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

I’ve seen a documentary that shows that one man is no match for grizzlies; let’s see what five can do.

NCAA Basketball: Bryant at Xavier
Sean Miller acts out the story of Timothy Treadwell to the players in preparation for today’s game.
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re like me, football season is just a semi-pleasant distraction until college basketball really gets rolling. One thing I think both Bengals fans (you all) and Browns fans (us) can agree on is that yesterday was not pleasant. The Browns went to Denver, which is no more in the Rockies than Canton is on the shore of Lake Erie, and crapped down their legs, in the bed, and whatever other fecal related disaster you can imagine laid an egg. The Bengals lost to the hated Steelers.

Come the hour, though, come the men. Xavier plays tonight. Sitting at 4-2 the Musketeers are in a similar position to what they were last year. In terms of wins above bubble (and it’s way too early to look at that) they’re actually a little better. Tonight they look to build on the momentum of huge win against St. Mary’s and a hammering of Bryant.

The opponent is Oakland. They live in that upper Q3 region where the games are neither easy, nor an acceptable loss. They ran OSU to within six (unlike Michigan, who beat them by six in football), played Illinois close for most of the game, and hung with Drake. They’ve not beaten anyone good, but they don’t have a sub-100 loss yet. They’re decent, not a team to be looked over.

Team fingerprint

The fact that the Grizzlies don’t get hammered by good teams doesn’t make them good. Offensively, they don’t shoot particularly well from anywhere. Their 35% from behind the arc is only good if you’ve been watching X this season. Otherwise, they are bad inside the arc and from the line and don’t take care of the ball terribly well. They compound this by playing offense very slowly.

Defensively they don’t really live up to their namesake. They guard the arc well, but everywhere else they get gashed. They don’t block shots or force very many turnovers. Much like their offense, they aren’t downright awful (outside of blocking shots), but they just don’t do anything that jumps off the page. Oakland is 147th in the KenPom. They have the profile of a team that holds that spot pretty much in the middle of the metrics.

Players

Starters

Starting matchups
Rocket Watts Point Guard Dayvion McKnight
Senior Class Senior
6'2", 182 Measurements 6'0", 188
11/2/2.2 Game line 7.8/4.8/4.8
41.8/25/71.4 Shooting line 50/25/71.4
Watts started his career as a highly-recruited freshman sensation at Michigan State. He's ending it as the third-best player on an okay Oakland team. He uses a ton of possessions and gets to the line well, but he's a below-average shooter overall and doesn't distribute much. His defensive numbers are solid but not overwhelming. He has gotten to go to college for free though.
Jack Gohlke Shooting Guard Quincy Olivari
Senior Class Senior
6'3", 215 Measurements 6'3", 200
13.7/4.8/0.8 Game line 13.8/4.8/2.2
33.8/33.3/88.9 Shooting line 40.3/36.1/64
Gohlke is late of Hillsdale College, where he shot 38% from deep on his career and average 14.2 PPG as a senior. He's doing a grad year at Oakland, where his only job is to shoot threes. He's lifting from deep 12 times a game, accounting for all but 2 of his FGA. He's rebounding well for a guard, never comes off the floor (his season low in minutes is 36), and never commits fouls. He stays locked an loaded, and if he gets half a look, it's going up.
Isaiah Jones Small Forward Desmond Claude
Sophomore Class Sophomore
6'5", 213 Measurements 6'6", 203
6.3/5.8/2 Game line 15.5/3.3/3.5
66.7/50/57.1 Shooting line 48.7/29.4/66.7
Don't worry about that three-point percentage; he's 2-4 from deep. He lives at the rim, taking 80% of his shots there and converting 3 of every 4. He also eats glass at both ends and is third in the team in assist rate. All that energy comes at a cost though, as he doesn't do too much on defense but still commits almost 6 fouls per 40 minutes. He's a great glue who doesn't take too many possessions, but foul trouble keeps him from being too effective.
Trey Townsend Power Forward Gytis Nemeiksa
Junior Class Senior
6'6", 228 Measurements 6'7", 220
14.8/8.7/3.5 Game line 10.8/5.5/1.3
40/50/85 Shooting line 56.5/46.2/70
Shot selection cripples Townsend's efficiency. He takes 70% of his shots from the mid-range and is shooting 29% from there. He shoots almost 70% from the rim, but he doesn't get there often enough to pull his EFG% into respectable territory. He leads the team in assist rate and is a great rebounder on the defensive end. He also leads in steals. He doesn't carry the team, but he's definitely the lead dog, leading in PPG, RPG, APG, steals, usage rate, and shots percentage. Like Gohlke, he rarely fouls and rarely comes off the floor.
Chris Conway Center Sasa Ciani
Junior Class Freshman
6'9", 221 Measurements 6'9", 220
10.2/3.8/0.7 Game line 4.3/4.3/0.5
56.5/0/69.2 Shooting line 70.6/0/40
Conway is kind of a weird case because he's the tallest player in the rotation by three inches, but he rebounds like a guard. He only takes a quarter of his shots at the rim, but he's not a three-point sniper, either. Nearly 70% of his shots are two-point jumpers, and he shoots almost 60% from there. Despite being not much of a rim protector, he commits a ton of fouls.

