Williams had a strong career at Robert Morris, and is now taking advantage of the NCAA's graduate transfer immediate eligibility rule at Wake Forest. He's playing a similar role for the Demon Deacons that he played for the Colonials. He has a pretty low usage rate, but he's a solid secondary scorer with the ability to snipe from beyond the arc. He's shooting 42.6 percent from 3-point range on the year, and has hit a season-high of 18 points twice. He scored in double figures for seven straight games, but has failed to do so in any of the last three, including a two-point effort in last week's win over UNC-Greensboro. He scored nine points and hit 3-of-5 3-point attempts last year at the Cintas Center when Robert Morris came up just short in an upset bid against X. Williams can be an important part of Wake's attack when they are going well as he opens up driving lanes for the other athletes on the team. This is a pretty good match-up with Davis playing a similar role in Xavier's offense right now. Obviously the Musketeers rely on Davis to push the pace and help run their offense by getting guys involved in addition to his role as a shooter in the halfcourt, but these guys are similar in terms of usage rate and role. Davis has played well in the closing minutes of the last few games, including last Saturday at Alabama when he scored 12 points and got a key and-one that gave the Musketeers the lead with 4:43 to play.
Semaj Christon So (6-3, 190) vs Codi Miller-McIntyre So (6-3, 195)
Miller-McIntyre has made a huge jump from his freshman year where he showed great flashes of potential. He's now the Demon Deacons' leading scorer at 17.5 points per game. He's hit double-figures in all but two of Wake's games this season, and he's scored 20 or more seven times. Like Christon, he's not much of a shooter and prefers to use his athleticism to get to into the lane and score or draw a foul. He's a 70 percent free-throw shooter, and scores 86 percent of his points on twos or free-throws. He scored 11 in Wake's last game against UNC-Greensboro on 5-of-10 shooting, but had no assists and five turnovers. Christon hasn't scored in double figures in either of the last two games. As the Musketeers have seemingly figured out other ways to score, he's been slightly less aggressive/involved on the offensive end. He's also struggled to finish at times throughout the season, and he's had his much talked about issues at the free-throw line that are also partially responsible for his numbers being down. The increased production by those around him will start paying dividends for Christon as defenses are forced to stretch out farther on shooters and pay more attention to secondary options. Christon is the more talented of the two, but right now Miller-McIntyre is having the better season. The question is are his numbers inflated due to playing bad competition? Both of these guys should have plenty of motivation for this one.
Justin Martin Jr (6-6, 205) vs Travis McKie Sr (6-7, 220)
McKie's minutes and production are down as he's made the move out to the wing. He's scoring 30 percent of his points from beyond the arc this year while shooting 33.3 percent from 3-point range. He's had his moments, like his 22-points and 10 rebounds against Jacksonville, but even in those games he hasn't been very efficient. He only had seven points in the last game against UNCG, but the game before that against St. Bonaventure was probably his best as he went for 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting with three rebounds, two assists, two steals and only one turnover in 33 minutes. Martin got in foul trouble at Alabama and only scored four points in 15 minutes of action coming off his career night in the Crosstown Shootout where he scored 17 points and had five boards. This match-up definitely has the potential to be a huge determining factor in the game. If Martin doesn't bring it on the glass and on the defensive end, McKie could provide Wake with a huge lift. At the same time, Martin may get up for the big match-up as he did against Iowa and UC.
Slight Edge Wake Forest
Isaiah Philmore Sr (6-8, 237) vs Tyler Cavanaugh Fr (6-9, 230)
Cavanaugh is a solid forward with decent size, and he also possesses some face-up skills. He had 12 points and four boards in the last game against UNCG, and his season-high was 15 points against Richmond a few weeks ago in a game where he was 6-of-8 from the field also had nine rebounds. As we saw against Alabama, more true power forwards tend to be a better match-up for Xavier's bigs, particularly Philmore. Cavanaugh is kind of a mixture. He's a pretty big body, and he's a solid rebounder that also draws a lot of fouls (72.5% FT), but he's also attempting just over two 3-pointers a game (29.6 % 3PT). Philmore is coming off his best performance of the season. He finished with 17 points and 12 boards against Alabama, marking his first double-double on the year. If the Musketeers' senior can bottle that type of play, they become a much more difficult team to beat with one of the best and deepest frontcourt rotations in the country.
