Xavier is 2-0 now. Xavier starts most seasons 2-0. The last time they didn’t, someone named Sean Miller was in charge. His team, which lost their second game to Charlie Coles and Miami Oh, papered over that small crack by making the Elite Eight. In Xavier’s first two games they haven’t really been tested. They cruised past Morgan St after they took some time to get going, then hammered Montana from the off.
Fairfield has been the opposite of Xavier thus far. They are 0-2, having lost at Wake Forest by 12, and understandable result, and then lost at New Hampshire by 12, a far less understandable result. One fun diversion on the Stags schedule is home game against Coast Guard just before Christmas. The USCGA Bears aren’t just down one division, they are a DIII team. One assumes Fairfield will handle them a bit better than UNH.
Fairfield under Jay Young plays incredibly slowly. The fastest team he has ever put on the court had a tempo of 323rd in the nation. That is the fastest. This year’s team is playing right along at that usual glacial pace. Underdogs can spring upsets either by playing incredibly quickly and hoping for chaos, or incredibly slowly and trying to limit possessions. Young clearly prefers the latter.
You would think the Stags are going that slowly to find good shots, but if they are finding those shots, they aren’t making them. Fairfield is shooting 31.3% behind the arc, 50% inside the arc, and a not very nice 69% from the line. They also don’t grab hardly any of their copious misses. They don’t get blocked or turn the ball over much, but one assumes that’s because the opposition just waits for the inevitable miss.
On defense, though... Fairfield is also awful. They do limit offensive rebounds, and they block some shots. Beyond that, and I say this with all due respect to the effort of these young men, they are really bad. Their best defensive category beyond the two mentioned is two point field goal defense, where they are 194th in the nation. They are lower than 280th in everything else.
Fairfield has run a kind of weird starting lineup so far this year in which their starters are first, third, sixth, seventh, and tenth on the team in scoring. Their first five isn’t necessarily their best five or the five that run together the most. I’ll break down the starters and reserves by how Fairfield deploys them, but just know that the five guys in the grid won’t be the five guys Xavier is up against the most in the important parts of the game.
|Caleb Fields||Point Guard||Souley Boum|
|6'2", 185||Measurements||6'3", 175|
|A Bowling Green transfer, Fields spends as much time with the ball in his hands as anyone from the starting five. He's not afraid to dribble the spots off of it in search of a shot; 0 of his 8 two-point field goals have been assisted. He's a good defender when given the opporunity, though a cynic might note that most of his positive stats were compiled against New Hampshire and most of his negative against Wake Forest.|
|Jake Wojcik||Shooting Guard||Kyky Tandy|
|6'5", 190||Measurements||6'2", 190|
|Wojcik has been a steady but unspectacular part of Fairfield's offense for the past couple years, but he's off to a poor start this season. At his best he's a catch and shoot threat from deep and an excellent free throw shooter. He has been struggling to find his stroke so far this year, but he's better than his numbers indicate. I can't find any statistical evidence that he's a plus defender.|
|Allan Jeanne-Rose||Small Forward||Colby Jones|
|6'7", 200||Measurements||6'6", 205|
|In addition to being named like a discarded one-episode character from Schitt's Creek, Jeanne-Rose is a career 56% free throw shooter and 53% shooter from inside the arc. He doesn't usually rebound particularly well, though he has this season. He'll step out and shoot (57 career three-point attempts) but won't make it go in (12.3% career 3P%)|
|Supreme Cook||Power Forward||Zach Freemantle|
|6'9", 220||Measurements||6'9", 225|
|Cook is a big lad. He starts alongside Willis at the four, but he'll spend most of his time playing like a center. He's a good rebounder at both ends and historically a solid defender, though he hasn't blocked a shot or made a steal this season. What he has done is both draw and commit a ton of fouls. It took him just 17 minutes to rack up 4 against Wake; getting him in similar trouble would be a boon for Xavier.|
|Makai Willis||Center||Jack Nunge|
|6'9", 240||Measurements||7'0" 245|
|Willis has four career points, including the two he has scored this year. He doesn't play a ton of minutes or get a ton of touches, has a horrible turnover problem, and is only present on the defensive glass. He also has two steals and one block in his career. Other than all that, he's doing great.|
James Johns is a slender 6’6” freshman forward who missed the game against Wake, but he came back to drop 13 and 2 on New Hampshire. He was 2-3 from deep and another 2-3 from the mid-range. I don’t know what conclusions to draw from that; I’m just presenting information.
Guard Brycen Goodine is a Providence transfer, though Xavier fans will be forgiven for not remembering him, as he got 4 total minutes against X in the 2 seasons he was a Friar. He’s off to a good start at Fairfield, averaging 9.5/1.5/0.5 on .429/.444/1.000 shooting. He’s come a long way - and not necessarily in the right direction - since he was a highly-rated recruit at Syracuse. He has committed 5 fouls in 31 minutes as a Stag, which isn’t great.
Guard TJ Long is averaging the same 9.5 as Goodine, but he’s taking a ton more shots to do it. He’s a career 40% shooter from deep, but he’s only 3-12 so far this season. If he finds his range, he can be trouble; he hit 3 or more threes in 6 of his 32 games as a freshman, including a 7-9 explosion against Rider.
Chris Maidoh is a 6’10” depth big who peaked statistically as a freshman. He can be a decent rim protector and rebounder at his best, which he hasn’t been for like 4 years.
- What is Xavier’s frontcourt rotation? So far, the bigs haven’t rotated much. It has been Zach Freemantle, Jack Nunge, and some Jerome Hunter. Dieonte Miles did play 10 minutes against Montana, but he barely appeared against Morgan St. That’s better than Cesare Edwards and Elijah Tucker, who have combined to play eight of a possible 80 minutes. Either X is thin down low, or Sean Miller is bringing the bit players along slowly.
- Can the Musketeers take care of the ball? In the first 20 minutes of the season, they couldn’t. X threw the ball to everyone other than their intended targets and looked bad doing it. Against Montana the ball security was better, but one would expect that against a bad team. Fairfield doesn’t turn teams over at all (13.7% TO rate), so the Musketeers should have a game where they can set the offense here.
- Will Fairfield go to 3-0 in tune up games? Fairfield Frank thinks this Stags team can give Xavier a run.
The Stags did beat Xavier in 1965 and 1968. This is a revenge game for sure!
- Keep feeding the post: We talked on the podcast about how one difference about this team already under Miller is that they aren’t just chucking from the cheap seats. X has taken a reasonable 28 threes in two games. There’s no need to start heaving here.
- Figure out the rotation: This ties in with a question, but X needs to sort who handles the ball and who plays under the rim. Colby Jones leads the team in assists so far, but Kyky Tandy profiles as the point guard most of the time per KenPom. Will Adam Kunkel being healthy impact that? Will Cesare Edwards or Elijah Tucker get some late game run? Indiana isn’t the team to sort this against, Fairfield is.
- Bury it early: This shouldn’t be a contest at the half. The game against Morgan St was briefly rather vexing. Montana was an improvement. This game should be a 40 minute demolition of a lesser opponent with the Gavitt Games looming.