The Matchups: Xavier vs Creighton

Before every game MusketeerReport breaks down the position by position matchups for X's opponent. This edition focuses on Sunday afternoon's Big East game against Creighton at the CenturyLink Center.

Dee Davis Jr (6-1, 161) vs Austin Chatman Jr (6-0, 180)

Chatman mirrors Davis in a lot of ways. He's a smaller guard that has accepted his role in the offense, leads the team in assists, and is capable of scoring or knocking down a few shots when the opportunity presents itself. He's averaging 4.4 assists and 4.2 rebounds to go with his 7.4 points per game on the year, and, like pretty much everyone on Creighton's roster, he can knock down the three (41.2 %). Davis has been good in conference play. Against Marquette he made another big three in the second half and hit 8-of-9 free-throws to finish with 13 points despite going 2-of-8 from the field. He also dished out six assists with only one turnover. The Musketeers won't be able to afford many empty possessions in this one, so the play of Davis will be critical when it comes to running the offense and making good decisions. These two guys have very similar numbers. It should be a nice battle in the backcourt.

Slight Edge Creighton

Semaj Christon So (6-3, 190) vs Jahenns Manigat Sr (6-1, 180)

Manigat is a knockdown shooter from the outside that doesn't really look to score in other ways. He's a 44.8 percent shooter from beyond the arc, with 30 of his 41 field goal attempts on the year coming from long distance. He's a smart player that chooses his spots wisely and keeps the ball moving when he's not shooting; the senior boasts a 2.9:1 assist to turnover ratio. Defensively, Manigat is adequate, but the Bluejays definitely don't have an athlete like Christon in their backcourt. Christon went off against Marquette for 28 points on 8-of-10 shooting, including 3-of-3 from beyond the arc, plus he went 9-of-10 at the free-throw line. After showing off his well-rounded game while taking a backseat on the offensive end for a few games, he's now scored 20 or more in the last two big east contests. If the Musketeers are going to steal a win on the road at Creighton, they need their best players in Christon and Stainbrook to give them an advantage, which is definitely possible against the Bluejays personnel. They'll likely try to slow Christon down with help defense by trying to play in the gaps and slide over to take charges when he drives, but it'll be a tall task for them to stop the Muskies' point guard.

Significant Edge Xavier

Justin Martin Jr (6-6, 205) vs Devin Brooks Jr (6-2, 175)

With senior guard Grant Gibbs (a key member of this starting lineup) going down with a dislocated knee-cap in the game against DePaul, the Bluejays are going to have to pull someone off of the bench into the starting lineup. If not Brooks, then 6-6 junior Avery Dingman will likely be the selection. Brooks plays 17 minutes per game and has a high usage rate when he's on the floor. His best quality is his ability to create plays for his teammates as he has by far the highest assist rate on the team, but he also adds some scoring pop himself with an average of 7.9 points per game. He only attempts just over one three a game, but he's knocking them down at a 45 percent clip. He typically prefers to drive to the basket, with 63.1 percent of his shots coming at the rim. Brooks may also be asked to guard Christon some, as he's one of the Bluejays' best perimeter defenders. Martin continued his strong play with a solid game against Marquette. He scored in double figures for the third straight game with 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting against the Golden Eagles to go with his eight rebounds. He's been a big part of the team's recent success, and they'll need all hands on deck in Omaha on Sunday.

Slight Edge Xavier

Isaiah Philmore Sr (6-8, 237) vs Ethan Wragge Sr (6-7, 225)

Wragge may be a forward, but on the offensive end he spends all of his time on the perimeter, with 95 percent of his shot attempts coming from beyond the arc. He's made multiple 3-pointers in each of his last 11 games, shooting 47.2 percent during that stretch. For the year he's actually shooting an even better percentage at 49.1 percent. Though not a true post player, he's big enough to hold his own defensively and he's a solid rebounder on the defensive end of the court. Philmore only had two rebounds against Marquette, but he did score nine points on 3-of-4 shooting from the field, and 3-of-4 at the free-throw line. A lot of people have been calling for Farr to get more minutes, but as Coach Mack said in the postgame presser following the Marquette game, Philmore has earned his minutes on the defensive end. Farr has improved on that end, but Philmore still brings experience and toughness that is invaluable to a team that's playing really well with great chemistry right now. The Musketeers will have to guard Wragge out on the perimeter, while also chasing McDermott all over the court. Philmore could very well spend some time guarding McDermott.

