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Xavier v. Wisconsin: preview, matchup, keys to the game

The warmups are done. Xavier takes on a solid Wisconsin squad in the first true test of the young season.

Big Ten Basketball Media Day
This surly fellow coaches Wisconsin.
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

It's early in the season to know too much about a team, but these appear to be two very similar squads that have taken similar roads to get here. KenPom has them separated by just two spots in his rankings. They've both played two home games against overmatched opponents and won them easily.

Now they each come into the game looking for an early season measuring stick for their progress. The Big Ten currently holds a 3-2 edge in this year's Gavitt games, and St. John's and Nebraska will play directly prior to Xavier and Wisconsin. That doesn't have a whole lot of bearing on how this one plays out, but I thought you should know. Anyway, on to Wisconsin.

Team fingerprint

These guys play really slowly. They're going to take their time on offense and try to shut down fast breaks defensively. As you'd expect from a team that does that, they have good ball security and don't get to the offensive glass at all. They're a good shooting team from both inside and outside the arc and aren't afraid to lift from deep.

Defense is their thing; they're 13th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency. They'll clog the lane and smother the glass. They concede the arc a bit but still get into the passing lanes enough to force turnovers at a top-100 rate.

Starters

Starting matchups
D'Mitrik Trice Point Guard Quentin Goodin
Sophomore Class Sophomore
6'0", 177 Measurements 6'4", 190
13.5/2/3.5 Game line 4/0.5/6.5
0.688/0.625/0 Shooting line 0.6/0/0.667
Trice is something of a game manager who is deadly so far this year when picking his spots from the floor. He doesn't drive, but he also has only missed four jumpers of the 16 he's taken.
Brevin Pritzl Shooting Guard J.P. Macura
Senior Class Senior
6'3", 197 Measurements 6'5", 203
11.5/4.5/2 Game line 16/3.5/5
0.533/0.333/1 Shooting line 0.727/0.5/0.824
Prtizl is a junior who is just now earning some time. He's been a good defender thus far, but he's not tried to guard anyone like JP.
Khalil Iverson Small Forward Trevon Bluiett
Junior Class Junior
6'5", 210 Measurements 6'6", 202
8.5/4/2.5 Game line 25.5/7/3
0.889/0/1 Shooting line 0.654/0.556/1
Iverson is going to attack the offensive glass and try to do his damage inside the arc. Trevon is simply as hot as can be right now.
Ethan Happ Power Forward Kaiser Gates
Junior Class Junior
6'10", 235 Measurements 6'6", 215
16/11/1.5 Game line 13/3.5/1.5
0.571/0/0.471 Shooting line 0.571/0.538/0.5
Happ is the start of this team and grabs nearly half (43%) of defensive rebounds when he is on the floor. He still can't shoot free throws.
Andy Van Vliet Center Tyrique Jones
Sophomore Class Sophomore
7'0", 228 Measurements 6'9", 237
15.5/5.5/0.5 Game line 15/8.5/2
0.5/0.6/0.714 Shooting line 0.733/0/0.615
Van Vliet uses a lot of the possessions that Happ doesn't. He's also a seven foot tall 60% shooter from behind the arc so far this season.

Reserves

Wisconsin brings a bevy of guard-forwards off the bench. They’re relatively deep, getting 36% of their minutes from the bench. Kobe King is a 6-4 slasher who will try to get to the rim, where he’s an excellent finisher. Aleem Ford stands 6-8 but prefers jumpers from the outside and seems hesitant to mix it up in the paint. Only a third of his shots come from inside and he’s ineffective on the glass thus far. Brad Davison is the last bench guy likely to play significant minutes. He’s a 6-3 freshman who takes good care of the ball (10.2% TO rate) and will spot Trice at the point.

Three questions

-How does Xavier handle Happ? After averaging 14 and 9 last year, Happ is averaging 16 and 11 this season. He hasn't shown a lot of game outside the post, but he's a bully there. Tyrique is strong enough, but foul trouble could derail that. Does Sean O'Mara have the athleticism to hang? Is Kaiser Gates or Kerem Kanter strong enough? Or is a zone the answer?

-Who controls the pace? Xavier loves to go fast, playing three seconds faster per possession than Wisconsin does. The Badgers pull guys off the offensive glass to shut down the transition game; Xavier is going to need to figure out a way to get out and go if they want to push the pace.

-How do the freshmen respond? Scruggs, Marshall, and Harden have looked good on the home floor against the cupcakes. This is another proposition entirely. It will be instructive to see how the freshmen respond to what figures to be the first hotly contested game of the year.

Three keys

-Keep the ball moving. Xavier has assisted more than three quarters of their made baskets this year. It's one thing to be generous when you're up 30 on Morehead; tight games that would be big wins tend to breed hero ball. X is at their best without that.

-Crush the glass. Wisconsin generally concedes the offensive glass but crashes it on the defensive end. This is a game that could be determined by second chances, and Xavier has the horses to win that battle.

-Keep lifting. Wisconsin has some big dudes inside. Xavier has used the arc to open the paint so far this year; if they can get the clean looks they need to keep rolling with that, I don't see any reason to back off it.