Talk about Xavier's offensive philosophy. Do they try to work inside-out or are they a team that likes to spread you out and attack off the dribble?
Xavier typically runs a ball-screen, motion offense, and they have two point guards on the floor the majority of the time in Semaj Christon and Dee Davis. They are two good ballhandlers that they want to make plays, so they will set ball-screens for both hoping it helps them get into the lane and attack.
You also have Matt Stainbrook at center who is there for dump-offs and offensive putbacks. He can also score on the block.
Their best shooter is probably Justin Martin on the wing. He has been a reliable shooter for them this season.
Defensively, Xavier runs the Pack Line defense, so I assume they mainly play man-to-man?
Yes, Chris Mack hates zone... he really doesn't want to play it at all. Now, he did play it a little in the Big East Tournament against Marquette, and he has played it a little this season... mainly if they are in foul trouble. you might see them play some 2-3 or 3-2 zone, but otherwise it's going to be man-to-man.
With their defense, the Pack Line, they try to crowd the lane and force tough two-point shots. They've had trouble defending three-point shots and mostly it's come from stretch big men.
I know T.J. [Warren] doesn't shoot a great percentage, but he can shoot from out there. He's a guy that can give them trouble in pick-and-pop situations because with the way Xavier defends ball screens, they hedge hard with their big man and it's hard to get back on that four. Their help system is in the lane, not on the perimeter.
How do you think the will try to defend T.J. Warren at the small forward position?
They've played Doug McDermott three times this year and I think he's a great comparison to T.J. Warren. McDermott defends the post, but on offense he's all over the floor and more of a wing like T.J.
I think they will use small forward Justin Martin. He's 6-foot-7... a long wing that is a good jumper. He is kind of an awkward athlete, but he has good length and is really strong. So I think he'd matchup on T.J., and when it's not Justin I could see them putting Jaylen Reynolds on him. He played at Brewster with T.J., so he knows him and at 6'10 he's really mobile.
How is Xavier playing right now as a team?
Early in the year, if they couldn't make shots and fell behind, they'd stay in the game and compete but would never get back up. They would turn it over during the game or shoot cold all game. Recently we've seen them start to rally as a team, re-group and stick together... fight through the adversity.
That's what gives people hope. This team has played hard all year. They haven't given up. They are more mature and are handling adversity in games better.
What are the biggest strengths of the Musketeers?
Definitely rebounding, especially when Stainbrook is 100%. He's probably the best rebounding center in the Big East, and then they have Jaylen Reynolds who can really rebound off the bench. Isaiah Philmore and Justin Martin, both starting forwards, can rebound it really well too.
I know NC State has struggled rebounding at times so I'd think that's something Xavier will try to exploit.
They also have two players who can be matchup problems, and I think that's a strength. When you have two guys like Semaj and Matt who can win one-on-one matchups, it gives you a huge boost as an offense. They are two guys that can win one-on-one battles at their positions, which is huge in my opinion.
Those are their biggest strengths, rebounding and multiple guys that can win one-on-one matchups.
What about their weaknesses?
Turnovers. It's weird because they can handle the ball, it's more mental errors with them. Bad passes at the top of the key... careless turnovers like traveling or throwing the ball out of bounds. When they have those bad games they struggle to get out to of that funk.
Another is just shooting the basketball. They don't have shooters. Justin Martin has been pretty good, but he's been the only one. Myles Davis is a shooter off the bench but really since the middle of the season he's been a non-factor and that's hurt them. Dee is streaky and Semaj doesn't have the confidence to shoot them.
Do teams generally play zone against Xavier because of their lack of outside shooting?
There has been a lot of zone, but teams will also play man and just sag off Semaj. They will keep their guard off him and dare him to take that shot while trying to limit his driving ability.
Where do you think they could have an advantage against NC State?
It seems like NC State's frontcourt is young and inconsistent so I think if Stainbrook is healthy Xavier will look to see if they can handle Matt. He's an experienced guy that's very smar,t and I think that's something they'll try to exploit.
I'd imagine they will also look at Semaj's matchup and see if NC State can defend him. They'll have Semaj looking to attack off the dribble and make plays.
Where do you think NC State can win this game?
I think NC State tends to play well against teams that don't shoot it well outside, so that's a key for Xavier, they have to be able to hit some three-pointers. They have to be able to spread out NC State's defense because if they don't shoot it well they could struggle to score.
Other than that, T.J. Warren. He's such a difficult cover and a guy that can single-handily win games. If Justin Martin can't cover him for Xavier who will be able to? That's definitely a tough matchup for Xavier.