Chatman is a great role player at the point position. He's very confident in his role, and it's a role that's very similar to what Xavier asks out of Davis. The first game against Xavier he played it well by scoring 12 points in an efficient manner (2-for-3 FG, 2-for-2 3PT, 6-for-8 FT), while also grabbing five rebounds, dishing out four assists and swiping two steals on the defensive end. The only downside to his performance was the five turnovers he had that helped Xavier score 17 points off of 14 turnovers, which was one of the only times all season that the Musketeers have forced their opponent into double-digit turnovers. While Chatman was good, Davis got the best of this match-up, scoring 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting (4-of-6 3PT) to go with eight assists a steal and only two turnovers. Feeling confident in his ability to win the one-on-one match-up, Davis showed a great feel for when to be aggressive with his shot and when to create for his teammates. If X is going to pull off a big upset, it'll need Davis to play like that again.
Slight Edge Xavier
Semaj Christon So (6-3, 190) vs Jahenns Manigat Sr (6-1, 180)
Manigat is another guy who understands his role and is dangerous because of that. He's easy to slack off of or forget about because he rarely plays with the ball in his hands and has a very low usage rate, but he's got the ability to stay locked in and focused in between his rare shot attempts and will knock down any open looks if his defender falls asleep or strays too far away. He's shooting 44.5 percent from beyond the arc on the season, with over 73 percent of his attempts coming from long range. He scored 11 on 3-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc last time against X. In that first match-up, Creighton proved that they have no real answer for Christon on the defensive end. Christon's confidence could easily be seen in the boxscore as his 17 shot attempts are the most he's had all season. Part of that can be attributed to the fact that they also had 79 possessions in that game, which is a pace they've only reached in three other games, but it was still clear that X's game plan was to let it's best player try to take advantage of his mismatch. He finished 10-of-17 from the field, including 2-of-3 from beyond the arc (another stat that showed his confidence), with five assists and four rebounds. He struggled to finish in the St. John's game (5-of-14 FG) with all the athletes and length protecting the rim, but he still finished with seven boards, six assists and provided energy on defense. If he can bring that same aggressiveness and attitude against Creighton, he should end up with a big night.
Significant Edge Xavier
Justin Martin Jr (6-6, 205) vs Grant Gibbs Sr (6-5, 210)
One big difference between the first match-up and this game is that the Blue Jays will have one of their top players back in Gibbs. The senior wing adds athleticism to their lineup and gives them a player that can score in multiple ways, including penalizing an opponent for getting too spread out trying to defend the perimeter. Gibbs gets nearly half of his shots off of drives to the rim where he's a great finisher at 66.7 percent, but he's also capable of spotting up and knocking down the 3-pointer at a 41.9 percent clip as well, so he fits really well within Creighton's offense. Martin was feeling it the last time these teams played, and put up his second best offensive performance of the year with 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including 5-of-10 from 3-point range. He also finished with eight rebounds. It's hard to imagine Xavier scoring enough points to keep pace with Creighton and Martin not having a good game, so his shooting will be huge. With the way the Blue Jays double-teamed Stainbrook last time, he's one of the guys who really benefited by knocking down open looks from three and cutting to the basket for easy buckets.
Isaiah Philmore Sr (6-8, 237) vs Ethan Wragge Sr (6-7, 225)
We all saw how dangerous Wragge can be in the last game when he went 5-for-10 from 3-point range. The idea that they have a post player who is strictly a sniper is a weird concept to defend in the first place, and add in how talented he is with the ability to quickly pull from really long range in transition and it makes it a very unique situation to defend. Of course, this is all without factoring in Doug McDermott as the other post player alongside Wragge, which basically makes the Blue Jays' offense unfair when its hitting on all cylinders. Still to this point in the season, only two of his attempts have come from inside the 3-point arc. Philmore got the start in the St. John's game but only played 24 minutes, while Jalen Reyolds played 29 split between the four and the five. I assume Philmore will still be starting, but, as was made clear when Erik Stenger was starting for a few games, this starter's role at the four is basically up for grabs right now and will go to the hot hand. It will be interesting to see how the Musketeers defend Wragge. In addition to potentially trying to deny him and make his catches tough, it wouldn't be a complete shock to see them play with a smaller lineup some and let someone like Martin chase him around the perimeter. This is without a doubt the most interesting match-up of the game. It's worth noting that Philmore played pretty well in the St. John's game. He had 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting with five rebounds. He did have a few shots blocked and he was too weak with the ball still on a few occasions in the post which led to three turnovers, but ultimately it was a solid performance from him.
