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Xavier v. Seton Hall: preview, matchups, keys to the game

It’s too early to call this game must-win, but it’s not that far off.

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Seton Hall Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

What’s the worst way to start your conference season? You could make a case that Xavier did it; your Muskies came out flat against St. John’s and were duly dispatched by the Red Storm. In a game in which they could have righted the ship and thrown an emotional lifeline to the fans with a good performance, X was run off the court and humiliated in a 15-point drubbing.

What’s the exact opposite of that? How about hosting the 10-1 defending national champs and beating their brains in? Seton Hall got down 10 to UConn just 11 minutes into the game and then outscored them 65-40 the rest of the way. The Hall came into the game sitting at 7-4 with a resume full of nothing; they then immediately got one of the best wins available at the D1 level.

So basically these teams could not be moving in more opposite directions. This isn’t a game Xavier absolutely has to have in the mathematical sense, but it’s hard to imagine they couldn’t use the boost going into the Christmas break. Even worse, Seton Hall is still just a Q3 game at home, so there’s not that big of a resume reward on offer here if Xavier can beat the team that just demolished the national champs.

I’m really excited for this game.

Team fingerprint

For the second time in two games, Xavier plays a fringe top-50 offense kept afloat by a top-10 OReb%. Seton Hall grabs 38.1% of their own misses, good for 9th in the nation. Thanks largely to that, they shoot 54.2% inside the arc, which is a pretty solid number. They’re a bad three-point shooting team (and they don’t shoot many of them) and don’t get to the line that much; they’re also below-average in ball security. They make 75.5% of their free throws, which is good for 50th in the country. Mostly their offense leans on getting the ball on the rim and then going and getting it.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: their defense relies on ball pressure and forcing turnovers. They force their opponents to cough it up on more than 20% of their possessions, just outside the top 50. They’re solid on defensive 2P%, landing just inside the top 100, but their three-point defense is fairly miserable. Only 39 teams give up a higher percentage of their points from behind the arc. They block a ton of shots and snag a ton of steals, but they can be had on the defensive glass a bit.

Basically, their fingerprint is Diet St. John’s. I know how that makes me feel, but I’m not going to tell you how it should make you feel.

Players

Starters

Starting matchups
Kadary Richmond Point Guard Dayvion McKnight
Senior Class Senior
6'6", 205 Measurements 6'0", 188
15.4/6.1/4.4 Game line 9.1/4.7/5
49/11.8/78.2 Shooting line 42.2/23.8/81.8
Richmond is a big-bodied guard who can be real trouble if he gets downhill inside the arc. He's not a long-range shooter, but he is good from mid-range and around the rim. He rebounds really well for a guard, distributes the ball well, and has good ball security. He's also a really good defender; I suspect we'll see him matched up mostly with Des and Qunicy just because of his size and versatility.
Al-Amir Dawes Shooting Guard Quincy Olivari
Senior Class Senior
6'2", 185 Measurements 6'3", 200
12.8/2/2.3 Game line 17.3/4.3/2
39.3/32.9/90.9 Shooting line 46.6/43.4/78.8
Dawes is an incredible shooter. Ignore the 3P% on his line; he's a career 37% shooter from deep in over 750 attempts. He's not going to do too much else and he doesn't use too many possessions, but he's electric as a catch-and-shoot guy. He has hit at least 4 threes in 4 of his 12 games this season.
Dylan Addae-Wusu Small Forward Desmond Claude
Senior Class Sophomore
6'4", 215 Measurements 6'6", 203
8.2/4.8/2.4 Game line 16/5/3.8
39.8/32.5/65.5 Shooting line 44.2/23.3/71.9
If you recognize this name, it's likely from the three years he spent at St. John's before not fitting into Rick Pitino's plans this season. He shot 37% from deep on 215 in his last two seasons there and can fill it up from behind the arc when he gets hot. He is a tenacious perimeter defender who will probably be charged with shadowing Quincy Olivari from the off.
Dre Davis Power Forward Lazar Djokovic
Senior Class Freshman
6'6", 210 Measurements 6'10", 220
13/5.8/1.3 Game line 3.7/3/0.7
49.6/34.8/78.9 Shooting line 34.5/30/50
Davis got off the sinking ship that is Louisville basketball after the 2021 season and has found new life at Seton Hall. He's not big for a four and he's not a dominant rebounder, but he's a solid defender and a good three-point shooter in low volume. He ate up UConn's bigs, cashing a cool 8-11 from inside the arc against them.
Jaden Bediako Center Abou Ousmane
Senior Class Senior
6'10", 240 Measurements 6'10", 240
10.2/8/0.7 Game line 7.8/6.2/0.9
59.8/0/68.6 Shooting line 50/0/50
Just a dominant offensive rebounder. Aside from buy games where he had his shoes untied halfway through the second half, only Baylor has held him under 5 OReb in a game this year. That's bonkers. A third of his buckets this year are putbacks; he feasts on second chances the way nobody Xavier will see this year does. He also blocks a lot of shots and stays out of foul trouble. He doesn't get his number called too much on offense, but he eats anyway.

