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Villanova - Xavier Preview

VUSports previews tonight's important Big East showdown between #3 Villanova and #15 Xavier at the Pavilion ...

#3 AP, Villanova takes on #15, Xavier Tuesday night at 7:00 (TV: FS1, Radio: 610 (WTEL AM) or VUSports Live Chat).  With a win, Villanova (3-1 Big East) can leap-frog Xavier (3-0) into first place in the conference standings.

Kenpom predicts a 76–68 win for Villanova with a 78% chance of the Cats emerging victorious.  ‘Nova leads the all-time series, 22-5.  The last meeting was an 83-90 loss for then #1 ranked, Villanova at the Cintas Center last February.

The Musketeers are 13-2 this season with the losses being consecutive road losses at Baylor (76-61) and Colorado (68-66).  Xavier boasts out-of-conference wins over Clemson (83-77, Neutral), Utah (77-69, Home), and Wake Forest (69-65, Home).  Senior guard, Myles Davis (6-2, 188) returns to action for the first time this season for Xavier after being suspended for all 15 games to-date.

Xavier has been playing well on both ends of the floor.  Offensively, they have a balanced attack that should improve with the addition of Davis as another shooter to spread the floor.  Though not as talented at the 4 and 5 spots as they have been in recent seasons, the Musketeers are still a threat to score in the paint.  On the other end of the floor, Xavier uses height, length and switching defenses to be a solid defensive unit.  Known to play some pack line defense as well as man-to-man, Xavier is an interesting opponent for the Cats to game plan for - “X” generally guards the whole floor - not standing out as primarily a “three-point arc defending” nor a “paint defending” team.

Edmond Sumner, Trevon Bluiett, and J.P. Macura form the back-bone of this team and play even a higher percentage of minutes than the Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, and Jalen Brunson trio do for Villanova.  

Taking a look at the Four Factors for each team:

VUSports (data per Kenpom.com)

a few things stand out:

  • Both teams are well above average in Effective FG %
  • Both teams take care of the basketball and avoid turnovers - Xavier creates more turnovers
  • Xavier is a good offensive rebounding team and very good at preventing opponents from getting O Boards.  Villanova remains well below average in grabbing offensive rebounds but does a good job on the offensive glass
  • Villanova should be able to get to the FT line more frequently than Xavier if past performance is any indication

other stats of interest:

  • Xavier is not the shot-blocking, rim-protecting team it has been the past few years
  • Xavier is quite average at shooting the three-ball (does that change if Davis returns ready to fill the pail from deep?), and shooting free throws but has done a good job of creating steals with their defense
  • Villanova struggles to stop dribble penetration - with the result being a defense which allows opponents to shoot 50.4% from two-point range 
  • … in stark contrast to holding teams to 29.2% from beyond the arc.
  • The Cats have been very good shooting from two-point range and at the FT line

Xavier player thumbnails:

Edmond Sumner (6-6, 186, So., 15.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.9 APG, 29.0% 3PFG, 56.6% 2PFG, 71.9% FT, 110.6 ORtg,)  The Soph point was injured at the Pavilion early in the game last year and not able to finish the game.  Villanova took advantage.  Sumner is having an excellent season (ranked the 3rd best player in the Big East, statistically by kenpom).  He has the length and athleticism to be effective on both ends of the floor.  On offense, he is most effective in transition and on dribble-drive, slashing to the bucket and taking it to the rim with authority.  When forced to shoot threes, he is much less effective.  Most likely, Mikal Bridges will bear a large chunk of the burden of guarding Sumner - to try to make it a little harder for him to get dribble penetration.

Trevon Bluiett (6-6, 198, Jr., 17.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.2 APG, 34.6% 3PFG, 50.5% 2PFG, 79.2% FT, 113.5 ORtg)  Blueitt can score it from all three levels and is a tough match-up.  He leads X in scoring and has improved as a defender and rebounder each year in the Musketeer program.  Villanova will throw a bunch of different players and looks at him to try to slow him down a bit but his versatility makes it hard to try anything too particular on him.  Blueitt is ranked the 5th best player in the Big East statistically per kenpom.

J.P. Macura (6-5, 203, Jr., 14.7 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.6 APG, 33.3% 3PFG, 48.4% 2PFG, 87.3% FT,  119.2 ORtg)  Macura is a good three-ball shooter who can get streaky hot from deep.  He plays with a hard-nosed style on both ends of the court.  Creates turnovers.  The two games Xavier lost were the two games that Macura was held under 10 points, while Bluiett averaged 25 in the losses and Sumner 15.5.

RaShid Gaston (6-9, 239, Sr., 7.4 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 0.6 APG, 58.0% 2PFG, 48.6% FT, 111.5 ORtg)  All of his offense comes inside the arc.  When in doubt, fouling him is a good option statistically because he is having a rough go of it at the free throw line.  Lacks passing and ball skills.  Best rebounder and shot-blocker for the Musketeers.

Sean O’Mara (6-10, 244, Jr., 6.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 0.6 APG, 57.8% 2PFG, 68% FT, 109.8 ORtg)  Another Xavier big man that doesn’t take the ball out on the perimeter on offense.    Plays a bunch of the back-up 5-man minutes.

Tyrique Jones (6-9, 237, Fr., 3.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 0.5 APG, 50% 2PFG, 47.4% FT, 103.8 ORtg)  Jones is being worked into the rotation some as a Frosh but he is still getting his feet wet.  Like his teammates in the post, he doesn’t venture outside, converts a decent percentage of the looks he gets on the interior, but struggle at the free-throw line.

Quentin Goodin (6-4, 194, Fr., 3.3 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 2.0 APG, 25% 3PFG, 55.6% 2PFG, 47.6% FT, 86.5 ORtg)  Prefers to drive it vice shoot it from deep.  Try to force him to shoot threes, if he does get by you, don’t be afraid to send him to the line and make him earn the points.

Malcolm Bernard (6-6, 202, Sr., 5.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.7 APG, 40.9% 3PFG, 41.2% 2PFG, 46.7% FT, 103.4 ORtg)  The Senior is stroking the three-ball well so far this season but not scoring efficiently from inside the arc.  His A/TO ratio has improved in conference play as he becomes more acclimated to playing live games in the Xavier offense.

Kaiser Gates (6-8, 228, So., 5.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 0.7 APG, 40% 3PFG, 62.5% 2PFG, 42.9% FT, 123.5 ORtg)  Missed a handful of early games due to injury.  Scored a season and career high, 17 points against St. John’s at Cintas on Saturday while posting a 196 ORtg game.  Has only one turnover after three conference games this season.  

There are shot charts and plenty more preview info here (courtesy of ONIN2TO)

Injury: Phil Booth is expected to miss the game for Villanova.


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