You can't afford to miss opportunities in the Big East, and Xavier has a big one wrapped in three parts with a three-game home stand early in the conference season. With the road trip to Nova already behind them and a hat trick of games at Cintas, Xavier has a chance to establish an early grip on the league standings alongside Butler and Providence (what?).
Standing in the way of that right now is Seton Hall, another team with real aspirations for a league title. They're 2-0 with wins at DePaul and home to Georgetown and a league schedule that has, to this point, graded out as the second easiest per KenPom. Obviously that changes with a trip to Xavier.
The Hall's offense is okay - though it should be noted that it's slightly more okay than Xavier's - clocking in at around 50th in the nation. They shoot it and get to the line at a slightly above average clip and rebound and avoid turnovers at a basically average rate. They'll shoot a lot of threes and they make about 35% of them. Passing to Myles Powell is a large part of their game plan.
Their offense is supported by a top-10 defense. They force a ton of turnovers - though less so in the small sample of conference games they've played - and allow an effective field goal percentage of 43.2%, 17th in the nation. Not allowing shots and making the ones you do allow tough is an obvious recipe for success. They send teams to the line a lot and don't defend the glass very well. They also happen to block a ton of shots, 12th in the nation with a 15.6% block rate.
|Quincy McKnight||Point Guard||Quentin Goodin|
|6'4", 185||Measurements||6'4", 194|
|McKnight has made something of a jump in his senior season. Never much of a shooter, he has continued to be exactly that, but his assist numbers are up - as foreshadowed by a good conference campaign last year - and his ball security is elite. He has continued to be a ball-hawking defender, using his length and quickness to disrupt opponents. He's also getting to the line a lot more often and cashing out at an 85% rate.|
|Myles Powell||Shooting Guard||Paul Scruggs|
|6'2", 195||Measurements||6'4", 196|
|In gym range. Relentless attack. Savvy shot selection. Comical volume. Only three people in the contry take a higher percentage of their teams' shots, and one is Markus Howard. Powell is a two-level scorer, almost entirely avoiding the mid-range in favor of three-point attempts and shots at the rim. He's super efficient - his EFG% is just 50.5% - but he just keeps pulling and isn't afraid of big moments. Add a little distribution and good ball security and you have a star.|
|Myles Cale||Small Forward||Naji Marshall|
|6'6", 210||Measurements||6'7", 222|
|In addition to supporting Myles Powell's jump shot habit, Cale is an excellent defender and a reasonable scorer in his own right. He is streaky from deep, but he stuck 5-6 against Georgetown his last time out. He rebounds okay for a wing. He's somehow 12-25 from the line.|
|Jared Rhoden||Power Forward||Jason Carter|
|6'6", 210||Measurements||6'8", 227|
|He has toned it down a bit in conference play, but Rhoden is sneakily a bit of a gunner. What he isn't is very effective at it, posting below-average shooting numbers thanks to preferring the three-point shot despite being bad at it. He's the most effective defensive rebounder on the team and - like all the Pirates - very active on that end of the floor.|
|Romaro Gill||Center||Tyrique Jones|
|7'2", 255||Measurements||6'9", 239|
|The best shot blocker in the conference and one of the best in the nation. A lot of guys at this level pride themselves in not backing down from a challenge, but discretion is often the better part of valor when Gill is protecting the rim. He blocked 4 shots in the Muskies' loss to Seton Hall last year and just 1 in their win. His range is not extensive, but he's at least smart enough not to try to force himself into games on the offensive end. He can be drawn into foul trouble, hacking on a rate exactly on par with Zach Freemantle on the year.|
No one on Seton Hall averages more than 28 minutes per game, 10 guys average double digit minutes. These guys are deep. Sandro Mamukelashvili was a big part of that, but he’s down after he broke his wrist in a loss to Iowa State. That’s a big loss, as it now means Anthony Nelson is the first man off the bench. Nelson is a nice piece at guard, but his 4.1/1.1/3.4 don’t measure up to Mamukelashvili. Shavar Reynolds is another backup guard likely to see a lot of time. He’s a 39% three point shooter in limited attempts and is 9-10 from the line. The first big off the bench is Tyrese Samuel. Samuel also shoots 39% from behind the arc, but isn’t much of a threat inside it. He is a solid defensive rebounder and Hall’s best on the offensive glass. 7-2 Ike Obiagu is the last man in the rotation off the bench for Kevin Willard. As you’d expect from someone that tall he blocks a lot of shots (11.4%), but he does it at the expense of seven fouls per 40 minutes of playing time.
We talk about Xavier’s depth in the pod.
-How deep is the rotation? I'm going to be an optimist and see KyKy Tandy, Bryce Moore, and Zach Freemantle as having established that they are legitimate options as reserve. If Dontarius James has suddenly arrived, Xavier now has two guards and two bigs, each with different skill sets, to plug into the game to change things up, address foul trouble, or just provide a breather. Seton Hall runs a lot of guys out there; this could be a test of whether or not Xavier can do the same.
-What do you do with Myles Powell? Xavier needs to the Seton Hall star work on both ends of the floor, but the most pressing question will be regarding who draws the assignment of defending him. Coach Steele hinted that Naji Marshall will get the first crack, but you’d assume Q, Scruggs, and Bryce Moore will each get their shot. Steele also said that Kyky Tandy graded out as the best defender in the St. John’s game, but you’d think Powell would be a tough ask for any freshman.
-Can Xavier avoid the big run? X lost the Nova game by coughing up 17 straight points in the first half, and they made their job harder than it needed to be by gifting St. John’s 11 straight in the early going. Seton Hall has put together some impressive runs in Big East play, closing DePaul on a 12-2 that buried a previously close game and raising Mac McClung’s ire by going 13-2 and (separately) 18-3 in the first half before ripping off a 10-0 run in less than 2 minutes in the second half. The Muskies could afford the slip against St. John’s; they’ll get run off their own court if they blink against Seton Hall.
-Get the ball on the glass. The Pirates' defense, generally speaking, wants to turn you over or block your shot. They're elite at forcing those things. If you can get the ball past their shot blockers - Romaro Gill in particular - they aren't that good at stopping second chances. Ball security has plagued Xavier this year, and a 7'2" is going to throw his share of shots, but if X can give Tyrique Jones and Zach Freemantle a chance to eat on the glass, they'll get into the soft underbelly of Seton Hall's elite defense.
-Keep the game in the half court. Myles Powell can score in just about any scenario. Sandro Mamukelashvili is hurt. The rest of the Hall's roster is not made up of dynamic scoring threats. The Pirates are more dangerous in the open court, especially off of turnovers, than they are having to face a set defense. Xavier has to cut down on live-ball mistakes and long run outs and make the opponent beat five guys.
-Shoot the right threes. Teams are shooting almost 38% from behind the arc against Seton Hall in their losses, compared to just 29% overall. Showing up with an eye toward chucking them from the cheap seats isn’t a recipe for success, but Xavier has proven that shot selection is a huge factor in their three-point shooting. Shooting catch-and-shoot threes from quick rotation or inside-out action can put Xavier in position to loosen the Seton Hall defense a bit from behind the arc. The Muskies can’t not shoot threes, so they have to commit to shooting the best ones.