Gibson played outstanding through the first five games of the season. The freshman showed great feel and was playing mature beyond his years, but has struggled a little bit more over the last four games with the competition picking up. He's not a shooter and is very conservative when it comes to looking for his shot, but he's good at picking his spots and drawing lots of fouls. He's attempted 10 more free-throws than he has field goal attempts on the season. As a scorer, Randolph has been very inconsistent for Xavier so far, but we also don't give him enough credit for how good he's been at taking care of the ball in his freshman campaign. While playing over 25 minutes per game, Randolph has racked up 29 assists while only turning it over nine times. He hasn't had a turnover in three games, and has only three in the last six. His defense has been pretty solid for the most part too. These two freshman may very well cancel each other out with steady play, but if one happens to have a big offensive night it could be the difference for his team.
Semaj Christon So (6-3, 190) vs D.J. Balentine So (6-2, 210)
Balentine has been fantastic in his sophomore year, and has made the graduation of all-time leading scorer Colt Ryan sting a lot less by averaging just under 25 points per game this season. He is a smart player with a well-rounded offensive game that can really shoot it. An efficient scorer, Balentine does a great job of getting to the free-throw line where he's an 89 percent free-throw shooter. Over the Purple Aces' three-game losing streak, Balentine only attempted single-digit free-throws and struggled to get easy looks. He shot a much lower percentage from the field in those games, which caused their offense to stagnate. Much like Balentine, Christon is the catalyst for Xavier's offense; and as he has gone, so have the Musketeers. He came up huge in the closing minutes of regulation and overtime of the Bowling Green game, including hitting some incredibly clutch free-throws. Evansville doesn't have a great answer for Christon on the defensive end, so it's key that the Musketeers' best player gives them an edge in this battle.
Slight Edge Xavier
Justin Martin Jr (6-6, 205) vs Adam Wing So (6-4, 205)
Wing is another young guard in the Evansville backcourt that tries to play a complementary role to Balentine as a reliable secondary scoring option. He's been steady from 3-point range (7-of-14), and money from the free-throw line (23-of-26). He, like most of this Evansville team, started the season off hot and scored in double-figures in four of the first five games, but has scored just 18 in the last four games combined, including a goose-egg Saturday against Miami (OH). Martin has been rather ineffective the last three games, and particularly struggled with five costly turnovers against Bowling Green. At this point, Xavier just needs Martin to rebound and defend well, while taking care of the ball. Mack seems to be going to a three-guard lineup more and more, and Martin will continue to lose time if he doesn't do those things. He could help give Xavier an advantage on the glass in this one against Evansville's small roster.
Isaiah Philmore Sr (6-8, 237) vs Blake Simmons Fr (6-5, 210)
Simmons is the son of head coach Marty Simmons and has stepped in as a freshman to provide another shooter in the Purple Aces' offense. He's a big-bodied wing or undersized forward that has good shooting touch from the perimeter and likes to shoot the mid-range jumper. He's struggled to rebound or defend in the post against bigger teams. Philmore got into some foul trouble and struggled early against Bowling Green, but turned it around in the second half and carried the offense for several key possessions late in the game. Mack called several set plays for his senior forward, and Philmore was able to deliver, finishing with 15 points. As long as he moves well and keeps up defensively with the Purple Aces' four-out offense, Philmore could have a big game inside and on the glass.
Slight Edge Xavier
Matt Stainbrook Jr (6-10, 263) vs Egidijus Mockevicius So (6-10, 225)
While most of the Purple Aces' players have seen their stats' deflate over the last four games as the competition level increased, Mockevicius has had the opposite experience. Against bigger teams, the only true center in Simmons' rotation has played 29 minutes in each of the last three games, and has scored in double figures in all three, including a 17 point, 13 rebound effort against Miami (OH) last game. He's a long and lean big man that will block shots on the defensive end, and rebound on both ends. Stainbrook wasn't much of a factor at all against Bowling Green, which was part of the reason for the Musketeers' close call. He had just four points and five boards in 16 minutes due to being in foul trouble. Foul trouble will play a big role in the game for these two players, as both teams will likely be going at the others' center to try and get him out of the lane and on the bench with two early fouls. Assuming Stainbrook can stay on the court, this is an opportunity for him to get back on track and have a big game.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Xavier Bench vs Evansville Bench
The Purple Aces have a pair of forwards off the bench that will provide some depth in 6-7, 230-pound junior Jaylon Moore and 6-8, 200-pound junior Ryan Sawvell. Evansville typically plays with only one big man in the lineup, but those guys will rotate in at the post spots. Freshman guard Jaylon Brown also provides nearly 20 minutes per game off the bench. Brown is a quick, athletic point guard that can defend and handle the ball, but isn't ready to produce a whole lot on offense at the Division I level yet. The Purple Aces have two other freshman that have played sparingly, but that's it. They don't have a whole lot of depth. This is where Xavier could have a huge edge. Not only do the Musketeers have more depth, but the size and length they can bring off the bench with James Farr and Jalen Reynolds is a huge concern for the small and not very athletic Purple Aces. Myles Davis and Farr have played a huge role on the offensive end for the Musketeers, including Saturday's 29 combined points by the duo in the overtime win over Bowling Green. Dee Davis also played well against the Falcons, after having a poor tournament in the Bahamas.
Significant Edge Xavier
Evansville actually attempts fewer threes than Xavier does. The Purple Aces work their motion offense relentlessly for a good look on the offensive end, running defenders through a series of screens to wear them down, often resulting in an open look or a tired defender fouling. They get to the line at a ridiculous rate and rank 13th in the nation in percentage of points scored on free-throws at 29.3 percent. Offensively, they're legitimately good with a lineup of smart players that can make shots, but they do struggle with length and athleticism and they don't get second-chance points. Defensively, it's an entirely different story. The Purple Aces rank poorly in just about every defensive category. Xavier doesn't score easily, but they should be able to get plenty of points in the paint against Evansville. Opportunities will be there for second-chance points and easy post buckets if any of the Musketeers' big men step up. If X locks in defensively and on the glass early, they could run away with this game in the second half. If they let the Purple Aces get on a roll offensively, it could be another interesting game.
Score Prediction: Xavier 74 Evansville 65