clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

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

Xavier is back on the road again and looking to put things right against the Big East leaders.

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Georgetown
A better coach than Ed Cooley
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Oh how quickly things change. In the span of time it took Jeff Anderson to check the cameras, fill his whistle, hop on one foot, and generally behave like an utter fool, Xavier went from leading the Big East to third place. The Musketeers were victims of incompetence on a large scale on Friday, but unfortunately most of it was their own.

The Musketeers defense finally managed to rise to the level of bang average, but the offense turned in its worst performance of the year. X shot terribly, turned the ball over at a 25.9% clip, and generally looked awful. Not since mid-Swoon last season has Xavier posted so low an offensive efficiency. That they did all of that against a Thad Matta Butler team that will pop bottles if they make the CIT The Basketball Classic made it all the worse. Had not the officials made it all about them, the performance of the team would be drawing a lot of ire.

Marquette is not Butler. Marquette is coached by a revitalized Shaka Smart (now with hair!) and leads the Big East. The Golden Eagles offense is even better than Xavier’s. It goes almost without saying that their defense is. Marquette is 6-1 since X knocked them off, and that loss came to UConn. They are rolling right now, and they haven’t lost at home since December 3rd.

Team fingerprint

Marquette’s offense is the best in the Big East and very nearly the best in the nation. Their shooting inside the arc is 60%, which is best in the nation. The next closest major conference team is Arizona at 56.6%. Marquette’s bigs are good, but their guards are elite in finishing inside and getting to the rim. The Golden Eagles are decent behind the arc and generate a lot of points from there by sheer volume alone. They’ll also play even faster on offense than Xavier does and rarely turn it over.

Defensively Marquette is mediocre. No Big East team forces more turnovers or is better than the Eagles 10th in the nation in steal rate, but some of that is undone by absolutely no defensive rebounding and a penchant for allowing open shots. Marquette forces teams to go slowly against them, but teams that are patient and don’t turn it over will find their chances. Offensive rebounders will flourish.



Starting matchups
Tyler Kolek Point Guard Souley Boum
Sophomore Class Senior
6'3", 190 Measurements 6'3", 175
11.6/4/7.7 Game line 16.1/3.9/4.9
48/37.5/80.9 Shooting line 45/41/88.1
Kolek isn't as good as Xavier made him look in the first half at Cintas, but he's darn close. He doesn't take a ton of shots, but he's an effective scorer at all three levels who has the skills to get all the way to the rim. He is an elite distributor with excellent ball security skills, and he creates chaos on the defensive end. He's not much of a rebounder and his hair sucks; other than that, his unimpeachable.
Stevie Mitchell Shooting Guard Adam Kunkel
Sophomore Class Senior
6'2", 195 Measurements 6'4", 185
6.8/2.7/1.2 Game line 10.1/2.4/3
45.6/30.9/67.6 Shooting line 47.5/39.4/82.6
Mitchell is close to anonymous on offense, averaging fewer than 6 shots per game in conference play. He is very efficient when he does shoot, and he's a stong defender. He's prone to foul trouble though, averaging more than 4 per 40 minutes of Big East play. He can be trouble if left alone, as he proved by dropping 19 in a two-point win at Nova.
Kam Jones Small Forward Colby Jones
Sophomore Class Junior
6'4", 195 Measurements 6'6", 205
15.2/3.4/2 Game line 15/5/4.8
48.4/36.4/72.5 Shooting line 51.7/41.8/67.5
When Marquette needs a shot to go up, this is the first place they look. He's deadly inside the arc, shooting over 50% on mid-range shots and more than 70% at the rim. He's good enough from deep that he needs checked, and he's almost unstoppable on the drive. Only 22 of his 85 twos are assisted; he's putting the ball on the deck and getting his own shot. He's also top ten in the conference in steal rate and rarely fouls. He's good at basketball.
Olivier-Maxence Prosper Power Forward Jerome Hunter
Sophomore Class Senior
6'8", 230 Measurements 6'8", 215
13/4.7/0.7 Game line 6.4/3.8/1.1
53.3/36/73.2 Shooting line 57.1/20/66.7
Athletic and a mobile threat from all over, Propser is a tough assignment. Hunter might be a better matchup for him for Xavier, but he does a lot of his damage on the offensive glass and Zach Freemantle did a good job of limiting him there at Cintas. He's a solid defender and a catch-and-shoot threat from behind the arc. Like all of his teammates, he's not great on the defensive glass.
Oso Ighodaro Center Jack Nunge
Sophomore Class Senior
6'9", 215 Measurements 7'0" 245
11.6/5.8/3.3 Game line 14.7/7.9/2
65.7/0/50 Shooting line 52.1/43.8/68.2
Ighodaro is a super bouncy rim protector with a growing offensive game. He's shooting 75% at the rim and 52% on two-point jumpers, both of which are excellent numbers. His DReb% of 13.4% in conference is only a couple of points higher than Souley Boum's, which is a concern for Marquette because it leads the team. He does a decent job of staying out of foul trouble.


