A transfer from Norfolk State, Gaston looked vulnerable offensively against the early stages of Xavier's schedule and borderline overmatched against Baylor. He's a really, really good rebounder, but he's having trouble making anything happen with the ball in his hands.|
|Quentin Goodin||Fr.||G||6'4"||194||16.9||4.4||1.4||1.8||.591||.375||.462||A freshman guard that I really like, probably even more than Coach Mack does. He's still learning game speed against elite teams, but he picks his shots well and provides good length and athleticism in the back court off the bench. A really solid defender.|
|Tyrique Jones||Fr.||F||6'9"||243||12.1||2.8||4.5||0.4||.435||.000||.333||Tyrique is a junkyard dog on the court right now. He goes after the ball like he can only secure more playing time by securing more rebounds, and it's not clear that he's wrong. His offensive game lacks nuance at this point, but he's a beast on the glass and the best shot blocker on the team. Also, he would foul out in about 16 minutes if Coach Mack left him out there.|
|Kaiser Gates||So.||F||6'8"||228||14.7||3.7||3.3||0.0||.364||.300||.000||Kaiser is coming back off of off-season knee surgery and plainly doesn't have his legs back under him right now. He is capable of defending 1-4 and scoring from all three levels, but playing in Colorado might test his game fitness.|
The Musketeers are a really good offense with a couple of fairly meaningful limitations. Let's discuss what kind of props the offense up first: Xavier is an incredible offensive rebounding team. They grab more than 37% of their own misses. That helps them to be the #18 team in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency despite being right around average in EFG% and TO rate and just a hair above average in free throw rate. Xavier is probably a better shooting team than they've shown so far, but the numbers reflect the season at hand. As far as strategy goes, Xavier usually plays four around one and keeps the ball moving to get scorers into spots where they have an edge on their defenders. Coach Mack is a magician with set plays.
On the other end of the floor, Xavier does everything well within about 20 feet of the bucket. They are an exceptional defensive rebounding team, contest shots well, and force a reasonable amount of turnovers. The Achilles heel of this team is three-point defense; they’ll concede the arc to the extent that teams take more than 40% of their shots from deep. If you can make it rain, you’ll have the chance to do so.
Other things to consider
- How hard are putbacks? Pretty dang hard for Xavier this year; the Muskies are making barely over half of their putback attempts according to hoop-math.com.
- Senior guard Myles Davis is out on indefinite suspension; Xavier misses his shooting touch and steady hand on the floor.
- Xavier’s big men are a bunch of hackers; I hope your bigs can’t shoot free throws.
- The Muskies only take about 20% of their shots in transition.