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Xavier v. Marquette: preview, matchups, keys to the game

The Muskies look to shake off the rust in a belated opener to the Big East season.

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Creighton Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

After the longest 11 days in recorded history, Xavier finally gets a chance to get back into action - and open the Big East season - when Marquette comes into Cintas. The Muskies are riding high at 7-0, having won their own invitational, swept aside crosstown "rival" UC, and beat the brakes off of Oklahoma behind a program-best shooting performance. So far the only thing that has been able to bring Xavier basketball to a halt has been the coronavirus.

Marquette looks to become the second entity on that list. The Golden Eagles are 5-3 on the year and own two of the best wins of the season so far in a home victory over Wisconsin and a road win at Creighton. They're yet to drop a game outside of KenPom's top 50, but they've struggled at times to string together momentum. They've got a chance to start building a new against a Xavier team coming off a long pause.

Team fingerprint

Marquette may not be quite on Oklahoma's level on offense, but they're still a force to be reckoned with. They're a bad shooting team from inside the arc and they turn the ball over like it has been covered in hot lard, but they hit 38% from deep as a team, crush the offensive glass, and excel in getting to the free throw line.

Defensively, they're borderline impenetrable as you get close to the rim; opponents shoot just 43% from inside the arc. They don't force many turnovers, but they're above average on the defensive glass. They'll allow teams to take a ton of threes - or maybe teams just chuck because the interior defense is so stout - but they're currently holding opponents to a miserable 31.2% from beyond the arc.

Marquette plays slow and relies on their starters, only getting about a quarter of their minutes from off the bench. They are big though, often going 6'11", 6'9", 6'7" across the front.

Players

Starters

Starting matchups
D.J. Carton Point Guard Dwon Odom
Sophomore Class Freshman
6'2", 200 Measurements 6'1", 180
12.3/3.5/3.6 Game line 7.1/8.4/1.6
41.8/34.2/76 Shooting line 42.9/25/83.3
Carton scores more from colume than efficiency. He's reasonably good at controlling the ball, but his shooting leaves something to be desired. He is an above average defender.
Koby McEwen Shooting Guard Paul Scruggs
Senior Class Senior
6'4", 195 Measurements 6'4", 196
14.6/4/2.5 Game line 18.7/8/1.3
48.1/42.1/80.6 Shooting line 62.6/44/42.9
McEwen has develope from just a shooter into a solid all rounder in terms of scoring. He won't add much value elsewhere, but he's likely to lead the Golden Eagles in scoring and he can't be left alone near the three point line.
Jamal Cain Small Forward Nate Johnson
Senior Class Senior
6'7", 200 Measurements 6'4", 195
9.5/6.5/1.1 Game line 14.6/4.1/7.1
40.9/36.7/68.8 Shooting line 47.9/30/79.3
Cain hammers the offensive glass and is very efficient on offense. He does the things that the rest of the team may avoid.
Dawson Garcia Power Forward Jason Carter
Freshman Class Senior
6'11", 235 Measurements 6'8", 227
12.3/6.9/1 Game line 11.7/1.1/2.1
41.5/35/79.3 Shooting line 41/41.2/81.8
Garcia is extremely tall but can score from all three levels. He, oddly, doesn't block a lot of shots, but he's a good defensive rebounder and isn't afraid to get his shots up on offense.
Theo John Center Zach Freemantle
Senior Class Sophomore
6'9", 245 Measurements 6'9", 225
7.6/7/1.5 Game line 17.2/8.5/1
66.7/100/66.7 Shooting line 58.4/36.8/42.9
John is large and fancies himself a tough guy. He blocks a lot of shots and is relentless on the glass on both ends. Xavier's defense must keep him away from the rim.

Reserves

Greg Elliot is the only Marquette non-starter to feature in all eight games they have played. He’s a solid shooting guard who doesn’t shoot much but provides cover well at all guard spots. If Symir Torrence can go he’s a big bodied and aggressive guard who will get at the rim but isn’t afraid to lift from deep. That’s the whole of the Marquette rotation.

Three questions

-Will Xavier be rusty? This is honestly the question for this game. While they were thumping on Oklahoma, X looked like they could roll with anyone. A week off of contact and eleven days between games will likely have done at least some damage to that momentum. The Muskies will have a couple of practices before this game to hone the edges a bit; hopefully it's enough.

-Which Marquette will show up? In their two wins over teams better than 184th in the KenPom, Marquette has averaged 1.20 points per possession, which is a staggering output. In their three losses to teams with the above distinction, they've mustered just .88 PPP. In those losses they've shot just 27.9% from deep and posted a turnover rate of 26.6%. All credit to the defenses they've faced, but it appears part of beating Marquette is having them show up and beat themselves.

-How does Ben Stanley fit in? There's no doubt that adding Stanley is a boost for Xavier, but exactly where he'll slot into the rotation isn't entirely clear. The Muskies already have three productive options and a viable fourth man at the 4 and 5 spots, and I don't know that Stanley's skill set plays at the 3 in the Big East. With the amount of size Marquette has across the front, this game may be the perfect chance for Stanley to get some game reps without siphoning too many minutes off of the other big men.

Three keys

-Stay hot from deep. I appreciate each of you who clicks on our website for such insightful gems as "it is good when your shots go in." The reality is that Marquette is a tough nut to crack inside, but they let opponents take 40% of their attempts from deep. Xavier gouged Oklahoma from behind the arc; they may not have to set another school record, but they'll likely need to stick several long jumpers to open up Marquette.

-Isolate Theo John. John is a large man and - as demonstrated by his easily top-50 9.4% block rate - a good help defender. He can be drawn into foul trouble though, as he is leading Marquette with 4.7 fouls per 40 minutes. Xavier will be better served to try to manipulate the matchups to play through whomever he is guarding rather than letting him roam the middle looking for shots to alter. If he is pinned to a spot as the primary defender, Marquette's defense becomes more permeable.

- Defensive rebound. Marquette gets all over the offensive glass. Xavier must push them back and make a great improvement on their defensive rebounding to prevent the second chances the Golden Eagles thrive on. Theo John, Jamal Cain, and Dawson Garcia all go after the glass aggressively. A possible secondary plot point to watch will be whether Marquette’s pursuit of offensive boards opens room for Xavier’s lightning fast guards on the break.