Slight Edge Creighton

Matt Stainbrook Jr (6-10, 263) vs Doug McDermott Sr (6-8, 225)

McDermott is the biggest player in Creighton's lineup, but he's much more than just a post player. Quite possibly the leading candidate for National Player of the Year and the second-leading scorer in the nation (24.3 ppg), McDermott can do a little bit of everything, but what really sets him apart is his shooting. He's shooting 42.9 percent from 3-point range on the year, and he knocks down a lot of mid-range jumpers. One area of his game that he's really developed is his post scoring ability. He also does a good job of rebounding on the defensive end. McDermott is just a great scorer that rarely has an "off" night. The only bad game he's had came in the Bluejays' 60-53 loss to George Washington when he finished 2-of-12 from the field with seven points. He's coming off a 19-point, five rebound, four assist and two block effort against DePaul. The Musketeers are going to have their hands full trying to match up with him. They could use multiple guys throughout the game to guard him. At the same time, Stainbrook is going to be a difficult match-up for the Bluejays, as they don't start a true post player. They'll likely have to send an extra guy at him to get the ball out of his hands, which is where he excels as a passer. Xavier's center is coming off of one of his worst games of the season against Marquette, as he just didn't seem to be himself. He only played five minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, and then struggled to finish around the rim in the second half, going 2-of-5 for the game with seven points, eight rebounds, three assists and three turnovers. The Muskies need him to bounce back in a big way on the road if they're going to have a chance at beating this Creighton team. It is worth noting that McDermott suffered a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder in the win over DePaul, and was listed as day-to-day. He's expected to start and play.

Moderate Edge Creighton

Xavier Bench vs Creighton Bench

The injury to Gibbs definitely hurts the Bluejays' depth. With Brooks likely starting, that will leave Avery Dingman as the main wing contributor off the bench. Dingman is another guy out there looking to shoot threes, even though he only connects at a 33 percent clip. Will Artino, a 6-11 junior center, may get more minutes in this one than the 13.2 per game that he typically plays, so he can match-up with the size of Stainbrook. He's coming off a strong performance against DePaul with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting with seven rebounds. Isaiah Zierden, a 6-2 guard, will likely see a bigger role as well with Gibbs being out. He's a 37.9 percent 3-point shooter with nearly 70 percent of his shot attempts coming from beyond the arc. Xavier definitely has the advantage when it comes to post depth. Jalen Reynolds gave the Musketeers great minutes against Marquette in the first half grabbing five rebounds when Stainbrook was out of the game with foul trouble. James Farr has been great for most of the season, and that was the case again against Marquette as he finished with 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting with four boards and a ridiculous tip-dunk. The Musketeers also have the energy, athleticism and physicality of Erik Stenger returning to the rotation after dealing with some stomach issues. As we've seen in some other big games when the Musketeers have played well, such as the UC game, they've gotten contributions from the two freshman guards, Myles Davis and Brandon Randolph. If those guys can play well in a tough road environment, it'd be huge for X.

Slight Edge Xavier

Overall

Creighton is the No. 1 offense in the country when it comes to adjusted efficiency, effective field goal percentage, and 3-point percentage. Losing their starting point guard in Grant Gibbs is definitely a huge blow, but the Bluejays' offense all runs through McDermott's ability to score, with shooter's lining the perimeter around him ready to pull if they get an open look. They should still be pretty tough to guard. It will be interesting to see how the Musketeers match-up defensively, and it'll also be a challenge for them to keep it as tight as they typically like to on the defensive end with all the shooters Creighton has on the floor. It will definitely be a big change in terms of Creighton's strengths compared to the last several teams Xavier has played. Xavier does have the benefit of catching them in their first game without their point guard playing, and that may slow them down for at least a little bit. It's never easy to go into Creighton and get a win, but this is as vulnerable as we've seen the Bluejays at home all year. Both teams are undefeated in the conference and are on eight-game winning streaks. This is a huge opportunity for the Musketeers to pick up a top 25 RPI win, a win over the No. 23 team in the coaches' poll, gain a leg up in the conference standings, and make a statement to the nation that they might just be the best team in the conference. It won't be easy though.

Score Prediction: Creighton 77 Xavier 73


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