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

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Losing this one simply isn’t an option.

NCAA Basketball: DePaul at Providence
This guy is in a bit over his head.
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Elimination basketball basically begins today for Xavier. While losing to DePaul doesn’t mean that Xavier would play no more games, it would mean that they have used up all the consideration that the selection committee is likely to give them. Somehow, a regular season that began with the Musketeers ranked seventh in the nation will end with them needing a win in Chicago to keep their bubble hopes alive.

If you had to pick one team on the schedule to beat when it mattered though, you may very well select DePaul. The Blue Demons have won two games in conference play by a combined total of three points. Those wins came over Providence before the Friars got going and Georgetown, who never has gotten going. Even with as badly as Xavier has played since the start of February, they remain a seven point favorite on the road. That’s how bad DePaul is.

Team Fingerprint:

Dave Leitao’s boys are bad, as you might suspect, on both ends of the floor. Only three players have offensive efficiencies over 100, the team makes only a third of their three pointers, shoots 47% inside the arc, and turns the ball over on 20% of their possessions. They don’t shoot well, they turn the ball over too much, and they don’t get on the offensive glass at all.

On defense though...they are equally as bad. Hardly anyone in the nation allows opponents as much joy inside the arc while also allowing 37% from behind the arc. Basically, DePaul gambles everything on causing a turnover, which they do on 20% of possessions, and get torched if it doesn’t happen. It is a very high risk-high reward that strategy that is, obviously, not paying off terribly often.

Players:

Starters

Starting matchups
Billy Garrett Jr. Point Guard Quentin Goodin
Senior Class Freshman
6'6", 213 Measurements 6'4", 190
14.8/2.8/3.4 Game line 4.4/1.8/3.3
.379/.362/.879 Shooting line .324/.256/.552
Garrett was really promising as a sophomore, but he has gotten progressively less efficient as an upperclassman. He has a solid assist rate, draws a bunch of fouls, and plays pretty good defense. He shoots a lot of two-point jumpers, mostly off the bounce, and misses almost three quarters of them. Maybe if he'd cut that out, he'd get that ORtg back above 100.
Brandon Cyrus Shooting Guard J.P. Macura
Freshman Class Junior
6'5", 189 Measurements 6'5", 203
6.1/4.1/1 Game line 14.7/4.4/2.8
.371/.235/.705 Shooting line .418/.323/.810
If Quentin Goodin passed less and rebounded more, he'd be Brandon Cyrus. I'll take Q.
Eli Cain Small Forward Malcolm Bernard
Sophomore Class Senior
6'6", 204 Measurements 6'6", 202
15.7/4.4/2.7 Game line 6/3.6/1.5
.407/.355/.700 Shooting line .399/.382/.595
Cain is a volume shooter and a pretty shameless one at that. He has shot almost 400 times in 30 games, splitting his efforts almost equally between the rim, mid-range, and behind the arc. For a guy who has the ball in his hands as much as Cain does, he does an admirable job not turning it over.
Joe Hanel Power Forward Trevon Bluiett
Junior Class Junior
6'7", 213 Measurements 6'6", 215
4.6/4.9/0.8 Game line 17.8/5.6/2
.659/.000/.548 Shooting line .441/.380/.764
Hanel is far and away DePaul's most efficient shooter, but he only takes about 8% of the team's shots when he's on the floor. Not only that, but nearly a quarter of his shot attempts come on putbacks. He's a solid rebounder and puts in a shift on defense; maybe the Blue Demons should run a play for him every once in a while.
Tre'Darius McCallum Center Tyrique Jones
Junior Class Freshman
6'7", 209 Measurements 6'9", 237
9.9/6.6/1.3 Game line 4/3.4/0.3
.450/.289/.792 Shooting line .573/.000/.486
McCallum is in the top ten in the Big East in minutes percentage, DReb%, block%, and steal%. The Indian Hills CC transfer is tearing it up for DePaul but - like Hanel - isn't getting a ton of touches on the post. He runs hot and cold, but there are worse options getting more touches for the Blue Demons.

Reserves:

Chris Harrison-Docks is a 5-11 guard that never met a shot he didn’t like or a pass he wouldn’t try to force. He’s decent from behind the arc and hasn’t missed any of the the 13 free throws he’s taken this year. Levi Cook, a 6-10 freshman, is the only other guy that seems to be guaranteed to come off the bench for significant time. Cook is good on the offensive glass and decent inside the paint, but isn’t really a weapon. Devin Gage, a brutally inefficient guard, and either Darrick Wood or Al Eichelbarger, both swing forwards, will also come off the bench. There isn’t really a set rotation, so it is difficult to know who exactly Leitao will deploy.

Three questions:

- Can Xavier shake off the funk? Is there anything about the team that played against Marquette that makes you think they are capable of winning a game? The Musketeers need to snap out of it, because losing this one is a death sentence.

- How healthy is Trevon Bluiett? Xavier will tell you he’s 100%, but they are lying. Trevon needs to be able to drive off of his ankle to be effective. So long as he can’t, he becomes a stand up shooter. He’s still a good one, mind you, but Xavier needs him making things happen.

- Can Coach Mack find some depth? Last game Mack stuck with Kaiser Gates for 17 minutes and played Sean O’Mara and Tyrique Jones for a combined total of 14. Anyone who watched Gates play defense as if he were shuffling through sand or turn the ball over five times knows that was the wrong call. Jones, especially, brings some real energy to a team very much lacking in it. He, and O’Mara, need to get out there.

Three keys:

- Do: If Xavier loses this game they likely have to make it to at least the finals of the Big East tournament and then possibly even win that game. That doesn’t feel likely right now.

- Not: Xavier is already in a spot where they have to play DePaul twice before getting a game that is going to move the needle with committee at all. Losing come Wednesday is obviously the end, but dropping either of them before likely meeting Butler spells disaster.

- Lose: The Musketeers need to win three straight. There is no excuse, no matter how badly things are going, for losing to DePaul. Eamonn Brennan wondered yesterday how deep rock bottom goes for Xavier. If it goes as deep as losing to DePaul, it’s time to start scouting that NIT bracket.