Reserves

This is not a deep team, made all the less so after Blake Lampman went down with a hip flexor injury two games into the season. The timetable for his return is still unclear. What’s left is a team that gets just 28% of its minutes off the bench, mostly through just two dudes.

DQ Cole is a 6’3” wing who deputizes at the point in extreme situations. He’s averaging 5.3/3/0.8 per game this year. He’s shooting 44% from deep and has respectable defensive numbers, but he can be turnover prone. Tuburu Naivalurua is the backup big man at 6’6”, 218. He’s getting 4.2/2.8/0 in about 12 minutes per game; he’s excellent on the glass, especially at the offensive end. He’s got a little bit of range away from the rim, but his effectiveness is mostly blunted by the fact that he fouls 7 times per 40 minutes and couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat from the free throw line.

And that’s basically it. Guard Tone Hunter broke his face in the preseason and has been playing with a mask on; he gets about 11 minutes per game, fouls a ton, and gets to the line really well. Nobody else has gotten more than 16 minutes in total all season.

Three questions

- What is going on with Abou Ousmane? We spent a good deal of time in our podcast trying to sort what has gone with Xavier’s glass hoovering big man. Ousmane is X’s best offensive rebounder, but he just cannot stay on the floor. When he has played, he’s been genuinely bad offensively. How bad? He’s shooting 33% on putbacks. Abou has been much better than this in the past. Oakland is short. If he can avoid assaulting people, he should be able to have a good game.

- Can Xavier exploit their height? Oakland is short. Chris Conway is 6-9, no other rotation player is taller than 6-6. Tone Hunter calls himself 5-11, but he’s a basketball player, so he’s probably more like 5-9. Xavier has three guys taller than Conway, big guards, and Nemo, who does what he wants. Time to make that matter.

- Is Quincy Olivari a flat track bully? Thus far this season, Olivari has feasted on the bad teams and struggled against the better ones. This game won’t change that a lot, but it would be nice to see Quincy light up at least an average team.

Three keys

- Dominate the glass: Oakland isn’t very good on the glass on either end. Xavier has been getting destroyed on their defensive end so far this season. That shouldn’t happen tonight. If it does, we have a problem.

- Push the pace: Oakland is thin and doesn’t like to play at any sort of speed. Xavier has a nine man rotation of sorts and loves to sprint. The only way this game stays close is if the Grizzlies impose their style on X. To keep that from happening expect the Musketeers to rake and run early.

- Make some threes: It shouldn’t be needed to win the game, but it would make all of Xavier Nation more happy to see some outside shots start dropping. Quincy Olivari is shooting 36%, Trey Green has tried almost as many shots and is shooting 21%. Des Claude is at 29%, Nemo at 46%, and Dailyn Swain at 37%. None of those guys are shooting many. X won’t survive long as a team with one deep threat.