Xavier is still playing basketball, and there's something to be said for that. There's no program in the nation that sets out to make the NIT, but once you're in it, you might as well try to win. The core of Xavier's next tournament team is gaining experience in win-or-go-home scenarios, Coach Steele is on the cusp on making it a 20-win debut season, and the Muskies have the chance to get one more game at Cintas this year. There's still plenty to play for in Texas.
Speaking of Texas, the Longhorns were a fun test case for NCAA Selection Committee this year. They had a lackluster record, but they played an incredibly difficult schedule. Ultimately, the powers that be were not impressed, and Texas - who is 12-16 after a 5-0 start - landed in the tournament that lets you play home games.
Texas plays super slowly, in contrast to Smart's VCU teams. They really love to drag things out on both ends of the court.
On offense, their greatest strength is taking care of the ball. They don't turn it over much at all. They take a ton of threes, but they're basically bang on the national average at 34.3% from deep as a team. They're mediocre at getting to the glass and solidly below average at offensive rebounding.
Their greatest defensive weakness is defending the glass, where they're 260th in the nation. They force turnovers at a slightly above average clip and are fairly permissive from behind the arc. They're tough to score on from the paint, where they're solidly in the top 50 in defending, though much of that was likely predicated on injured forward Jaxson Hayes's 10.7% block rate.
|Matt Coleman III||Point Guard||Quentin Goodin|
|6'2" 180||Measurements||6'4", 194|
|Coleman is much more of a passer than he is a point guard who will look to score first, which makes him not entirely dissimilar to our own Quentin Goodin. Coleman has struggled for much of March and has picked up only 4 assists over the last 4 games.|
|Courtney Ramey||Shooting Guard||Paul Scruggs|
|6'3" 185||Measurements||6'3", 200|
|Ramey is a player who is not shy about getting his shot up, and has grow into is his role as the season has gone on. He is shooting over 40% from three since the start of 2019, but remains susceptible to turnovers from time to time.|
|Jase Febres||Small Forward||Naji Marshall|
|6'5" 190||Measurements||6'7", 222|
|Febres is a three point gunner who shot 71 more threes than the next most prolific Longhorn from behind the arc. He has experienced varying levels of success from deep and offers little else on offense with his other shooting and distribution numbers reflecting the single mindedness of his approach.|
|Jericho Sims||Power Forward||Tyrique Jones|
|6'9" 240||Measurements||6'9" 235|
|Sims has taken a step back after a Freshman season in which he impressed and his playing time has reflected that. His biggest scoring output since the 5th of December is 8 against West Virginia and, although his rebounding numbers remain solid, his trouble with fouling had led to him being a somewhat auxiliary piece until Jaxson Hayes went down.|
|Dylan Osetkowski||Center||Zach Hankins|
|6'9" 250||Measurements||6'11", 245|
|The Tulane transfer came good for Shaka Smart this year, gobbing up boards at both ends and providing Texas a solid scoring option inside. He can step out and shoot the three, although not that well, and is excellent at keeping himself on the floor, while drawing fouls on opposing bigs.|
The Longhorns leading scorer, Kerwin Roach II, has been coming off the bench since returning from suspension against Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament. Roach boasts a well rounded scoring game and is undoubtedly the focal point of the offense when he is on the court. Elijah Mitrou-Long will also come in to spell the guard positions and, for some reason, shoot the ball a lot. He converts at a 34% rate from the floor, so that really tanks his chances of being a net positive on the offensive side of the ball, although his lack of other standout skills also don’t do him any favors. Alaskan freshman Kamaka Hepa, on the other hand, very rarely shoots, but he does grab a decent number of rebounds to add value.
-How does available personnel affect Texas? Texas basically sucked right out loud with Roach out, going 1-4 while he was suspended. They have him back, but they lost freshman phenom and Loveland native Jaxson Hayes to injury the same game Roach returned. A lot of their numbers were generated with both of those guys on the floor. How they reintegrate Roach and account for Hayes's absence still isn't settled.
-Will familiarity play a role? Travis Steele has been employed by Xavier for more than a decade; he's no stranger to what Shaka Smart is trying to do. If Smart rolls out some of his stuff from VCU, it's entirely possible Steele will have a counter ready.
-Will anyone show up? I'm all about seeing some basketball, and so were about 6,000 other people when Xavier hosted Toledo in the opening round of the NIT. Texas, on the other hand, announced an attendance of just over 1,700 for their first game, and it looked on TV like about 1,300 of them had come dressed as empty seats. Xavier has played in hostile environments before; it will be interesting to see if Texas provides an environment at all.
-Crush the glass. Texas has a solid defense in three of the four factors, but their defensive rebounding is pretty poor, and it will likely be even worse with Hayes out. Xavier has the personnel to board from four positions on the floor, and keying on the glass might be the way through.
-Continue the lockdown. Xavier's late season surge has been triggered by great defense. Texas has an offense that feeds on not turning the ball over, but the joke's on them because Xavier doesn't force turnovers anyway. Texas might legitimately turn the ball over zero times today, but if X continues to make shots difficult and defend without fouling, they'll get their stops.
-Get Paul Scruggs rolling. Xavier's sophomore star has been sensational for long stretches this year, and the Muskies are better for it. He never really got going against Toledo, and Xavier's offense was stuck in the mud for much of the game. Calling his number early would be a worthwhile investment of possessions for X.