Mark Lyons looks like the starting point guard for the game with Tu out and he'll be matched up with Morgan State senior point guard Larry Bastfield. Bastfield is a steady pass-first guy that won't turn the ball over much. He dished out 3.4 assists per game a year ago, and while he won't look to score often, he's a capable shooter from three if left alone. Lyons will have to apply good pressure on Bastfield on defense to make it tougher for the Bears to get into their offense. On the other end, Lyons should hold an athletic advantage and have some success penetrating.
Significant Edge Xavier
Andre Walker (6-8, 225) vs. Aric Brooks (6-6, 210)
This is where things get tricky. Morgan State could start any number of guys, but for the time being we'll go with Brooks at the two. At 6-foot-6, Brooks is a returning senior swingman with a lot of experience. He isn't a good shooter from the outside but with his size he can get to the basket and also help on the glass. Andre Walker should have this matchup and if so, it's one that favors Xavier. Walker will be bigger, stronger and should be able to lock Brooks up on the defensive end. On offense, Walker doesn't have to provide points necessarily but his passing and ability to take care of the ball will be key with Holloway out. The Musketeers need Walker to play like a veteran.
Slight Edge Xavier
Dez Wells (6-5, 215) vs. DeWayne Jackson (6-8, 210)
Jackson is likely the most talented player on Morgan State's team and also their leading scorer a year ago. He's a talented shooter and scorer with great size and length. His quick release and high release makes it tough to keep him from getting his shot off. If there's one chink in his armor though, it's taking bad shots. Last year shot selection got the best of him as he shot a terrible percentage from three. Wells will draw this matchup and will have to be relentless on the defensive end, hoping that Jackson settles for tough shots. The freshman struggled offensively in his first game against Bellarmine, but he could present some problems for the foul prone Morgan State team with his athleticism and aggressiveness when attacking the rim. He has a huge matchup defensively though.
Moderate Edge Morgan State
Jeff Robinson (6-10, 225) vs. Ameer Ali (6-4, 230)
Again, Ali may or may not be in the starting lineup, but he will certainly see a lot of the floor. He started 16 games last year and provided a lot of interior toughness despite being only 6-foot-4. Ali uses his wide body and throws his weight around to secure rebounds and take up space in the post. Xavier will start Jeff Robinson at the four and his length and size will be a key in this game for the Muskies. When aggressive, Robinson can get rebounds that no one else can get and provides second-chance points. He can also help defensively by changing shots around the rim. This is a position to watch for both teams as Morgan State could play a few different guys here, and Xavier could use a big game out of Robinson.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Kenny Frease (7-0, 275) vs. Kevin Thompson (6-9, 240)
Thompson is the the most consistent player for the Bears. He is a space-eating center that likes to gain position in the post and use his size to seal the defender and score easily. He's not a guy who's going to use a bunch of post moves, spins or use his mobility, but he does use his body well and can score on the block. Kenny Frease will have to make sure he keeps Thompson from gaining position and getting Frease on his back where Xavier's 7-footer could get in foul trouble.
Slight Edge Xavier
Xavier's Bench vs Morgan State's Bench
Both of these teams have some depth. Xavier will play Dee Davis, Brad Redford, Justin Martin and Travis Taylor off the bench and all of those guys could see a decent amount of minutes and contribute to the team. Morgan State counters with Justin Black, a 6-foot-2 wing that played starter minutes a year ago while averaging 7.2 points per game. They also have a highly rated young big man in Shaquille Duncan who can provide some size and depth in the post. They also got a talented transfer in 6-foot-5 guard, Anthony Hubbard, who transferred from Iowa without ever playing a game.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Overall: Xavier vs Morgan State
This isn't your typical MEAC team, and as Coach Mack said in his press conference on Thursday, they have the makings of an NCAA tournament-caliber squad. Xavier is going to have to bring it right out of the gates to start this season. Not having Holloway won't hurt Xavier as much early as it will late if it's close. They're used to having the security-blanket that is Tu Holloway to close games for them and take over. Post defense and not letting Jackson get hot will be the keys for the Musketeers. Making free-throws will also be another key as the Bears are big but will foul if Xavier is aggressive. Look for the Muskies to push the pace and get some easy buckets and potentially wear the Bears down. It wouldn't be surprising to see Morgan State head coach Todd Bozeman switch to a little zone to try and slow Xavier down.
Score Prediction: Xavier 80 Morgan State 68