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Xavier v. Toledo: Preview, matchup, keys to the game

NCAA Basketball: Bradley at Xavier Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Xavier survived a truly terrible performance against Bradley and held on for a 51-50 win. That game was the complete opposite of the first as the shots didn’t fall, Xavier failed to keep Bradley off the glass and couldn’t keep the ball moving on offense. Even though they got the win, X will be looking to perform much better against Toledo.

Toledo dropped their first game against Bradley in dramatic fashion before destroying Oakland in their second game. The last time X played against Toledo was in the opening round of the NIT in 2019. A game you could be forgiven for not remembering.

Team Fingerprint

Toledo’s main gameplan last season was to shoot the 3 as often as possible. Their assist rate, 3 point%, and 3point rate all ranked highly but their shooting from inside the arc ranked only 245th in the nation. Toledo also takes good care of the ball and shoots well from the line whne they get there.

Defensively, Toledo doesn’t try to force turnovers or chase teams off the 3 point line. Instead, they seal the glass off well, don’t give away a lot of free throws and generally play conservative and solid defense.

Players

Marreon Jackson leads the team in usage for the second straight year and it isn’t difficult to see why. His assist rate is excellent and he rarely turns the ball over while shooting well from beyond the arc and at the line. Spencer Littleson returns as a lower usage sniper who rarely turns the ball over. He is currently shooting 10-17 from 3 on the season so he will need to be checked. Setric Millner Jr. has scored well and hit the offensive glass well in the first two games. Freshman Ryan Rollins has been steady on the ball but hasn’t been able to do much offensively.

Three Questions

  • Can X bounce back? The Musketeers made the Bradley game harder than it needed to be and couldn’t get the shots to fall. We’ve seen a game where everything works and a game where seemingly nothing works, but X will need to regroup and attack right from the tip against Toledo.
  • Can X control the glass? Bradley was bigger than Oakland, but there is no way they should have been able to grab 16 ORebs. Bryan Griffin led the team in defensive rebounds in only 13 minutes of game time. If X wants to make this one easier for themselves, they need to control the glass by a wide margin.
  • Can we shoot the 3? The 13-33 X shot against Oakland isn’t setting the world alight but it is respectable. The 5-20 against Bradley was truly awful. The lack of space and lakcluster ball movement led to a lot more forced shots than would have been ideal. There will be more room for drives and post-ups if a few 3s can fall early.

Three Keys

  • Keep the ball moving The ball got incredibly sticky against Bradley and it led to a rough offensive performance. The driving lanes and spacing will be open if the ball keeps moving and makes the defense adjust.
  • Keep the defense rolling Outside of the disgusting amount of offensive rebounds, the defense has been solid. 99 points given up across two games is good even against subpar competition and there’s no reason it can’t keep rolling. X has the length and athleticism to hassle Toledo on the perimeter and is more than capable of locking them down.
  • Just get it done It would have been easy for the Musketeers to hang their heads when they were in a game with Bradley, but they dug in and got the win. No matter how ugly it was. X should win against Toledo but even if Toledo makes a game of it X won’t shrink out of it. Of course, it would be a heck of a lot easier to wax them and get on with it.