Gesell is a solid pass-first point guard that can knock down shots and defend. He's not always the most aggressive player on the offensive end, but he's definitely not shy about shooting the ball, especially from deep, if he gets an opening. He's coming off a 4-for-10 shooting performance against Penn where he went 2-for-6 from 3-point range. Davis had to sit out the first two games, but since returning to the lineup he's been solid for the Musketeers. He's on the court to make plays for his teammates as a distributor, and to knock down open jumpers when they come his way. So far, he's done both well. He's dished out 17 assists to only six turnovers, and he's 5-of-9 in three games from beyond the arc. His experience could play a big role against Iowa's tough defense.
Semaj Christon So (6-3, 190) vs Roy Devyn Marble Sr (6-6, 200)
Marble is Iowa's top scorer at 14.6 points per game. He's a big-bodied wing with guard skills that knows how to use his size to his advantage. He'll try and post up on the block, but he's also tough to keep from driving to the rim and finishing. He's a good passer that will set his teammates up to score as well. On the defensive end, Marble leads the team in steals. This is the type of game where Christon can begin to truly shape the narrative for his sophomore season. He's had brilliant moments through the first five games and has played really well overall, but the Musketeers haven't really needed him. This feels like a game where they're going to need him to be the best player on the floor and really take over. There should be some decent national coverage for this one - what the media is saying/writing about Christon after this game will likely be very telling as to how Xavier fared.
Slight Edge Xavier
Justin Martin Jr (6-7, 205) vs Aaron White Jr (6-9, 220)
White is another strong all-around talent for the Hawkeyes. He's right behind Marble with 13.6 points per game, but he also averages 7.6 rebounds and is shooting 64.9 percent from the field. His versatility and size allows this team to play with a huge lineup on the court. Martin has played pretty well in back-to-back games against Miami and Abilene Christian. This bigger lineup for Iowa may work out better for him in some ways, as he seems to be more effective as an undersized four than as a wing. Martin's outside shooting would be a big boost for X in this game, but his rebounding is a necessity. Philmore and Stainbrook proved against Tennessee that they're going to go to war on the glass. Against Iowa, the Musketeers may need that third guy like Martin to help.
Moderate Edge Iowa
Isaiah Philmore Sr (6-8, 230) vs Melsahn Basabe Sr (6-7, 220)
Basabe is an interesting case, as he's watched his minutes and numbers go down every year since he was a freshman, but he's got tons of experience after playing 24.5 minutes per game and averaging 11 points as a frosh. This season he's averaging 7.2 points and 6.4 rebounds in 16.8 minutes of action. He's long and athletic, which just adds to the Hawkeyes' size on the defensive end of the court and the glass. Philmore has yet to really break out for the Musketeers, but he's been solid through the first five games. His toughness against Tennessee had a huge impact on the the Musketeers' success that night, and they'll need it against another big-time frontcourt in Iowa on Thursday.
Matt Stainbrook Jr (6-10, 263) vs Adam Woodbury So (7-1, 240)
At over 7-feet tall, Woodbury's height and average physical tools alone make a difference on the court. He's not overly talented, and doesn't do a lot of scoring, but he can change shots, rebound some and just adds to the overall size on defense for the Hawkeyes. Against his first big-time competition in Tennessee, Stainbrook went to work and took it to the Volunteers' standout post players. Fouls and fatigue will be big for Stainbrook in this game - the Musketeers haven't needed him to play big minutes since the Tennessee game, but he'll have to stay on the court as much as possible in this one.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Xavier Bench vs Iowa Bench
Both of these teams have already shown depth this season. For Iowa, sophomore Jarrod Uthoff is averaging 11.8 points and 6.8 rebounds off of the bench. He scored 19 in the Hawkeyes win over Penn, so he's capable of coming in and being a game-changer. Expect him to play starter minutes. Junior Gabriel Olaseni, a 6-10 junior center, gives them a rim-protector when he's roaming the paint. Iowa gets a ton of production off of the bench. On the season, the Hawkeyes are averaging 46.6 points and 23.4 rebounds from their bench through five contests. Playing against weak competition has skewed those stats some, but those are still impressive numbers. Not having Stenger on the trip makes Xavier a little thinner, and he definitely could have helped against Iowa, but the Musketeers have been getting good minutes out of James Farr and Jalen Reynolds to give them four reliable post options even without Stenger to combat Iowa's strong frontcourt. Myles Davis has been playing his role of "instant offense" well off of the bench for the Musketeers. He's coming off of a 15-point performance where he hit 5-of-7 from 3-point range against Abilene Christian. Brandon Randolph has been struggling a little bit to finish shots, but has played well overall through the first five games of his college career. He rounds out a backcourt rotation that should give the Musketeers an advantage over the Hawkeyes at the guard positions.
Xavier has the advantage of having played a legit opponent in Tennessee already this season, while Iowa has won four of its first five games by 30 or more. Both of these teams hang their hats on their defensive play. Iowa's defensive efficiency numbers are fantastic, but they have been inflated a little bit due to the weak competition the Hawkeyes have faced. Fran McCaffery plays a lot of guys and will switch it up on defense by showing some zone and also pressing at times. There are three big factors to this game for Xavier. The Musketeers have to take care of the ball to keep Iowa out of transition, they have to match the Hawkeyes toughness and intensity on the boards to limit their second chance points, and they need Semaj Christon and Matt Stainbrook to be the best players on the floor. Iowa is favored, and it's definitely going to be the toughest battle the Musketeers have faced yet, but I think X has a very legitimate shot at winning. As long as the first game away from home doesn't freeze up X's shooters, this will be a close game in the second half, and at that point I think Christon will have the ability to take over.
Score Prediction: Xavier 76 Iowa 74