Semaj passed his first test on the road with flying colors, dropping 25 over the weekend at Purdue to win another A-10 Freshman of the Week award. His elbow still isn't 100 percent, though it's getting a lot better. We'll probably continue to see him get more confident in his jump shot over the course of December. There won't be a game this year where Semaj isn't the fastest guy on the court, but his matchup with Kedren Johnson will be speed on speed. Johnson is by far the best player for Vanderbilt, and really the one guy that worries you a little bit as an opponent because of his ability to get off for a big offensive night. He's still not a great shooter from the outside, but his shot does look much improved from last year when his jumper was a wreck.
Slight Edge Xavier
Dee Davis So (6-0, 161) vs Kyle Fuller Jr (5-11, 199)
Dee had his worst outing of the year Saturday at Purdue. It's definitely not time to hit the panic button with Davis. He's been great for the most part this year, and he's still rather inexperienced in his own right. He's probably thrilled to be back in Cincinnati shooting in the cozy confines of Cintas, and the Musketeers would be glad to get him back on track offensively and defensively. Davis has a great matchup in Fuller. Fuller is a smaller, quicker guard, similar to Davis, only not as talented. He's not a shooter at all, but has some ability to get into the lane and create with his quickness. He's a solid defender too, despite being small. Davis should win this battle for Xavier as he brings all the same things to the court, only better, plus he can shoot it from the outside. Watching Davis' performance in this one will be a big storyline from this game.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Justin Martin So (6-6, 205) vs Kevin Bright Fr (6-5, 228)
Martin had another very solid effort in the win at Purdue. His consistency with his effort and focus have made him an invaluable asset to this team. He still has plenty of untapped potential and upside going forward, particularly as a scorer. Right now he's hitting jump shots, and he's hit some big ones recently, but for the most part he's catching and shooting. We've seen him take the ball to the basket just a time or two this season so far, but if he continues to work on that part of his game and adds to his arsenal he could be a big-time scorer. He'll be matched up with the freshman from Germany, Kevin Bright. Bright's game is still a little bit of a mystery, though he's shown some early promise. He can shoot it a little bit from the outside and is a good athlete. He hasn't been a major part of the Commodores' offense yet though, and he's still feeling his way around out on the court.
Slight Edge Xavier
Jeff Robinson Sr (6-10, 225) vs Rod Odom Jr (6-9, 215)
Jeff Robinson would rather just act like Saturday's game at Purdue didn't happen. He never got into the flow of the game at all, playing just nine minutes and picking up four fouls. He missed both of his shot attempts and grabbed two rebounds. Obviously Xavier could have used him as they gave up 17 offensive rebounds to the Boilermakers. You can pretty much track Jeff's play by his shot attempts - In the four games that he's had seven or more shot attempts in, he's averaging 14.7 points per game. In the other three games, he's had three shots or less and averaged just 3.6 points. Robinson is another guy who is matched up with a player that's very similar to him. Odom is one of the leaders on this young Vanderbilt team, and though he started the season slow, he's been picking up his level of play over the last two games. He dropped 16 and 14 in the last two games against UTEP and Villanova respectively. He does have some skill, similar to Robinson, and isn't afraid to step out and shoot the three as he's shown in those last two games while going 4-for-12 from beyond the arc. With these guys being similar sizes and having similar games, it will be interesting to see who wins this battle or if they just cancel each other out.
Travis Taylor Sr (6-8, 216) vs Josh Henderson Fr (6-11, 230)
Taylor really struggled on the offensive end against Purdue, going 2-for-11 from the floor and finishing with just six points. He looked out of sorts on most of the possessions that he got a touch. Taylor's overall performance wasn't too bad though. He did grab seven boards, made a few nice passes and played well on the defensive end for the most part. He's been in an offensive funk for the last three games, averaging just 4.0 points per game during that stretch. Look for Xavier's staff to make it a point to try to get him going again on the offensive end. Henderson only plays about 20 minutes a game, and he's really not very productive when he's in there. His high game on the year is five points against UTEP, and he averages just 3.0 rebounds per game. He doesn't move all that well, and he's actually rather soft inside. Xavier's bigs have a good shot to give the Musketeers the advantage inside if they come out and play physical.
Slight Edge Xavier
Xavier Bench vs Vanderbilt Bench
Much has been made about Xavier's lack of depth this year, and they are a little thin, but the depth hasn't really caught up with them yet as far as guys getting in foul trouble or injured. They've settled into a nice rotation with Brad Redford and Isaiah Philmore being the two main guys off the bench, with a little bit of Erik Stenger mixed in. This might be a game that really benefits Redford as Vanderbilt is not a very good defensive team period, but they've particularly struggled defending the perimeter. Philmore could also be in for a big game as he's looking better and better with the more minutes he gets, but he's yet to really breakout offensively - Tonight could be the night. Vanderbilt is even thinner than Xavier. They'll play three guys off the bench and all of them are forwards, so Xavier's guards can be super aggressive attacking the rim with Vandy's guards having to be careful not to get into foul trouble. Shelby Moats is the sixth man, and is a 6-8 forward that will step out and shoot a little bit, even though he's shooting 17 percent from beyond the arc on the year. They'll also throw 6-7 freshman Shelden Jeter in there, along with 6-6 sophomore James Siakam.
Slight Edge Xavier
Vanderbilt just isn't very good. They are low on talent, depth and they're very young and still trying to feel each other out. Kedren Johnson presents the biggest threat, but between Xavier's two guards they should be able to limit him. After that, the Commodores don't really have anyone else in their lineup who worries you. These two teams' starters matchup very well, with a few of the players mirroring each other, so it will be interesting to see how those individual battles play out. Xavier is the better team in this one, but they have to bring it on defense and on the glass. They don't have enough offensive firepower to play lazy and still win. I'm expecting a good shooting night for the Musketeers, being back at the Cintas Center for the first time in a while.
Score Prediction: Xavier 70 Vanderbilt 61