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Xavier v. DePaul: preview, matchups, keys to the game

Big East Basketball is back at the Cintas Center and a 2-0 start looks on the cards.

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-DePaul vs Xavier Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Big East makes its glorious return to Cincinnati on New Year's Eve, uh, Eve as Xavier hosts Depaul for what should be the easiest game of the conference slate.

Depaul has recently been the whipping,boys of the Big East, and there is no sign of changing this year. Theu are 0-6 versus the KenPom top 100 and their best win was by 10 over #212 Illinois Chicago. They kicked off conference play by getting pummeled at home by Nova and look like a team that only presents a banana peel for the rest of the conference's bubble hopefuls.

Team Fingerprint

Lets start on offense, shall we? The Blue Demons are pretty mediocre on offense due to two glaring weaknesses: they cannot shoot the ball from any range, and they struggle to get to the line and convert. Their mark of 48 in EFG% is both gruesome and among the 100 worst in the nation. Combine that with the fact that they are 238th in getting to the line, and you have an offense that just doesn't score very well. A bit of a shame they are so bad at those two things, because they are really good at creating second chances for themselves (which they likely miss) and at taking care of the ball.

Defensively, things are a bit rosier, but not exactly stellar. They excel at creating turnovers and defending inside the arc, varying their looks between man and zone to keep opponents off balance. They get absolutely abused from behind the arc, surrendering a 38.9% mark from deep on a staggering 45.7% of opponents attempts, the highest rate of any power conference team. Villanova hit 15-31 from deep, which was not ideal for Depaul. They also give opponents back 30% of their misses, which really hurts when you give up so many threes.

Players

Starters

Starting matchups
Eli Cain Point Guard Quentin Goodin
Junior Class Sophomore
6'6", 200 Measurements 6'4", 190
12/4.3/3.8 Game line 7.7/2.4/6
0.367/0.257/0.66 Shooting line 0.43/0.067/0.892
Cain has evolved from a deadeye shooter as a freshman to a dude who couldn't hit the ocean with a cannonball this year. He's an effective distributer who controls the ball well, but his EFG% makes Quentin Goodin look like Ray Allen at this point.
Brandon Cyrus Shooting Guard J.P. Macura
Sophomore Class Senior
6'5", 190 Measurements 6'5", 203
5.9/3.2/1.8 Game line 12.4/4.1/2.8
0.333/0.273/0.808 Shooting line 0.495/0.372/0.854
Cyrus is somehow a worse shooter than Cain. The DePaul backcourt has combined to go 15-57 from beyond the arc on the year, so they'll probably go 8-11 today. Cyrus is shooting over 80% from the line, but he's not much of a threat if you don't foul him.
Max Strus Small Forward Trevon Bluiett
Junior Class Senior
6'6", 215 Measurements 6'6", 202
17.5/4.5/2.2 Game line 20/5.5/3.1
0.444/0.346/0.796 Shooting line 0.478/0.424/0.877
Xavier recruited Strus as a transfer, but he decided on DePaul instead, probably because it was going to be a ton easier for him to get on the court. He's scoring effectively at all three levels and leads DePaul in EFG% and minutes. He also has the best steal% on the team, for what that's worth.
Tre'Darius McCallum Power Forward Kaiser Gates
Senior Class Junior
6'7", 220 Measurements 6'8", 228
11.2/5.8/1 Game line 9.5/5.5/1.3
0.5/0.326/0.667 Shooting line 0.435/0.451/0.818
McCallum is a solid defensive rebounder and a good scorer in the paint, but he's not afraid to step out and lift. He averages more than a three a game and has 5 games this year where he's made multiple threes. He and I have about the same number of offensive boards this year.
Marin Maric Center Tyrique Jones
Senior Class Sophomore
6'11", 240 Measurements 6'9", 237
13/5.6/0.6 Game line 9.9/5.9/0.6
0.54/0.333/0.902 Shooting line 0.709/0/0.628
The only dude on the team who will hit the offensive glass, Marin is a traditional center and post scorer. He's not going to dominate the defensive glass or block a lot of shots. He's been getting to the line a ton this year and converting like frickin' Mark Price.

Reserves

DePaul only gets about 30% of their minutes from the bench, which is even thinner after sophomore guard Devin Gage ruptured his Achilles. Guys who can still walk on their own include Jaylen Butz and Justin Roberts.

Butz is a 6’9” freshman forward who boards like a fiend at both ends and is scoring effectively inside. He also gets called for 6.4 fouls per 40 minutes of play. Roberts is less effective off the bench, but he’s a guard who can distribute and does a really good job with ball security for a freshman.

Three Keys

  • Find shooters early: Xavier has had turnover issues, especially early in games, at times this year. Depaul's defense depends on turning you over before you inevitably hit a wide open three, so finding open looks early in the shot clock should be a priority for X.
  • Keep them off the glass: Depaul only stayed within 20 of Villanova because they got back 22 of their 45 misses. Their offense is not good enough to survive many one shot trips, but they excel at preventing that from happening.
  • Don't play to the opposition: Depaul at home should be Xavier's easiest game for the rest of the season. However, their last two home outings produced uninspiring wins over ETSU and Marshall, both in games that had no business being as close as they were. X has already handled far better opponents than Depaul at home this year, and would do well to replicate their performance against Baylor or UC rather than the last two offerings.

Three Questions

Ready for your close up, Mr. Gates? Since his 19 point explosion against Baylor heralded his arrival as a big time scoring threat, Kaiser has hit double figures just twice in his last 6 outings. Teams are sure to key on Bluiett and Macura on the perimeter and Scruggs and Goodin not likely to present another viable option from deep, X could use Gates' shooting ability to hurt defenses that sag off him. 2-4 against Marquette was nice, but I would like to see him grab the reins a little more against one of the worst three point defenses in the country.

Does Xavier need "the man" down low? After Jalmes Farrnolds left their (his?) footprints all over Xavier history, the big man by committee train has continued the gain steam at X. Xavier doesn't necessarily get 30-ish minutes from their big men like they did from Stainbrook or Love. Tyrique fouled out in 22 minites last game, but it was the first time he had gotten more than 20 since UC and his second highest total on the year. X might not have a talisman like Hill or West they are trying to throw it inside to every trip down the floor, but with O'Mara and Kanter's level of play, they don't need one right now.

Where is Paul Scruggs in his development? Against Marquette, there was a lot to like about what X got from Scruggs. 4 assists and 0 turnovers in a 16 minute Big East debut is certainly nothing to shake a stick at, but the fact that most of the time he had a defender 4 inches shorter than him guarding him and he was hesitant to put the ball on the floor and drive was vexing at times. Depaul has a much taller backcourt, which negates Scruggs' size, but showing a willingness to keep defenses honest on him would be a big step for the freshman.