How can you tell how dangerous a team is? If it’s who they are at their best, Xavier has a claim as strong as anyone in the league, having just knocked off Seton Hall at their place in what Muskie fans are hoping is the beginning of a surge towards the top half of the Big East. Xavier now sits at 3-6 in conference play, desperately trying to claw back onto the right side of the bubble.
DePaul, of course, also has a huge win in the bag. They are 1-8 in the league, but that 1 win came at home against a Butler team that is currently in the top 15 in the KenPom. DePaul also boasts wins at Iowa, at Minnesota, and home to Texas Tech. The Blue Demons have dug themselves quite the hole, but there aren’t many teams on the bubble that will boast three better wins than those.
Two teams, both of whom will rightly believe themselves to be better than what they’ve shown since the calendar turned, will square off tonight. One of them will come away another step closer to making its Selection Sunday more comfortable; the other will be burnishing old wins and hoping not to be one of the most dangerous teams in the NIT.
DePaul's offense has been pretty grim in Big East play. Halfway through the season, they're 9th in the league, almost as far behind Xavier in 8th as Xavier is behind Seton Hall in 3rd. They rebound well and get to the line, but they can't make free throws or field goals, ranking 9th in FT% and 8th in EFG%. They're also lost in the league in ball security, which stacks up to a pretty poor offensive showing.
Their defense has been okay, ranking 7th. They turn teams over a lot and block a ton of shots. While their interior defense is solid, they're porous from beyond the arc and don't rebound particularly well. They also foul a ton, generally letting teams live at the line. No team in the league surrenders a higher percentage of its points from the stripe.
|Charlie Moore||Point Guard||Paul Scruggs|
|5'11", 180||Measurements||6'4", 196|
|Moore had trouble finding his way onto the floor at Kansas, but he has thrived as a do-everything guard for DePaul. He's not a great finisher, but he'll dribble into shots at all three levels and boasts a solid mid-range game. He's a virtuoso distributor, though he has struggled with ball security at times. He draws a decent amount of fouls and is nails from the line.|
|Jalen Coleman-Lands||Shooting Guard||Naji Marshall|
|6'4", 185||Measurements||6'7", 222|
|Coleman-Lands transferred in from Illinois with a rep as a knockdown shooter, but he has never quite recaptured the form that saw him knock down 42% from deep as a freshman. He's a catch-and-shoot guy who will lift a ton, but he's shooting just 29.5% from beyond the arc in Big East play. He'll get into the middle a little bit, but he's not going to distribute or board much at all.|
|Romeo Weems||Small Forward||Jason Carter|
|6'7", 210||Measurements||6'8", 227|
|Weems was scalding hot to start the year, but he has fallen on hard times of late, posting an ORtg of 78.5 in conference play. He's more of a threat around the rim than anywhere else, and he avoids the mid-range like the plague. If he catches in rhythm from deep, he's very dangerous. He's also a fairly active defender in terms of both blocking shots and hounding passing lanes.|
|Jaylen Butz||Power Forward||Zach Freemantle|
|6'9", 224||Measurements||6'9", 225|
|You have made at least as many threes this year as Jaylen Butz. He lives around the rim, especially on the offensive glass. He's a solid shot blocker without fouling, but he doesn't defensive rebound well. He gets to the free throw line a lot but doesn't get much bang for his buck once he's there.|
|Paul Reed||Center||Tyrique Jones|
|6'9", 220||Measurements||6'9", 239|
|Reed has been one of the few consistent bright spots in conference play for the Blue Demons. His ORtg has stayed high (108.6 in the league, 110.6 overall), and he remains a nightmare on the glass at both ends. He flashes a bit of extended range, but he's more of a 15-feet-and-in guy than a true floor stretcher. On the defensive end, he's excellent in terms of both block rate and steals percentage. He can be a bit prone to foul trouble.|
DePaul gets about 20% of their minutes off the bench, good for 348th in the nation. This team is thin, all the more since guard Devin Gage was lost to injury in January.
The only bench player to appear in every Big East game is 6’7” wing Darious Hall. He’s a good rebounder on both ends, but he’s prone to foul trouble and the only thing he threatens with his jumper is his own self-esteem. Nick Ongenda is a 6’11” freshman center who blocks a lot of shots and averages 10 fouls per 40 minutes.
In the last three games, Charlie Moore and Jalen Coleman-Lands have totaled 13 minutes of rest between the two of them. Guard depth is non-existent.
-Can Xavier make its depth pay? The Muskies aren't exactly rolling with hockey style line changes, but they have viable bench options to plug a hole at any position, which is more than DePaul can say. DePaul's last two games have seen them have Seton Hall and Marquette on the ropes before dissolving late; if Xavier can get into the Blue Demons' legs a bit in the first 30 minutes or so, it might be the difference down the stretch.
-Does Tyrique have an encore prepared? Xavier's mean-mugging center just took apart the league's best rim protectors in South Orange*; now he has the second-best lined up, and they'll no doubt be on notice after the performance he had over the weekend. Xavier loses that game to the Hall if Jones is human; was that a one-off, or is he dialing in for his final stretch run?
-Who values the ball less? DePaul turns teams over a lot, but they're also fairly turnover prone themselves. Xavier has also been troublingly loose with the ball this year. Tight games are generally decided in free possessions, and both of these teams give those out like door prizes. Whichever one denies its nature for 40 minutes has a much improved chance of coming out on top.
-Ball screen defense. Coach Leitao loves putting Charlie Moore into ball screen situations and letting him go to work. He's as quick as anyone in the league and deadly if he gets his shoulders past his man. If he can get into the belly of the defense, DePaul is going to shoot a lot of layups tonight. Xavier has to turn him as often as possible.
-Gang rebound. DePaul blocks a lot of shots on defense, but in so doing they often pull themselves out of position for defensive boards. On the other end, Reed and Butz lead a balanced attack on the offensive glass. Xavier overcame similar obstacles against Seton Hall by committing bodies to the boards. They're facing the same challenge tonight.
-Win the 50-50 balls. This one could be earmarked for chaos down the stretch, as neither of these teams has demonstrated the ball security or free throw shooting to put a game on ice. When that is the case, it often comes down to who makes their own luck. Xavier has some dudes who are more than willing to leave a little skin on the floor to get the job done, and hustle is going to pay the bills that execution leaves in the balance tonight.