When these teams played three weeks ago, DePaul was in a freefall and Xavier needed to not lose. In that sense, little has changed.
The Blue Demons have lost 3 of 4 since that matchup, though they did win their last time out against a tragically undermanned Georgetown team. Since they were 12-1 with three wins against surefire tournament teams, two of which came on the road, DePaul has gone 2-12 in the Big East to fall from solidly in to the point at which you'd take action on whether or not they'll finish above .500. Conference play has been a disappointing step back for the reigning CBI runners-up.
Conference play has been, for the past 37 years, a span of time in which Xavier would win at least half its games. If they're going to do that this year, they'll need at least a 3-1 finish. Looking at the road ahead, you'd figure X will need to take this game to have any realistic possibility of accomplishing that.
DePaul forces turnovers. They don't defend shot particularly well, they foul a lot, and they give up a ton of offensive rebounds, but dang if they don't force a lot of turnovers. They're second in the league in defensive TO%, and Xavier certainly struggled late in Chicago when DePaul cranked up the press. They can be had pretty much all over the floor if you keep hold of the ball. If, though.
On offense, they like to play fast and fly to the paint. They don't shoot threes very often or very well, but they gang rebound and get to the line a lot. They love to put Charlie Moore into ball screen action and run Paul Reed and/or Jaylen Butz to the rim. They're even lower on viable shooters than Xavier is; their whole offense revolves around the paint and second chances.
|Moore is an excellent distributor of the ball and a great free throw shooter, but falls short of being elite because he is just not a good shooter unless he's stationary at the line.
|Coleman-Lands is dangerous when he gets hot from deep. He'll spend the entire game hunting his shot from behind the arc and hoping he runs into a hot patch. If he does, he can tip the balance of a game quickly.
|Weems is a dangerous outside shooter with a semi-limited sample size. He's a bit recalcitrant when it comes to rebounding, and doesn't finish well inside depsite his size.
|Butz cleans the offensive glass and is a monster inside. He doesn't step out at all, content to camp in the paint and hoover garbage buckets.
|Reed is a legitimate star. He rebounds well, scores the ball, has some range, and blocks shots with abandon. Throw in a top 100 steals rate and solid free throw shooting and you have a complete player for Tyrique Jones to contend with.
DePaul is thin. Like American Conference at-large resume thin. Only five teams in the nation get fewer minutes from their bench than the Blue Demons do. Leading the bench charge is Darious Hall, who actually gets pretty decent time. Hall is a solid defensive rebounder who is, speaking frankly, terrible on offense. His EFG% of 40.1% is worst on the team. Devin Gage, a backup guard, also got double digit minutes but is injured and hasn’t played since the end of January. Even with Gage missing, no other Demon gets more than ten minutes off the bench. Senior forward DJ Williams has played recently but only has six games played on the year and not much of a statistical profile. Markese Jacobs backs up the guards but also is in and out of the rotation as Leitao tries to piece things together. Center Nick Ogenada rebounds well and blocks just about everything, but averages ten fouls per 40 minutes.
- Can Xavier bounce back? The loss on Saturday was a missed opportunity and the worst offensive output for Xavier since December of 2012. There isn’t anything that can be done to reverse that outcome, but dwelling on it is the last thing X can do right now. While Nova was a missed opportunity at a big win, DePaul is a game that Xavier cannot afford to lose. While a win wouldn’t shoot Xavier up in any rankings or any bubble watch, a loss would see them sliding down both and trying to find their form on the road. Take care of business, on to the next one.
- Can Xavier get rolling early? In the last fixture against DePaul, Xavier led by 19 at the half and held DePaul off late. Xavier is undefeated when leading at the half and have only come from behind once. Early offense and good defense can put enough of a gap between X and the Blue Demons to end this one early.
- Can X get production from somebody else? Xavier only saw three names in double-digits against Villanova; those were Tyrique Jones, Naji Marshall and Paul Scruggs. These three in double figures is somewhat expected, but all other X players combined for 13 points. If X wants to take care of business against a much worse DePaul team, they will still need someone else to score.
- Take care of the ball Xavier committed 16 turnovers against DePaul the last time out. Most of these came when DePaul went into a full court press in desperation time. Assuming DePaul will try to turn Xavier over to give themselves a chance, X can do themselves a huge favor by taking care of the ball and making DePaul defend them in the half court.
- Control the boards DePaul is a rather poor shooting team and their main strategy on offense is throwing the ball towards the rim and hoping Paul Reed can get to it. Both Reed and Butz are dangerous on the offensive glass and need to be held in check to secure the W. DePaul also don’t rebound on the defensive end very well. Xavier bigs should be able to feast on second chance points all night long.
- Feed The Beast If you’ve not already heard, Tyrique Jones has been hot recently. After a slow start against Villanova, Tyrique brought X back into contention. He had a monstrous 18 rebounds the last time out against DePaul and has hit double digits in every game since TCU back on December 22nd. X needs to get Tyrique involved early and often to have the best chance at a win.