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Xavier v. Wake Forest: preview, matchups, keys to the game

The first leg of the Skip Prosser Classic sees Xavier away to Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are good enough to pose a serious threat and bad enough to be a resume land mine.

NCAA Basketball: Wake Forest at Penn State
My own college days gave me a bias regarding seven-footers with French names who shoot threes.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

I don't know what finals week is like for collegiate athletes today, but I always loved it when I was in school. The coach was severely restricted in how much of our time he could demand, and classes met once for a test instead for two or three sessions spread throughout the week. A lot of Halo guys got killed during finals week when I was in school.

Whatever the experience is now, both of these teams will be coming off of it for tipoff today. Xavier is also riding the high of a 9-1 record and a win in the Crosstown Shootout. With school and a rivalry game safely in the rearview and Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa all looming, this game is going to require a concerted effort by the Muskies to refocus and avoid falling into a trap.

Wake Forest probably won't get to celebrate the major gift-giving holidays at the end of the year, to be honest. The program Skip Prosser led to a #1 ranking and 5 NCAA tournament wins is languishing under Danny Manning. They're an amazing 42 games under .500 in conference play in his 5 full seasons, and that doesn't count the 0-2 they've already compiled this year. They're a total of 5-5 on the season, with 2 of their losses coming outside the KenPom top 100. Their best win is over a .500 Davidson squad at a neutral site.

Team fingerprint

Wake's defense really only does one thing well, and that's cut off the glass. To their credit, they're in the top 25 in DReb%. They're somewhere just above average as a three-point defense, but their EFG% defense is mediocre, they foul a lot, and they don't force turnovers at all. This all adds up to a defense just outside the top 100 for the Demon Deacons.

Just inside the top 100 is their offense. They, like UC, depend on getting to the line to harvest free points. Nearly a quarter of their points come from the line, good for 13th in the country. That's about it for bright spots on the offensive end. They are basically average on the offensive glass, don't shoot it well, and turn the ball over a lot. Even their 35.4% from deep is undermined by a three-point rate of 27.8%, 337th in the country. This is a limited offensive squad.

Personnel

Starting matchups
Brandon Childress Point Guard Quentin Goodin
Senior Class Senior
6'0", 195 Measurements 6'4", 194
16.6/2.7/4.8 Game line 6.7/2.8/3.3
41.7/32.7/81.3 Shooting line 32.4/30.6/57.1
Childress makes it go for Wake. He's a prototype point guard who knocks down shots when he needs to, moves the ball well, cares for it, and is nails from the line.
Andrien White Shooting Guard Paul Scruggs
Senior Class Junior
6'3", 200 Measurements 6'4", 196
7.5/3.8/1.6 Game line 14.2/4.1/2.7
40/41.2/64.3 Shooting line 50.5/32.6/83.3
White is deadly from deep, but he doesn't bring a lot else to the court. Leave him alone at your own peril, but he's not likely to hurt you elsewhere. White will get on the defensive glass.
Chaundree Brown Small Forward Naji Marshall
Junior Class Junior
6'5", 220 Measurements 6'7", 222
11/6.1/1.7 Game line 17/6/3.7
43.7/33.3/89.2 Shooting line 45.2/25.9/72.3
Brown is a monster on the defensive glass and is very efficient when he has the ball. That doesn't happen all that often, though, as Brown is sixth on the team in usage rate. The more he touches it, the better off Wake is.
Isaiah Mucius Power Forward Jason Carter
Sophomore Class Junior
6'8", 195 Measurements 6'8", 227
7.5/4.7/1.3 Game line 6.5/5.3/1.6
39.3/33.3/50 Shooting line 32.8/22.2/91.3
A developing stretch four who is a monster on the offensive glass, Mucius is just bad enough inside the arc to undermine the good work he does elsewhere. He's also a capable passer for a big man.
Ody Oguama Center Tyrique Jones
Sophomore Class Senior
6'9", 205 Measurements 6'9", 239
2.9/3.9/0.1 Game line 13.8/9.4/1.1
62.5/0/90 Shooting line 54.2/0/57.6
Oguama finishes at the line and dominates (24.3%) the defensive glass. The fact he would foul out nearly twice if he played 40 minutes is the only thing that keeps him off the court. He's a player.

Reserves

Olivier Sarr comes off the bench at center and plays more than three of the starters. He gets 13.1/9.5/0.7 in his 25 minutes. He crushes the glass on both ends, blocks a shot a game, and shoots 77% from the line. Why he doesn’t start and play 30 minutes is a question for Danny Manning. Torry Johnson gets 21 minutes per game at the guard spots. He picks his spots shooting, so his 42% behind the arc is tempered by having come on just 14 shots. He turns the ball over too much to be a serious threat. Sharone Wright Jr. and Jacobi Neath play weirdly similar games. Neither shoot well, both turn the ball over too much, and both play about 15 minutes.

Three questions

- How much time for the freshman? The rotation took a hit in the Shootout as Travis Steele went with the winning time lineup. Seven guys played 20+ minutes, KyKy got seven, DJ appeared, and that was it. Wake is a different prospect, but they represent a test. Xavier can’t, surely, go all season only seven deep. A freshman other than Zach Freemantle needs to show he can hang.

- Has Quentin Goodin turned the corner? He turned it once with authority in the Shootout, but Q has slowly started to come good overall. In his last three games he has 13 assists against only six turnovers and has played tenacious defense. The shooting is still a work in progress, but another solid showing against Wake will show that Goodin has become the game manager a team this talented needs.

- Can X win on the road? This game, less than two weeks before Christmas, will be Xavier’s first in a hostile environment. It’s vaguely Syracusian to not play a road game for this long, and it leaves the legitimate question as to whether this pack of Musketeers has the chops to win away from home. Early returns suggest there are some dogs on this team, and that is what is needed to beat ACC teams in their own gym.

Three keys

-Play all 40. Xavier is still looking to put together a comprehensive effort, though their defeat of UC came close. If the Muskies can stay locked in from tip to horn, they can play with just about anyone. If they do that against Wake, they'll run the Deacons off the floor.

-Pound the post. Wake Forest does a good job of clearing the defensive glass, but they can be scored on inside and they have foul-prone big men. It's axiomatic that working inside-out makes offenses more effective, but in this case it might behoove Xavier to work inside-in. If X can get Sarr and Oguama into early foul trouble, they can turn this game into a layup line.

-Choke off the arc. The Demon Deacons outside shooting is their best offensive weapon. They don’t shoot it out there a lot, though, and Xavier doesn’t surrender many from deep. Keep that up and the Musketeers force the 294th team in the nation at shooting inside to do just that.