Matt Stainbrook Jr (6-10, 263) vs Devin Thomas So (6-9, 245)
After starting all 31 games last year, Thomas is having a strong sophomore campaign. The big man has posted four double-doubles and ranks 23rd in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage. He's been a physical presence at both ends of the court and on the glass. Thomas isn't a dominant offensive player, but he is posting solid numbers. He's scored in double-figures in each of the last three games, and he had 19 rebounds against Richmond and 13 rebounds against UNC Greensboro in two of those three contests. He's going to be tested against Stainbrook and the rest of X's frontcourt. Stainbrook is coming off back-to-back brilliant performances in big wins over UC and Alabama, and he also played pretty well with 10 points and 15 boards against Evansville a game prior to the shootout.His presence in the lane has meant the world to X and the work the Musketeers have done on the glass lately. He's also helped jump start the offense with Christon scoring less, by not only scoring himself, but also involving his teammates with great passing. He had 17 points and six rebounds against Alabama, and they had more firepower to contend with him inside than do the Demon Deacons. This could be another big night for Stianbrook.
Slight Edge Xavier
Xavier Bench vs Wake Forest Bench
The Demon Deacons will typically go about eight deep with three regular contributors off the bench. Sophomore Madison Jones plays a starter-like role at 23.5 minutes per game. He's in there to handle the ball and distribute, allowing Miller-McIntyre to slide over and score more. He's only hit one field goal in the last five games. Arnaud Wlliam Adala Moto is next off the bench at 15.1 minutes per game. He's a big-bodied combo-forward that lacks the skill to be a true wing on offense, but has enough lateral quickness to defend on the perimeter and is comfortable with the ball in his hands as a face-up player. He plays with a high motor and is a strong rebounder, especially on the offensive end. Aaron Rountree III iis a 6-8 lanky sophomore forward that hasn't scored in three games. He's a solid defender, though not against big post players. Xavier's bench has been very productive lately. Myles Davis has been a huge spark off the bench with his ability to hit the clutch 3-point shots when X has been trying to make its second half runs. He hit two big threes against Alabama on his way to scoring 10 points, and is the Musketeers' third-leading scorer right now at 9.5 points per game. Brandon Randolph also plays starter minutes at 23.2 minutes per game. He hasn't been nearly as successful offensively, but he's proven to be a valuable perimeter defender and a sound decision-maker with the ball in his hands. They also have the 6-9, 3-point slinging rebounding machine James Farr, who has been huge all year for this team in bringing a spark on the offensive end. Also, 6-9 Jalen Reynolds is still fouling too much, but he brings energy and athleticism into the game when giving the starters a blow.
Moderate Edge Xavier
This is Wake Forest's first true road game, and the only competition they've faced up until this point was Kansas and Tennessee in the Battle for Atlantis, both of which they lost to. The Demon Deacons' best win is either USC in the Bahamas or Richmond at home. Both teams are riding a four-game win streak and a little wave of momentum, but Xavier has been battle-tested recently. Wake Forest is another team that has its issues offensively, and that's while playing against a cupcake schedule. Once again, the key for the Musketeers will be to come out and control the boards. Wake is a team that relies on second-chance points and transition points to score, and if X can win on the glass then it would go a long way towards stifling the Demon Deacons' offense. Keeping Miller-McIntyre out of the lane without fouling will be a big key. If he's able to get the bigs into foul trouble, it will negate some of Xavier's advantage. Expect a close, ugly one early at the Cintas Center, but as the Musketeers start to heat up and hit a few more shots in the second half (plus free-throws pile-up) they pull away and win by a decent margin.
Score Prediction: Xavier 74 Wake Forest 65