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

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Xavier’s best road offensive performance led them by Marquette in the away leg. Can X run it back at home?

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Marquette
The version of JP tall enough to participate at an amusement park shoots over the version that isn’t.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

When these teams met the first time, it was the opening game of the Big East season. Marquette hit 15 threes and triggered on Tre on defense, but Tre responded by dishing out 8 assists. Xavier lived at the line, shooting 22-24 to Marquette’s 8-14, and that was enough for X to get out of there with the win.

Since then, Marquette has gone 4-2 in conference, but their losses have been at Butler and at Nova, two of the toughest non-Xavier games in league play. After this game, Marquette heads home to host Nova and Butler. The possibility of being 4-6 in Big East play is staring the Golden Eagles square in the face; they’ll be playing with the intensity that desperation brings.

In the meantime, Xavier has surged to 6-2 in the league, squarely on Nova’s heels. To have a realistic hope of winning the league, X can’t afford a single misstep, especially not at Cintas.

Team fingerprint

Plan A is offense. Plans B through Z are also offense. This team loves to offend. They shoot gobs of threes and make almost 42% of them in conference play. They’re kind of middle of the road in getting to the offensive glass and ball security. They hit 81.2% of their free throws in conference games, but they remain miserable at actually getting to the line.

Boy howdy are these guys bad on defense. Only St. John’s and Butler (really?) have a worse defensive efficiency in the Big East. They’re actually doing a good job at limiting three-point effectiveness both in attempts and accuracy, but that may be because opponents are focusing on getting the ball inside. Big East teams are shooting 54.2% from inside the arc, making Marquette’s defense last in the league in that regard. They’re also bad at keeping teams off the glass and not sending them to the line. That, you may recognize, is not a recipe for defensive success.

Personnel

  • In Sam Hauser (60), Andrew Rowsey (66), and Markus Howard (68), Marquette has three dudes who have hit at least 60 threes each. They’re also each shooting at least 90% from the line.
  • F/C Matt Heldt and Theo John and G Greg Elliott each have a block percentage of over 5%.
  • Sacar Anim, Jamal Cain, and Greg Elliott each have exactly 37 points in conference play. Theo John has 36 and probably rues each of the four free throws he has missed in Big East games.

Starters

Starting matchups
Andrew Rowsey Point Guard Quentin Goodin
Senior Class Sophomore
5'11", 180 Measurements 6'4", 190
20.8/3.1/4.3 Game line 7.4/3/5.3
0.43/0.423/0.908 Shooting line 0.401/0.115/0.843
Ugh, this frickin' guy. Rowsey threw away a chance to be a UNC Asheville legend by transferring to Marquette. He loves to shoot threes and he's good at getting them to go in. He's also a pretty good distributor and has solid ball security skills. He's not much of a defender thanks to being pretty fun-sized, even for a guard.
Markus Howard Shooting Guard J.P. Macura
Sophomore Class Senior
5'11", 175 Measurements 6'5", 203
21.5/3.2/2.9 Game line 13.4/4.2/3.3
0.472/0.389/1 Shooting line 0.476/0.382/0.838
He's six months younger than Trae Young, worth noting because Young is a freshman and a national media darling while Howard is apparently the Big East's best kept secret. I hope he starts getting more attention, because he's an insane scorer who will be even more dangerous once puberty hits. Like Rowsey, he's a bit limited defensively due to his size.
Sacar Anim Small Forward Trevon Bluiett
Sophomore Class Senior
6'5", 210 Measurements 6'6", 202
5.9/3.4/1.9 Game line 19.1/5.5/2.6
0.435/0.067/0.596 Shooting line 0.458/0.425/0.811
Not a shot hunter, not a dude who needs a lot of touches on the offensive end. He's mostly on the floor for his defensive prowess, though he commits more than 5 fouls per 40 minutes in Big East games. He's not going to turn the ball over that much, but he is a bit of a liability at the line.
Sam Hauser Power Forward Naji Marshall
Sophomore Class Freshperson
6'8", 225 Measurements 6'7", 218
15.1/5.9/2.7 Game line 7.5/3.3/1.4
0.508/0.496/0.9 Shooting line 0.559/0.364/0.686
Pretty much the nastiest kind of stretch four you can imagine. He just jars threes with serious range, but he is also better than serviceable inside the arc and rebounds pretty well on the defensive end. He's not a whirlwind on defense, but he holds his own. When you hit half your threes though, why bother?
Matt Heldt Center Kerem Kanter
Junior Class Senior
6'10", 250 Measurements 6'10", 240
4.3/4.5/1 Game line 9.9/5.7/0.6
0.667/0/0.895 Shooting line 0.56/0.333/0.793
The most efficient offensive player. Not on the team or in the league, but in the nation, thanks to his 141.1 ORtg. He's a good offensive rebounder who is solid around the bucket and cash from the line. For whatever reason, he's not ever really the focus of the offense. On the defensive end, he's a legit rim protector.

Reserves

You probably recall 6’7” wing Jamal Cain. Marquette’s answer to Xavier’s defense was to run him to the corner and have him make it rain. He’s 4-6 from deep against Xavier and 10-27 against every other team in the nation. He’s a solid rebounder and a coin toss from the line.

Theo John and Greg Elliott are both freshmen and super shot blockers. Other than that, they couldn’t be more dissimilar. John is a 6’9”, 245-pound big man who is okay with his back to the basket but turns the ball over too much. Elliott is a 6’3” guard who is a really good defender. He’s not an offensive liability, but he doesn’t walk onto the floor looking to get buckets.

Three questions

-Road cooking? In four true road games, Marquette is shooting 47.5% from deep and averaging 12 made threes per game. They’re only 2-2 in those games - with losses to Butler and Villanova - but it’s still an alarming stat for Xavier fans. The Muskies can be vulnerable from behind the arc, and Marquette’s ability to take advantage of that kind of bums me out.

-Can X own the line again? That 22-24 mark from the stripe in the first game was (obviously) a big part of Xavier’s win. Since the start of conference play though, the Muskies have only shot 72.5% from the stripe. On the other hand... teams have shot 78% from the line against Marquette on the year (last in the nation) and 83.8% in Big East play (last in the conference). The Golden Eagles somehow have a knack for sending dudes who can execute to the line.

-Who plays center for X? Tyrique had 12 on 5-6 shooting against Marquette the first time out, but he hasn’t been at his best in conference play. Kerem Kanter played just 11 minutes in the opener and has come on strong. Somewhere in the middle is Big Sean. Was the first game a function of Tyrique being in good form or Marquette being a good matchup for him? I suspect Coach Mack will give him a chance to make a mark tonight.

Three keys

-Chase Marquette off the arc. Marquette doesn’t score very well inside, but they sure love shooting threes. If they win this game, it will be from the arc. Their offense isn’t geared to score inside; Xavier should force them to.

-Force the pace. Marquette likes it slow like Sting. They’re 7-1 in their 8 slowest games and 6-5 in the 11 games that have involved 69 or more possessions. If Xavier can run the game 69+ possessions deep - which they have in all but 2 of their games this year - Marquette will be uncomfortable, or at least less comfortable.

-Work inside-out. Marquette sucks at defending inside the arc and Xavier has three dudes who can eat on the post. Further, Kerem and Sean are both accomplished kick-out artists. Xavier has Marquette out-manned inside, and if they leverage that, they’ll win.