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Xavier v. Morehead State: preview and keys to the game

BASKETBALL IS BACK!

Xavier v Arizona
This is JP.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Summer sucks; now it’s over. Basketball is back.

Xavier’s season kicks off tonight with Morehead State coming into Cintas. The Eagles haven’t been good for a long time, and they are continuing that trend this season. There’s not much to say in a preview about them at this point; everyone on their team is averaging 0.0/0.0/0.0 as a game line and nobody has attempted a field goal. Their shot charts, like the season itself, are blank canvases upon which anything can be painted.

It’s likely that their first brush strokes will lead to a loss at Xavier tonight.

For what it’s worth, under second-year coach Preston Spradlin, they haven’t played particularly quickly. They crash the glass on the offensive end and are incredibly porous inside and outside the arc on defense. Now we’re all caught up.

Three questions:

-How much Tre? Bluiett is cleared to go, but hopefully there isn’t much reason to have him on the floor in the last ten minutes tonight. This game is more or less a buy game of Xavier; they should handle their business and move on quickly.

-Who starts? Coach Mack is probably going to favor veterans early in the year. You’d assume Quentin Goodin, JP Macura, and Trevon Bluiett are all written into the scorebook in ink at this point. From there, it gets ambiguous. Is Paul Scruggs starting in the backcourt? How do Sean O’Mara, Tyrique Jones, and Kaiser Gates fit together? Also, does it matter tonight?

-How does Xavier defend? I’ll be honest, I’d hope Xavier can man up against Morehead State. This shouldn’t be a big hurdle for X to clear, and the Muskies need to be able to play man for at least stretches of the season to keep opponents from shooting them out of the game. That 1-3-1 is fun to watch when it’s working though.

Three keys:

- Start the find the rotation: One of the things Xavier, and specifically Coach Mack, have to do is find out where all the new pieces mesh in. We know that Q will be running the point, JP and Tre will be doing the heavy lifting, and Tyrique Jones and Sean O’Mara will play in the post. Beyond that, there’s a lot of new guys that have to find their way onto the floor.

- Get off to a good start: This seems pretty self-evident, but this is a game that Xavier should be winning. It shouldn’t be close, it shouldn’t be a challenge, it should be the kind of game a Big East team has under control by half time.

- Stay healthy: Teams with late March aspirations routinely lose guys early and have to rejigger their expectations. For the next few weeks (or even into the conference season, RIP Edmond Sumner’s knee), every time a player jumps, everyone is going to say a little prayer that they land safely.

HERE WE GO!