Releford is a small lead guard with the ability to put up points in bunches. The Crimson Tide's leading scorer has reached double figures in all nine games he's played. He scored 22 points in their last game against Wichita State, and led a second half charge that brought his team back to make it an exciting finish. He can get a little out of control at times, and has a fairly high turnover percentage. He does do a good job of throttling down his shot attempts when he's having an off night. He's connecting at a 38.5 percent clip from beyond the arc, and had a 5-for-7 night from three in the second game of the season against Texas Tech. This is the type of match-up where you're happy you have a guy like Dee Davis. His job in this game will likely be to lockdown Releford as much as possible. Randolph and possibly Christon could see time on him, but this is a good match-up for Davis. The junior got his spot in the starting lineup back against Cincinnati, and has played really well the last three games. His point production is going to be inconsistent; but as long as he pushes the tempo and makes good decisions on offense, is ready and willing to knock down open spot-up jumpers, and is playing great on defense then he is doing his job.
Moderate Edge Alabama
Semaj Christon So (6-3, 190) vs Retin Obasohan So (6-1, 205)
Obasohan is a 6-1guard that plays much bigger than his listed height. Alabama needs to create offense with its defense, and his play is a big key to whether or not they're able to do that. He is an athletic freak that has the ability to make those big momentum plays, particularly on defense, that get Alabama rolling. He's got a high block percentage, and several of them have come on transition plays at the rim, plus he averages 2.9 steals per game. Though he's the Tide's second-leading scorer, he's not a good shooter. He's hitting just 20 percent from 3-point range. Most of his buckets come off hustle plays or drives to the rim, and he's great at getting to the free-throw line where he shoots 77 percent. Christon got into foul trouble early against Cincinnati, and never really made much of an impact on the game until the second half when the Bearcats' lead was 13 and he nailed back to back threes to make it 19. Alabama will definitely be concerned with stopping Christon, but may be a little less likely to key on him too much with the way X made UC pay for that strategy. It should be interesting to see if it opens things up for Christon at all.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Justin Martin Jr (6-6, 205) vs Levi Randolph Jr (6-5, 205)
Randolph is a streaky secondary scoring option for Alabama. He's had a 20 and a 17-point effort already this year (both came in blow out wins), but he's also coming off a one-point performance against Charleston Southern and a seven-point performance against Wichita State in his last two games. X will have to make sure to find him on the perimeter, as he does like to free himself for an open look from the outside, and knocks down threes at a 37 percent clip. This should be a good battle between these two players on the glass, especially. Both can give their teams a big advantage when they hit the boards hard. Martin is coming off a career performance against Cincinnati. Not only did he have a tremendous performance with 17 points and five boards, but it came in the Crosstown Shootout. It's too early to make any type of call on whether or not Martin might be figuring something out, but he's coming off the best 50 minutes of basketball in his career. If he brings the same effort on defense and on the boards, the rest should fall into place for him.
Isaiah Philmore Sr (6-8, 237) vs Nick Jacobs Jr (6-8, 245)
Jacobs is a talented big man with some experience that has shown some flashes of breaking out and becoming a big-time post option for the Tide this year, but he's also struggled with consistency. Coming off of a four-game stretch where he scored in double-figures every game - including a 23-point, eight rebound effort against Drexel - he scored just seven points against Charleston Southern on a 1-for-5 shooting performance and eight points against Wichita State in his last two games. He also had just six rebounds combined in those games. This is a good match-up for Philmore. Jacobs is more of a true forward, as opposed to some of the face-up guys that Philmore has had to chase this year, and they have similar body-types. While Farr has clearly been more productive, Philmore has taken on a selfless role for this team and has done a good job of bringing effort and physicality on the defensive end.
Slight Edge Alabama
Matt Stainbrook Jr (6-10, 263) vs Jimmie Taylor Fr (6-10, 240)
Taylor only plays 16 minutes a game, and he's really not much of an offensive threat. He's a decent rebounder and he blocks some shots, but other than that, he really doesn't do a lot. He's scored just six points in the last three games combined. Stainbrook looked great against Cincinnati, and for the most part he's been really good all season. This is a game where the Musketeers really need him to dominate. Alabama, much like Cincinnati, lacks a great answer for Stainbrook inside. He helped X own the paint against Cincinnati, and doing the same on Saturday night would go a long way towards a Xavier win. This is also a game where the Musketeers might have to lean on Stainbrook's offense a little more than usual.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Xavier Bench vs Alabama Bench
Alabama has a couple of talented players that come off the bench. Rodney Cooper, a 6-6 wing, plays 28.7 minutes per game and provides versatility, length and athleticism. Also, Algie Key, a 6-4 guard can come off the bench to bring an offensive spark. He gets a little out of control and has a high turnover-rate, but he plays extremely hard and can make plays with the ball in his hands. After that they have two bigs in 7-footer Carl Engstrom and freshman 6-8 forward Shannon Hale. Hale is more of a face-up guy, and he likes to float on the perimeter looking for threes. Engstrom could see a few more minutes than usual to help inside against Stainbrook. Xavier has been getting great production from their bench. Brandon Randolph came in to make some big shots in the UC game, including his huge three when the Bearcats had cut it to 10. Myles Davis has also provided a big offensive spark for the majority of the year, and James Farr is the team's third-leading scorer and maybe the most productive player on the team right now. Having Erik Stenger and Landen Amos available gives X a nice buffer for foul trouble and defensive situations as well.
Slight Edge Xavier
This is another game that looks like it could be a defensive battle. The Crimson Tide have solid defensive numbers. They create some turnovers, protect the rim pretty well and hold opponents to low shooting percentages, particularly from the perimeter. Alabama is another good offensive rebounding team, but similar to Cincinnati, the Crimson Tide struggle to corral defensive boards. They actually score less points from the perimeter than Xavier does, with just 22.1 percent of their points coming on 3-pointers this year. They get a lot of their offense in the lane like X does, with 54 percent of their points coming on twos and 23.9 percent coming from the free-throw line. They struggle to score in the halfcourt, and need to create offense with their press by turning the opposition over. Going on the road against a quality defensive opponent, X can't rely on shooting the way they did against Cincinnati. At the same time, the Musketeers need to ride some of the confidence that they should have gained on the offensive end in the shootout and use that to their advantage in Tuscaloosa. The key to success is the same as it was last game - if Xavier controls the boards, takes care of the ball against Alabama's press and defends well, they'll be in position to win.
Score Prediction: Xavier 64 Alabama 60