Marquette has been #blessed to be able to run the same starting lineup in every game this season. They’ve lost no starters to injury, illness, or conduct issues and - outside of Sean Jones missing three games due to a wrist injury - haven’t had any gaps in the rotation at all. Everyone staying healthy and ready to go is a slice of luck every team hopes for, and the Golden Eagles have had it in spades.

Their bench goes four deep. First of the bench is 6’7”, 225-pound forward David Joplin, an absolute gunner who hucks from everywhere on his way to a game line of 9.8/3.5/0.7. He’s eighth on the team in efficiency in conference play and first in shots rate; he’s on the floor to shoot. And foul, which he does 4.7 times per 40.

On the opposite end of the shamelessness spectrum are Ben Gold (2.7/0.9/0.2) and Chase Ross (5.6/1.8/0.9). Ross is a 6’4” freshman guard who scores efficiently but doesn’t really hunt his shot. Gold is a 6’11” freshman big who protects the rim well and doesn’t rebound at all. He’s got an outside shot that needs respected and has come on of late, scoring 19 points in 30 minuts on 7-10 shooting in his last 2 games.

In the middle is point guard Sean Jones. He averages 4.9/0.9/1.2 per game. He’s not a great distributor, but he plays good defense and shoots 35% from behind the arc. He can be a little turnover prone in short stretches of play.

Three questions

-Is Souley Boum okay? As if the attrition of playing about 42 minutes per game wasn’t enough, Xavier’s point guard is now shouldering more of the offensive load with Zach Freemantle out and nursing the ankle injury he picked up at Butler. The Muskies need him to be at his best against Marquette’s swarming defense; if he isn’t, this could be a tough night. Our discussion of Boum’s struggles in 2013 can be found in this week’s pod.

-Can Xavier get enough stops? The Musketeers’ defense has ranged from mediocre to atrocious in Big East play; their best performance was holding a St. John’s team without its best offensive player to .969 points per possession. Defending like that puts an awful lot of pressure on the offense, and when they hit an off night, the results can be ugly. Marquette has the best offense in the league and one of the best in the nation. Xavier is going to need something they haven’t shown often so far this year.

-Is there a plan B? Plan A is simple and usually pretty effective: keep the ball hot, prioritize the paint, shoot a few threes at a high level of efficiency. That will run most leagues most nights, but it isn’t bulletproof. When that’s not working, Xavier doesn’t seem to have a plan B beyond doing plan A harder. It’s also not super clear that the personnel exists on this roster to do something different even if the creativity is in place. It’s not great.

Three keys

-Fly to the offensive glass. Xavier isn’t going to win the overall turnover battle in this game, but they can make that back on the glass. Marquette is 10th in the league on the boards on each end, and Xavier has a chance to take advantage of second chances with Jerome Hunter getting deep run. Marquette’s defense hawks the ball, but if X can get it onto the rim, they’ve got a chance to gain the upper hand.

-Make timely threes. Xavier only turned the ball over 10 times at home against Marquette, which isn’t a performance I’d count on their repeating. They also shot 5-18 from beyond the arc, which I’m confident they can improve on. The arc hasn’t been exceptionally friendly of late to Xavier, but they’ll have their looks against the Golden Eagles. If they can pop up like an 8-19 or some such a matter, that will go a long way towards evening the odds.

-Push the tempo. I know this is a tough ask when you’re splitting 200 minutes between 6 dudes, but Xavier is 10-0 if they get to 75 possessions. If the game goes 70 or fewer, they’re just 4-3. Marquette plays at a broader range of paces, including a 69-possession loss to Xavier that you all might have watched. The Golden Eagles can be had if you break their pressure; Xavier needs to harvest easy buckets when the opportunities present themselves.