Reserves

Basically nobody. They get 23.9% of their minutes off the bench, which is 326th in the nation. Not a deep group.

Isaiah Coleman is a 6’5” freshman wing. He’s averaging 6.4/2.8/0.7 per game, scoring really well at the rim and showing a solid pull-up game in the mid-range. He’s a good defender but can be prone to foul trouble, as you might expect from a freshman. He doesn’t board much and has run into some turnover issues.

Shooting guard Jaquan Sanders is a 6’4” sophomore. His stat line reads like a sniper’s, posting a 54.5/42.1/100 shooting line on low volume. All 8 of his made threes and 7 of his 10 twos are assisted. The other 3 twos are putbacks; he doesn’t create his own shot at all.

Sadraque NgaNga and Elijah Hutchins-Everett have provided the depth at the big man positions. They’ve played 8 and 7 games, respectively, and combine to average about 5 and 5. If either of them ends up being the difference in this game, I’ll publicly apologize for this paragraph.

Three questions

- Can Xavier take advantage of the holes in Seton Hall’s defense? Seton Hall can be beaten defensively; the problem is that their deficiencies are not in places Xavier is strong. Their three-point defense is bad; does anyone on Xavier take advantage of that? Their DReb% is fairly weak; James Farr isn’t walking through that door. They are 340th in the nation in defensive FT%; is that even controllable? If it is, is Xavier the team to exploit it? X needs to find some way to exploit what the Pirates do poorly.

- Is there a big on Xavier who can step up? Abou Ousmane managed nine boards and was active on the offensive glass against St. John’s. He also shot 3-10. Gytis Nemeiksa was reasonably effective on offense and also got on the offensive glass, but struggled to defend. Sasa Ciani was just bad. Djokovic is effectively a Nemo clone at this point. Those are the only options. At least one, and probably two, of them need to sort it out and get going.

- Can Des Claude have a good game? Claude’s line against the Johnnies (21/12/3) looks good, but a deeper dive shows five turnovers and 4-11 from the floor. Neither of those are going to get it done. Claude has shot miserably from behind the arc but has been good from inside. If he turns into a big body slasher, his improved free throw shooting will pay off. He’s got to do something, though, because you can bet the Pirates will be keying on Quincy Olivari.

Three keys

- Get Olivari going: SJU clearly came in to their game with the idea that they couldn’t let Quincy beat them. It worked. Q got off six shots and wasn’t able to impact the game in terms of scoring. We can talk all we want about someone else stepping up, but if Olivari shoots six times in this game Xavier will lose.

- Find some atmosphere: The Cintas isn’t exactly going to be rocking tonight. Anyone still on campus is going to be more sad than anything else. The Musketeers need to find a way to get the season ticket holders and various hangers on up and going. Why? Because this is the first away game Seton Hall has played all year. You aren’t reading that wrong and no one (over)spiked your nog. The Pirates haven’t played a regular season road game since March 4th.

- Make some threes: Seton Hall can be had behind the arc. Xavier is terrible behind the arc. One of those has to give today. When Xavier shoots over 31% from three, they are 5-2 (yes, they shot 50% against Delaware and lost). When teams shoot over 31% from deep against the Pirates, SHU is only 4-4. There’s your number.