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Xavier v. Kent State: matchups, preview, keys to the game

From the Shootout to another in-state game. This one, however, lacks a bit of the punch.

NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at Xavier Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

After a large meal, a nice palette cleanser is sometimes in order. Xavier has gorged on three straight courses of top-50 competition, going 2-1 in that stretch, and now a nice sorbet has arrived at Cintas in the form of the Kent State Golden Flashes.

Kent State is not good. Their best win is against Cleveland State, who is currently ranked #282 in the KenPom. They're dipped into the top 100 for opponents twice and lost to both of them. The last time Xavier played an opponent whose strength of schedule coming into the game was as bad as Kent State's was Saturday. That turned out okay.

Team fingerprint

Because I'm a naturally positive person, I'll focus on what Kent State does well first. They're really good at offensive rebounding and free throws. They're about average at shooting from inside the arc. From there, it's bad news. They're downright abject from behind the arc and they don't do anything else well enough to make up for it.

On defensive, they're a sieve on the glass. They actually do a good job at shutting down the arc in terms of both frequency and effectiveness, and they force a solid amount of turnovers. None of that is enough to make up for their rebounding issues, and their defense is solidly below average



Starting matchups
Jalen Avery Point Guard Quentin Goodin
Junior Class Sophomore
6'0", 185 Measurements 6'4", 190
8.8/3/4.5 Game line 7/2/6.4
0.404/0.323/0.824 Shooting line 0.404/0/0.9
Jalen Avery doesn't use the ball a lot, but he's very durable. He's elite at taking care of the ball, and he isn't going to get in trouble. He's a solid point guard almost utterly bereft of flash.
Jaylin Walker Shooting Guard J.P. Macura
Junior Class Senior
6'1", 180 Measurements 6'5", 203
17.7/2.2/2.7 Game line 13.6/4.9/3.3
0.446/0.333/0.842 Shooting line 0.551/0.346/0.828
Walker has missed two straight games with injury and may miss this one. If he plays, he's the focus off the offense and it's well earned. He's excellent inside the arc and nails at the line. His outside shot is suspect, but it's not through lack of trying.
Mitch Peterson Small Forward Trevon Bluiett
Sophomore Class Senior
6'5", 190 Measurements 6'6", 202
4.9/4.5/0.5 Game line 20.8/5.6/2.9
0.341/0.381/0.5 Shooting line 0.531/0.472/0.867
Peterson can stroke it from deep and he also clears the defensive glass well. Beyond that, he's a wallflower.
Danny Pippen Power Forward Kaiser Gates
Sophomore Class Junior
6'9", 220 Measurements 6'6", 215
7.1/5.3/0.1 Game line 11.1/5.3/1
0.413/0.3/0.765 Shooting line 0.45/0.46/0.75
Pippen is a monster shot block (8.5%) and rebounder who is almost useless on offense unless it's on the glass, where he is almost unstoppable.
Adonis De La Rosa Center Tyrique Jones
Junior Class Sophomore
7'0", 261 Measurements 6'9", 237
14.1/8/1 Game line 9.4/6.5/0.6
0.642/0/0.865 Shooting line 0.698/0/0.577
De La Rosa joins Pippen as two of the top 20 offensive rebounders in the nation on the same front line. Adonis, who surely must have a good nickname, also draws nine fouls per 40 minutes and is excellent at the line.


If Jaylin Walker can’t go Kevin Zabo will start instead of him. If not, Zabo comes off the bench as a guard who is safe with the ball but not a whole lot else. He’s neither an elite shooter, nor defender. BJ Duling is a 6-7 forward who is excellent at blocking shots and stealing the ball. His defensive acumen is what gets him on the floor, because he’s not a great shooter. Desmond Ridenour is a 6-3 senior off the bench who also contributes on defense and is very good inside the arc. 6-9 junior forward Akiean Frederick is a great offensive rebounder who is a reliable finisher and, on rare occasions, will step outside.

Three questions

-How is Tyrique's knee? Xavier's big man has been battling tendinitis this year to the point that he had to let someone else handle his light work in the Shootout. His health is obviously more important in conference play than it is today, but it would be nice to see him looking bulletproof.

-How focused will Xavier be? We can all be honest here and admit that KSU doesn’t engender quite the same pathos that UC does. If that’s true of the fanbase, it’s going to be true of the players. It will be some measure of Coach Mack’s ability to motivate the team how the Musketeers handle the first two wars.

-Can Xavier dominate the glass? Xavier was better, nay, excellent, against the Bearcats on the glass. The Golden Flashes hammer the offensive boards and the Musketeers haven’t been their usual selves when it comes to ending possessions this year. Controlling Pippen and De La Rosa would be another encouraging step in the right direction.

Three keys

-Neutralize Adonis. De La Rosa is huge and pretty good. Specifically, he excels at getting offensive boards and drawing a ton of fouls. If Xavier's bigs play like they did last time out, he shouldn't be too big of a problem. If they let up, he'll feast.

-Establish depth. That means let Kaiser keep eating, run a couple of plays for Naji, and have Scruggs get some reps on the ball. As we saw last year, the starting rotation can change in the blink of an eye

-Stay focused. Last week was rightfully circled on Xavier's calendar as X took on two top teams at home. Now there's a squad that would look right at home on UC's schedule in town; the Muskies need to keep the execution crisp despite the fact that they can win without doing so.