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

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Two undefeated powerhouses meet at Cintas tonight. Who will walk away with their perfect record intact?

NCAA Basketball: Norfolk State at Siena
Boy howdy is this guy stoked.
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Three teams are currently 2-0; three more are 0-2. A dozen or so are 1-1. Beyond that, the vast bulk of D1 is 1-0 or 1-0 here three days into the season, so it's no surprise that Xavier hosts another undefeated team with just 40 minutes of ball under its belt for today's game.

That unblemished titan is Siena, who ran past American at home in their opener, turning a coin toss into a boat race behind a 54-point first half. It was a perfunctory sashay to the finish after that, which segues nicely into Xavier's lone win on the year. The Muskies also buried their opponent - in this case Jacksonville - early on and almost visibly lost interest in the game well before the clock struck zeroes.

Team fingerprint

It’s hard to tell too much from one game, but Siena played slowly and efficiently last time out. They ran a decent amount of four-guard lineups and went 11-21 from deep, including 8-12 in the first half. They crushed the glass on both ends, but were mediocre at scoring inside the arc and downright horrible at two-point defense. Like Xavier, they started a guy who was not on scholarship as a freshman. Unlike Xavier, the guy in question is still a freshman, so I have no idea if it was because he’s a starter or if it was a message to the scholarship dudes.

Probably the biggest conclusion I’m drawing from the numbers at this juncture is that you shouldn’t draw conclusions from numbers when they’re generated by one game versus American.

Personnel

Starters

Starting matchups
Jordan King Point Guard Quentin Goodin
Freshman Class Senior
6'0", 185 Measurements 6'4", 194
8/2/0 Game line 5/2/1
37.5/66.7/0 Shooting line 20/25/0
King's debut was an inauspicious one, as he took advantage of having the ball in his hands for large stretches of the game by turning it over 4 times and not recording an assist. He shot well, especially from deep, but look for Q's size and athleticism to give him fits on both ends of the floor.
Donald Carey Shooting Guard Paul Scruggs
Sophomore Class Junior
6'5", 185 Measurements 6'3", 200
17/3/5 Game line 12/3/2
55.6/75/80 Shooting line 45.5/28.6/0
Carey came from The Mount as a scorer, and he fit the bill the first time out. I hope for his sake that he hits three quarters of his threes this year, and he has really good size for a two. He'll get a ton of buckets at Siena's level, but he's going to have his work cut out for him at Cintas. I have one game of data, and it tells me The Schrandy Man is a starter, so... starter.
Jalen Pickett Small Forward Leighton Schrand
Sophomore Class Senior
6'5" 190 Measurements 6'1", 160
22/5/4 Game line 1/0/1
43.8/42.9/83.3 Shooting line 0/0/50
Pickett played the point last year, but it's not clear exactly how he's going to slot in next to King (assuming they end up playing alongside each other). No question this dude is a player, though, and he'll get the ball where it needs to go. He doesn't come off the court much, and he uses the ball a ton. I'm legitimately excited to see him play, because I don't think his career ends at the Siena level.
Manny Camper Power Forward Naji Marshall
Junior Class Junior
6'7", 203 Measurements 6'7", 222
14/8/4 Game line 17/6/4
85.7/0/66.7 Shooting line 50/0/70
Everything was at the rim for Camper against American; he literally hasn't shot a jumper all season. He gets to the offensive glass well and generally feeds in the paint, but he's going up against one of the best defensive rebounding forwards you're likely to find anywhere in college basketball. Keep an eye on this matchup on the offensive glass whenever Siena gets a shot up.
Elijah Burns Center Tyrique Jones
Senior Class Senior
6'8", 236 Measurements 6'9", 239
19/9/3 Game line 17/11/0
70/50/100 Shooting line 87.5/0/60

Reserves

Sammy Friday is a 6’9”, 237-pound big man who had 60 career games spread over 3 seasons coming into the year. He crushed the glass, especially on the offensive end, and fouled every 6 minutes. Gary Harris is a 6’6” freshman wing who will probably see some time, Matt Hein is a senior guard who started the opener but didn’t get much time, and nobody else got double-digit minutes. We don’t have much data to work with here.

Three questions

-How much three-point shooting can we expect out of Siena? Obviously 11-21 isn't sustainable, but the team that was 196th in three-point accuracy last year has apparently turned over a new leaf. X is (SPOILER ALERT) better than Siena, but that three ball can change a game in a hurry. If the Saints outscored Xavier by 12 or 15 from behind the arc, that's a tough margin to makeup in a game that should be a walkover.

-Will we see Kyky Tandy? Probably not. Travis Steele was still talking about weeks a couple days back, so maybe expect him to debut in Charleston. It would be ideal for him to get his first minutes at home against a low-major opponent, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

-Who are the starters? With Tandy out and Jason Carter still working his way back, you have to assume Xavier’s lineup in the opener is not going to be the same as the top 5 in, say, the Big East opener. The shape of the first few starting fives to not feature Leighton Schrand (sorry, buddy) will give us better insight regarding how Travis Steele views this roster.

Three keys

-Run through the tape. Siena hit 11 threes last time out, including 8 in the first half. That's a level of output that makes lifting off the gas a dangerous proposition. I don't think the Saints are going to shoot over 50% from deep on the year, but they've got the explosiveness to remain within touching distance long after most teams would have been buried.

-Work from the paint. Siena couldn’t keep American from scoring when the ball inside, allowing American to shoot 17-24 from the rim and 22-36 on all two-point attempts. Assuming Xavier has a talent advantage over American at pretty much every position, there’s no reason X shouldn’t be forcing the ball inside via both postups and drives.

-Tap up Jalen Pickett. He’s a total stud, a three-level scorer, and sported a 42.5% assist rate to just a 15% TO rate as a freshman while playing over 90% of the team’s minutes. He dropped 7/1/9 on Providence in his college debut; his only other game against a KenPom top 100 team saw him put 27/5/13 with 1 turnover on Hofstra on a 9-12/2-3/7-9 shooting line. He enrolled in and then pulled his name out of the NBA draft in the offseason; if he decides he wants to transfer to a higher level of school, he should know Xavier is an option.

I think that’s actually some sort of violation, so obviously nobody affiliated with Xavier should do that. Xavier is the best team he’ll have ever played and the best team on the Siena schedule this year. I’m intrigued to see what he does in a game that should be fairly stress free for most of our readers.