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Xavier v. TCU: Preview, matchups, and keys to the game

Xavier plays their last non-conference game still looking for a big win.

NCAA Basketball: Air Force at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Xavier has not played a great non-conference schedule this season. Three Q2 games and only one win outside the Q 3/4 brackets leads to a strength of schedule that lands 81st by NET and 132nd on KenPom. The Musketeers have wins over UC and Missouri at home and UConn at a neutral site, but none of those are currently worth a great deal. TCU represents an outside chance to correct that.

The Horned Frogs are in something the same boat as the Musketeers. They have also come into the season with expectations of improving on last year’s NIT loss to Texas and have, by and large, failed to produce anything of significance. A loss to Clemson was exacerbated by the Tigers promptly tanking their next four. A chance for a decent win against USC also went begging when the Horned Frogs went down on a buzzer beater. Right now, TCU sits 84th in the NET, nine positions outside the coveted first quadrant.

Team fingerprint

38.5% of TCU’s points come behind the arc, 40th in the nation. 61.5% of their made baskets come off an assist. The Horned Frogs work the ball until they find a shot, 43% of the time from behind the arc, and then they take it. What they don’t do is shoot it particularly well. The Horned Frogs make 35% of their threes, 50% of their twos, and 62.8% of their free throws. When they get rolling like they did against Louisiana, they can be a force capable of scoring nearly 1.4 points per possessions. Unfortunately for them, their worst shooters also tend to be the guys taking a lot of the shots.

On defense TCU forces turnovers in over 25% of their opponent’s possessions. That’s in the top 15 in the nation. The Horned Frogs are also in the top 20 in defending against shots in the paint and sixth in the nation in steals rate. Where they can be had, albeit perhaps not by Xavier, is behind the arc. TCU is also much more concerned with making you miss than they are in collecting that miss.

Players

Starting matchups
Edric Dennis Point Guard Quentin Goodin
Senior Class Senior
6'3", 190 Measurements 6'4", 194
8.8/1.9/3.8 Game line 8.4/2.8/3.4
36.9/34.7/75 Shooting line 38/36.4/62.5
Dennis' value comes as an excellent distributor of the ball and a serviceable shooter behind the arc. He's the hand at the helm that keeps the Horned Frogs moving forward.
RJ Nembhard Shooting Guard Paul Scruggs
Sophomore Class Junior
6'5", 195 Measurements 6'4", 196
12.9/4.2/3.9 Game line 15.2/4.3/2.3
37.5/23.9/84 Shooting line 52.3/33.9/85.7
Hembhard has played 283 minutes this year and committed four fouls. That's not from an aversion to defense, as he's second on a ball-hawking team in steals. His offensive contributions tend to begin and end at the line.
Jaire Grayer Small Forward Naji Marshall
Senior Class Junior
6'5", 210 Measurements 6'7", 222
9.1/5.2/0.2 Game line 16.9/5.9/3.5
51.6/51.2/40 Shooting line 44.7/25.9/69.8
Grayer is a three point sniper, shooting 51.4% behind the arc and only having taken 10 shots inside the arc. That combination makes him 44th in the nation in EFG% Somewhat unexpectedly for a guy living behind the arc, Grayer is second on TCU with an 8.8% offensive rebounding rate.
Desmond Bane Power Forward Jason Carter
Senior Class Junior
6'6", 215 Measurements 6'8", 227
16.1/6.8/3.5 Game line 7.4/5.5/1.8
46.5/39/78.3 Shooting line 39.5/30/88.5
Bane is the focus of the TCU offense. He stays on the floor, he's tops of the starters in usage rate, he can score at all three levels, and he takes care of the ball very well. He's flat out a player no matter how you look at it.
Kevin Samuel Center Tyrique Jones
Sophomore Class Senior
6'11", 250 Measurements 6'9", 239
11.5/8.4/0.5 Game line 13/9.7/1.4
69.2/0/26.9 Shooting line 49.6/0/60.3
Samuel knows what he's out there for, and he does it. He attackes the glass on both ends, throws almost 10% of shots taken when he's on the floor, and is 29th in the nation in EFG%.

Bench

Francisco Farabello comes off the bench to splash 45% of his three point attempts and he’s also an absolute defensive menace who averages 1.4 steals in just 20 minutes of play. That 4.2% rate is good for 45th in the nation. PJ Fuller, a 6-4 freshman, plays 16 minutes per game and he spends it getting the highest usage rate on the team. Fuller scores well, if not at an elite level, from everywhere on the court and is yet to miss a free throw. Diante Smith is a 6-7 freshman who is dragging the entire team down by shooting 23.5% inside the arc and 14.8% behind it. The TCU rotation ends with Jaedon LeDee, a reserve big who scores well in the paint and is a monster on the offensive glass.

Three questions

-What should we expect from Tyrique Jones? Some of our more astute Twitter followers pointed out that Xavier's center is shooting something around 40% on shots that aren't dunks. Couple that with the fact that TCU's starting center is nearly 7' tall, every bit of 250, and an elite rim protector and we may be shaping up for another tough day at the offensive office for Ty. To his credit, Jones has found ways to impact games without scoring through hustle on the glass. If he gets his buckets over Samuel, maybe the concern will die down a bit.

-How will Xavier matchup? TCU's star is Desmond Bane, a kind of 3/4 hybrid not dissimilar to Naji Marshall in build and skill set. If Naji guards him, that leaves Jaire Grayer, a career 36% three-point shooter who is shooting over 50% from deep this year, wandering the perimeter under the watchful eye of just one Jason Carter. On the other hand, Xavier could unleash Bryce Moore on Bane and slide Marshall to Grayer. The answer will likely be a mixture of both, but it will be interesting to see which is more effective and which Steele trusts at crunch time.

-What did Xavier learn at Wake? The Muskies have had one true road game this year, and it didn't go particularly well. Despite some lackluster stretches, X had a three in the air to win it at Wake. With that experience under the team's collective belt, a healthy Naji, and exam week now well in the rearview, X has one last chance to pick up a big road win for the resume before conference play.

Three keys

-Protect the ball. This could obviously be a key for any game, but it's especially vital against a Texas Christian defense that keys on forcing turnovers. Paul Scruggs will need the feeling to have returned to his hands after last game's debacle and Quentin Goodin will have to be at his stingy best for Xavier to keep from having its offense disrupted before it gets a chance to get going.

-Catch and shoot threes. Xavier is undefeated in games in which Tyrique Jones tallies three or more assists. I'll grant that there's only a four game sample of such performances over Tyrique's career, but I'm using that meaningless statistical anomaly to illustrate how much better Xavier is when they shoot threes from penetration or post play rather than off the bounce or in single-side ball movement. Long rebounds off of missed threes have allowed teams to get out before Xavier's defense gets set; better shot selection from behind the arc will help X at both ends.

-Check the arc. TCU doesn't shoot a super high percentage from deep, but buddy do they like to chuck them up. They get almost 40% of their points behind the arc, a number that puts them easily inside the top 50. They're also proficient at going and getting it on the glass. It will behoove Xavier to take the Horned Frogs out of their usual rhythm and make them work for their points.