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Thanksgiving basketball: Preview, matchups, keys to the game.

Xavier takes on George Washington while you fight off a nap.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Wisconsin
“Ok guys, who made the pies?”
Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

First off, happy Thanksgiving all. While the rest of the United States watches people inflict traumatic brain injuries on each other, Xavier fans have been treated recently to watching basketball. In that Thanksgiving is the best family holiday and college basketball is the best sport, it’s a match truly made in Heaven. [Warning: intentionally bad Thanksgiving puns ahead].

This year, Xavier is in Vegas to take on George Washington. The Colonials have also already played Hampton and Rider, but somehow contrived to lose to the Broncs, a team Xavier beat by 26. GWU did squeak by Hampton at home, lost to Florida St. and beat 340th ranked Howard by nine. In short, they’ve been worse than canned cranberry sauce this year.

Team Fingerprint:

We’ll start with the positive, since that’s the holiday spirit. George Washington fans are thankful that their team somehow blocks a lot of shots, 32nd in the nation with a 16% block rate, while almost never sending opponents to the line. Beyond that, their fans are thankful when playing defense is over, because the Colonials don’t do anything else on that end of the floor well.

Down on the other end of the floor, George Washington fans are thankful they can remember the 2016 team, because this one is less likely to fill you up than just eating whipped cream. They play at an absolutely glacial pace, perhaps in light of the fact that they know when they finally do shoot it likely isn’t going in. GWU is 174th in the nation in offensive efficiency.

Players:

Terry Nolan Jr. Point Guard Quentin Goodin
Freshman Class Sophomore
6'2", 180 Measurements 6'4", 190
9/3.3/3.3 Game line 5/0.8/6
0.438/0.267/0.571 Shooting line 0.5/0/0.8
Nolan has been thrown into the deep end a bit and had an up and down time so far. He has feasted in their two losses and been pretty poor in their two wins, which is pretty counter-intuitive. Nolan has gone 4-15 from deep so far, and had 4 turnovers in each of the first two games of the season, although he hasn't turned the ball over since.
Jair Bolden Shooting Guard J.P. Macura
Sophomore Class Senior
6'4", 212 Measurements 6'5", 203
13.3/3.8/4 Game line 13.5/5.3/4.3
0.353/0.367/1 Shooting line 0.643/0.25/0.8
Bolden logs a lot of minutes and fills in at the point when Nolan isn't on the floor. Bolden scores from volume rather than efficiency, and took 10 shots to get his 5 points against Rider. He does a bit of everything for GW without really standing out in any area of the game.
Patrick Steeves Small Forward Trevon Bluiett
Senior Class Senior
6'8", 221 Measurements 6'6", 202
12.8/5.3/2.5 Game line 24.3/6.8/2.8
0.535/0/0.714 Shooting line 0.625/0.556/0.957
Steeves has transformed from a guy who shot 47% from deep as a freshman, to someone who rarely ventures outside the arc in his hunt for points now. His game inside the arc last year greatly benefitted from getting to the line and converting, but he hasn't been able to make a trip to the line in 2 of the 4 games so far this season.
Yuta Watanabe Power Forward Kaiser Gates
Senior Class Junior
6'9", 205 Measurements 6'6", 215
13.5/9.3/1.8 Game line 11.3/5.8/0.8
0.385/0.235/0.909 Shooting line 0.433/0.44/0.667
He arrived 4 years ago as a big body forward who wasn't afraid to step out and stretch a defense, and while he has maintained much of that ability, he now takes a much greater ratio of shots from inside than he used to. As far as lane defense goes, Watanabe is the best on the team at blocking shots and killing posessions with rebounds, which is likely why he averages over 38 minutes a game.
Arnaldo Toro Center Tyrique Jones
Sophomore Class Sophomore
6'8", 248 Measurements 6'9", 237
7.5/7.3/1.5 Game line 12.5/6.8/1.3
0.304/0.125/0.714 Shooting line 0.704/0/0.545
This guy is aggressive as all get out on the offensive glass, grabbing boards at the 4th best rate in the country at that end. He parlays that into frequent trips to the line, but his hamstrung by some apalling finishing numbers inside. His fervor does not translate to the defensive end, where he blocks shots and rebounds a slim margin better than Paul Scruggs.

The Colonials are 346th in the nation in bench minutes, which is... not good at all. The only player who is likely to get enough minutes to make a difference is Bo Ziegler, who is 6’6”, works exclusively inside the arc, and really struggles on the glass at both ends. Other than that, no one has gotten double digit minutes in more than half of GW’s games.

Three questions:

How long can Trevon Bluiett stay hot? Right now Bluiett is hotter than turkey just out of the oven. What is shocking is that his offensive efficiency rating of 142.9 is “only” 50th in the nation. George Washington defends the interior mediocrely, but they struggle to check the arc at all.

When does Quentin Goodin go off? Goodin is avoiding shooting like a veteran avoids filling up on pumpkin pie when there are good ones around. (It’s getting hard to think of these). He’s shot 13 times, while his ostensible backup, Paul Scruggs, has lifted 24 times. Goodin doesn’t need to carry the offense at all, there is a ton of talent to do that, but he can’t just be a passenger. He’s going to demonstrate a jumpshot at some point, or Scruggs is going to start taking more of his time.

What is the margin today? Much like stuffing, there figures to be plenty of points available for everyone today. And, also much like the stuffing, those points figure to be there after all the starters have left the floor. Stuffing isn’t good, is what I’m saying. Leighton Schrand hasn’t shot yet and this would be a great time for Elias Harden to demonstrate he can play at this level.

Three keys:

No easy runouts: George Washington can score if they block shots and get in transition. Don’t let them do that, either by getting back or by not getting blocked in the first place, and the Colonials will struggle. Their two point field goal defense isn’t actually very good, so simple ball movement will be key.

Bury it early: There’s no point in leaving a bad team in a game in front of a crowd that is there for the matchups tomorrow, but would undoubtedly pull for Mayflower over the Atlantic style upset. Dispatch these guys like blueberry pie and move on.

Pack the defense: The Colonials aren’t awful inside the arc (53.4%), but they are from deep (24.7%). Limit second chances where, again, GWU is ok, and the Musketeers and their third in the nation defensive field goal efficiency should be fine.