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

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We're getting close to the point in the season where you take each game into itself rather than worrying about the context of the tournament. If Xavier drops this one, it's hard to see a way back into things.

Wisconsin v Marquette
Gonna want to keep an eye on this fella.
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

I'll be honest, I'm still super sandy about the Seton Hall game; what a missed opportunity.

Xavier is leaning on the ropes right now, and Marquette could be the haymaker that puts things to bed. The Muskies are 9-6 with basically no resume to speak of. Only stockpiling wins will keep X above water, and it's not clear at this point where those are going to come from.

Marquette, on the other hand, has looked pretty solid. They have a good neutral site win over Louisville and have beaten Wisconsin and Buffalo at home. Their lone Big East game was a loss by 20 against St. John's, leaving them looking up at Xavier in the league standings.

Team fingerprint

Their offense is built almost solely on its ability to make a lot of threes. More than 40% of their shots are of the three-point variety, and they hit 38% of them as a team. They have a bit of a turnover problem, they don't get to the line much, and they aren't much for scoring from inside the arc. They're really good at threes though.

Defense is less of an afterthought than it has been in years past. They don't force turnovers at all, but they seal off the glass well and force tough shots. It's not necessarily defense that someone will do an oral history of in ten years, but it's getting the job done.

Personnel

Coming soon!

Starters

Reserves

Three questions

-Can Xavier stop the barrage? If you're really worried about Xavier's three-point defense in this game, you're not alone, and you're not wrong. The Hausers and Markus Howard can really let it fly, and Joseph Chartouny is no slouch himself. There will probably be a point in this game at which Marquette gets 9 points from three possessions.

-Which X shows up? The mental toughness Xavier showed in closing out DePaul on the road was conspicuous by its absence in the collapse against Seton Hall. If it starts to rain a little bit and the Fiserv Forum (I had to look that up) starts rocking, is X going to be able to steady the ship?

-Does the pace matter? Marquette generally favors and up-tempo game where Xavier plays more slowly, but the Golden Eagles don't get appreciably better results in transition offense than they do in half court. It would probably behoove Xavier's offense to not get sped up like it did against Seton Hall, but if Marquette wants to get out and go, maybe X should let them.

Three keys

-Be smart. I know I'm not exactly splitting the atom here, but the Muskies backed out of the last game by leaning into things they're bad at. Maybe don't do that against a team that's already good at the stuff you struggle to stop.

-Find Welly. Ryan Welage is the only game-breaking offensive weapon Xavier has; nobody else on the roster can flip momentum the way he is capable of doing. Marquette can rain threes; if Xavier can't stop them consistently, at least Welly can mitigate some of the damage.

-Find Elias Harden. He seems like a nice kid. I'd sure like to know what happened to him. Also, he was briefly the kind of transcendent offensive player Xavier could use more of.