I'm as big a fan of Ohio as the next guy, but apparently Maui is quite nice and... well, you've all been in Cincinnati in late November. That's the transition Xavier is making as they step onto the Cintas court today.
X is either at a crossroads or just not very good this year. They're sitting at 3-3, but two of their losses were competitive outings against very good teams. The margin for error in the non-con is basically gone at this point; Xavier needs to start stockpiling wins.
Miami comes in at 155th in the KenPom, also 3-3. Butler opened up a can on them in their opener, and they've also got losses to a decent Montana team and Pepperdine. They haven't beaten anyone of note to this point, and they're honestly leaving themselves plenty of work to make something of this year.
Their defense is a tick above average on the glass. Other than that, not good. They don't force turnovers, put teams on the line, and don't force tough shots. They completely concede the arc while also being almost 300th in defensive two-point percentage. It's like they're running The Grinnell System, except...
Their offense is super slow. They love to throw sand in the gears of a game and keep it from getting to exciting for the audience. What stands out to the Xavier fans is that they shoot a ton of threes, almost half of all their field goal attempts, and they're a pretty solid team from deep. They don't get to the line much, but they're clinical when they get there.
|Darrian Ringo||Point Guard||Quentin Goodin|
|6'2", 173||Measurements||6'4", 194|
|Pretty much everything you want out of a senior point guard. Ringo is a steady hand in ball distribution and, while he doesn't shoot often, pretty good at putting the biscuit in the basket. He's also a plus defender, sitting 8th in the nation in steal percentage. Also, cash from the line. X doesn't want to have to be fouling late.|
|Nike Sibande||Shooting Guard||Paul Scruggs|
|6'4", 185||Measurements||6'3", 200|
|When he's on the floor, one out of every three shots Miami takes is coming out of Sibande's hand. He takes more than half his shots from three, mostly off the dribble. He's not super efficient, but he's the guy who carries the load for the RedHawks. He gets buckets, boards pretty well for a guard, and draws fouls. That's it.|
|Jalen Adaway||Small Forward||Kyle Castlin|
|6'5", 201||Measurements||6'4", 193|
|This is a real Spiderman pointing at Spiderman.jpg situation. A couple of low usage rate glue guys who aren't out there hunting shots. Adaway gets about 25 minutes per game and shoots about once every five minutes.|
|Dalonte Brown||Power Forward||Naji Marshall|
|6'7", 201||Measurements||6'7", 222|
|Brown is definitely a flex four. He's 2-10 from midrange; everything else is either right at the rim or from beyond the arc, where he's mostly a catch and shoot guy. He is a really efficient scorer and a good rebounder, but he basically doesn't distribute at all. Miami moves him around well and he gets buckets.|
|Bam Bowman||Center||Tyrique Jones|
|6'8", 267||Measurements||6'9", 235|
|This dude's a dang load. He is a menace on the offensive glass and a high-level finisher in the paint. Combine that with his solid ball security and he's a really efficient offensive player. Unfortunately, he also commits more than 7 fouls every 40 minutes, so he's kind of self-limiting if you go at him.|
Mekhi Larry is a 5’8”, 140-pound guard who gets buckets with prolific efficiency. He goes for a game line of 9.2/2.3/1.8 on .538/.364/1.000 shooting. He rarely goes all the way to the rim - probably because he’s 5’8” - but he has nasty pull-up game and can find his shot off the bounce from deep or mid-range.
Abdoulaye Harouna is a 6’5” wing who gets about 15 minutes off the bench to no great consequence. Aleks Abrams is 6’8”, 250, the next in the line of human refrigerators that fills the middle for Miami. He’s a good rebounder, as one might expect, but he has a TO rate approaching 50%.
-Can Xavier force the pace? Miami likes to crawl while Xavier loves a good track meet. The RedHawks actually post a very good 61.1% EFG% in transition, but they still take 80% of their shots in the half court. The more possessions in this game, the better Xavier's chances of making their talent play.
-Is this the game X stops leaking possessions? The Muskies have been turning the ball over a ton. Part of that is down to who they've played, but part of it has been good old fashioned bad basketball. Miami doesn't turn anyone over. If X spits the bit tonight, this team has a problem.
-Whither Welly? Ryan Welage got 14 minutes against SDSU and 3 against Illinois. That's probably not what he came to Xavier for and probably not what he had in mind coming to X. He can score from deep like nobody else on the roster (pending Eli Harden's emergence); it would behoove him and Coach Steele to figure out ways to get him involved.
-Check the arc. For goodness sake, please. If you like Shooting Open Threes, you'll love Playing Xavier. Miami lifts like they're allergic to the paint; if Xavier loses this game, it will be because Miami shot 40 threes and got hot.
-Pound the paint. Xavier is 37th in effective height; Miami is 241st. Miami fouls a ton. Miami can't defend inside the arc. It all adds up to Miami not being able to stop X inside. The Muskies had plenty of success against Illinois by working through the post, and I don't see any reason that shouldn't be the gameplan tonight.
-Go for the blowout. The Muskies have backed into a lot of dog fights by not protecting huge early leads. I know this is a tough regional rivalry, but this is a game Xavier needs to kill off. If they can do that, it will show the kind of growth you hope to see out of this team at this point in the season.