Starks is basically one half of the Georgetown attack on offense. Both of these match-ups in the backcourt are so key because the Hoyas rely so heavily on Starks and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera. In the last meeting between these teams, Starks got off for 12 points in the first half, but was bottled up in the second half when the Musketeers made their big comeback and ended up finishing with 18. The big key for X is to be able to keep Starks out of the lane where he can create plays for himself and others and off the free-throw line where he scores a lot of his points, while also defending Smith-Rivera from the perimeter. Starks is not typically a good 3-point shooter (just 30.7 percent on the year) but last time against X he was 3-for-6 and was a big contributor during that ridiculous shooting display that saw the Hoyas go 7-for-11 from long distance in the first 20 minutes. Davis got into early foul trouble in the first half, which limited him to just eight minutes, but in the second half he more than made up for it by scoring 15 points without missing a shot and picking up five assists. He needs to avoid the early foul trouble because his defense is so important against the Hoyas' potent backcourt. If he can pull off another offensive performance like he did when they met at Cintas, that'd go a long way towards a Xavier win.
Moderate Edge Georgetown
Semaj Christon So (6-3, 190) vs D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (6-3, 218)
Smith-Rivera is the other half of the Hoyas' scoring attack, and is actually the leading scorer on the team by a slim margin. He also torched the Musketeers from long distance in the first half play the Cintas Center finishing the game 3-of-5 from beyond the arc with 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field. He got a few of his best looks off a dribble handoff action that is a big part of the Hoyas' offense. The Musketeers seemed a little hesitant when chasing those handoffs probably in part because of the backdoor cuts that are also a big part of JT III's pseudo Princeton offense. They'll have to make sure they are there on the catch/handoff against DSR this time around as a slow start might be a lot more difficult to overcome on the road than it was in the friendly confines of the Cintas Center. Christon carried the Muskies' offense early in the last meeting between these teams while the rest of the team couldn't get it going. He helped spark the Musketeers' comeback in the second half with his defense, but then had to watch from the bench with four fouls as his teammates finished the run without him. Staying out of foul trouble while guarding either one of these guards is going to be key for both Davis and Christon, but it's hard to imagine the Musketeers surviving a road game of this magnitude with Christon on the bench for any extended period of time.
Slight Edge Xavier
Justin Martin Jr (6-6, 205) vs Reggie Cameron Fr (6-7, 225)
Cameron was the other player who really contributed to the Hoyas' first half onslaught at the Cintas Center. He's a little slow-footed and not the best athlete but he can definitely stretch the floor and knock down shots, which he did by hitting three 3-pointers to finish with 13 points. He's another player that might need to be defended a little bit differently than the Musketeers are accustomed to in the packline defense, as you have to chase Cameron off of the 3-point line and make him drive the ball. Martin is coming off a career-high 22-point performance in the win over DePaul. He was a matchup problem in that game. He used his size and strength to attack the basket with cuts and quick drives. After he got going by attacking aggressively, he then shot the ball with confidence from the outside and knocked down all three of his 3-point attempts. He's going to be a big key in this game because he could present a big matchup problem for the Hoyas if he plays that same way. Last time against Georgetown he scored just 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting from the field. He did grab seven rebounds, though.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Isaiah Philmore Sr (6-8, 237) vs Nate Lubick Sr (6-8, 219)
Lubick is a hard-working forward that typically makes his mark with his effort, defense and rebounding ability. While he made some plays on defense last time around (two steals, one block), he was rendered ineffective on the offensive end where he was just too small. Even on the defensive end when he wasn't able to make a play on the ball, he was able to be sealed deep underneath and seemed to be wore down by the end of the game. He had only four points and two boards. Philmore hasn't actually been starting, Stenger has, but Philmore is playing the majority of the minutes at the four so it's more useful to talk about him as it relates to the match-ups. He had 11 points and six rebounds against DePaul on Saturday, and while he still had a handful of plays where he got his shot served by a defender or lost the ball going up against bigger defenders, he also had a few really nice aggressive takes to the rim that showed another gear from him. The first meeting against Georgetown is actually Philmore's best Big East game to date this season, as he dropped 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field to go with 6-of-7 from the free-throw line. He also had five rebounds, all offensive. His strength clearly caused some issues for Lubick and Aaron Bowen last time around. Xavier could use him playing with the same type of confidence and physicality he showed in that game.
Matt Stainbrook Jr (6-10, 263) vs Mikael Hopkins Jr (6-9, 223)
Hopkins is an athletic and physical big man that shines as a shot blocker and rebounder. He was effective blocking shots in the last game against Xavier as he finished with four blocks, but he was ineffective as a scorer or rebounder against the bulkier Xavier frontcourt. He had just two points and four boards in 27 minutes of action. Stainbrook played the second most minutes (33) on Xavier's team in the last match-up between these programs, but he only scored seven points on 2-of-10 shooting while grabbing eight rebounds. He did make a big impact on offense by dishing out eight assists. Over the last three games, his minutes have been limited to an extent because of foul trouble which has seemed to, at least in part, get him out of rhythm offensively. He hasn't had double-digit shot attempts in three games since they beat Providence and he scored 13 points wile grabbing nine boards. Without Josh Smith inside for Georgetown, you'd like to see Stainbrook become real aggressive and try to take over on the offensive end in this game.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Xavier Bench vs Georgetown Bench
One aspect of this Georgetown team that Xavier did not have to deal with the last time around is junior Jabril Trawick, a thick 6-foot-5 wing that loves to get to the basket. He's a great finisher at the rim, and he draws tons of fouls as well. He'll step out and shoot a three or two per game but he's only a 26.9 percent shooter from beyond the arc on the year - that stat may or may not make him a prime candidate to hit five threes against X. In addition to Trawick, who will play starter-like minutes on the wing, Aaron Bowen, an undersized 6-6 face-up forward, will play significant minutes off the bench at the four. He came in and played a major role against X last time by hitting 4-of-5 shots off the bench and scoring nine points to go with four rebounds. He's only a 26.3 percent shooter from beyond the arc, but he's more than willing to shoot an open look. Senior center Moses Ayegba averages just under 13 minutes per game, but last time against X he played 18 to combat the Muskies' size inside. He was rather ineffective, finishing with 2 points on 0-of-2 shooting with one rebound, but he also effectively gets in the way of shot attempts at times on the defensive end. Neither Jalen Reynolds nor Erik Stenger played last time against the Hoyas, but James Farr saw 19 minutes off the bench and score nine points on 3-of-6 shooting with six rebounds. It will be interesting to see how those backup post minutes are divided up this time around, and hopefully we get to see a few minutes of Reynolds going against Hopkins.
The game at Cintas Center between these two teams was ridiculous. Xavier being down by 17 in the second half before dribbling the clock out with a 13-point victory made for a memorable match-up. The Hoyas are on a two-game losing streak right now following a 22-point loss to St. John's and a 15-point loss to Seton Hall. The Hoyas are going to come in with confidence on the offensive end with the way they scored the ball in the first half last time around against Xavier, but there's also a good chance they'll give up a lot of points after giving up 82 in back-to-back games to their last two opponents. Defensively, the big thing for X is handling Starks and Smith-Rivera on all the actions that the Hoyas run to free them for open looks. If they can bottle those two up, then the rest of their offense pretty much shuts down. This is one of two chances Xavier has left to pick up a quality road win to add to their tournament resume. This is a huge opportunity for the Musketeers, but definitely not a loss that will kill them either.
Score Prediction: Xavier 78 Georgetown 75