Moderate Edge Creighton
Matt Stainbrook Jr (6-10, 263) vs Doug McDermott Sr (6-8, 225)
At this point, slowing down McDermott almost seems like a lost cause. He's one of the best scorers in the history of college basketball, and has seen virtually every defense known to mankind. He's scored 25 or more in the last seven games, and has hit 39 twice during that stretch (St. John's, Villanova). He was way too comfortable in the first match-up against the Musketeers, as he knocked down 13-of-24 shots from the field, including 4-of-10 from three, for 35 points to go with his seven boards and three assists. Those 24 shots were his second most of the season. To a certain extent, it seems that you have to let him get his, and figure out a way to limit the rest of the role players from having big nights, but at the same time X needs to do something different to make McDermott a little less comfortable. The only team that shut him down this year was George Washington, and the Colonials did it by switching up defenses to keep him from getting in a rhythm. When they were in man-to-man they guarded him with a long, athletic shot blocker in Isaiah Armwood, so don't be surprised to see the Musketeers try Reynolds on him. Last time, Creighton defended Stainbrook by sending a double-team at him when he got the ball in the post. They don't have the size to match-up with him on the inside, which led to an efficient double-double for X's center (15 points on 7-of-11 FG, 11 rebounds), but maybe more important to the Musketeers' offensive success in that match-up was Stainbrook's passing out of those double teams. He did have four turnovers, but he also found his teammates for some wide open 3-point looks while racking up four assists. Great ball movement after they crash Stainbrook in the post will again be a big key to attacking the Blue Jays' defense.
Moderate Edge Creighton
Xavier Bench vs Creighton's Bench
Last time the lack of Gibbs made a thin Creighton team even thinner. Junior 6-6 wing Avery Dingman got the start, but he's barely been a factor recently for the Blue Jays, playing six minutes or less and being held scoreless in four of the last five games. With his minutes decreasing, 6-2 freshman guard Isaiah Zierden has been playing more recently. He scored a career-high 13 points in the win over Villanova, and has shown the ability to hit the three and take care of the basketball. Will Artino will definitely play a role off the bench to help match-up with Stainbrook inside. The 6-11, 230-pound junior saw 16 minutes last time against the Musketeers and made his only field goal attempt to finish with four points and eight rebounds. Finally, 6-2 guard Devin Brooks is the only other regular contributor. He's a solid defender and a decent athlete. He scored 14 against X last game, with six of those points coming from the free-throw line. X is going to have to do a better job of guarding without fouling, as they let Creighton gain an eight-point edge at the charity stripe in that game. Assuming he's still on the bench, Xavier has the biggest difference-maker between the two teams in Jalen Reynolds. Reynolds is coming off a monster breakout performance at Madison Square Garden, and should have the full support of the standing room only crowd at Cintas on Saturday. He would seem to be a huge part of the game plan in this one because of his ability to help defensively, so him being able to stay on the court will be key. He only saw three minutes in the first game against Creighton. Neither Myles Davis nor James Farr had a good shooting day at Creighton (combined 1-for-5 from 3PT), so a few big shots from either one of those guys would be a big boost in the arm.
This is a huge game for multiple reasons, but most simply is that the Musketeers can basically secure their spot in the NCAA tournament with a win over the No. 9 ranked team in the country. While they'll get another opportunity next week to play a top 10 team at home in Villanova, this is definitely the better opportunity for the Musketeers. They present a lot more match-up problems for Creighton than they do Villanova, and the Blue Jays are reliant on a much riskier variable than are the Wildcats. If Creighton doesn't light it up from three, which isn't very likely but slightly more possible on the road, then they are a very beatable opponent for X. One of X's biggest problems in the first meeting was't just that they gave up 35 points to McDermott, but that they allowed three other guys to torch them from three and four other guys to make significant contributions on the offensive end. He's going to get his points, that much has become clear over the course of the last three seasons, but there's no possible way to beat them if four other guys are scoring in double-figures and he's doing his thing. X is going to have to take a little more pride in its defense and its toughness inside than it did the first time around. They only out-rebounded the Blue Jays 35-34 in that game, and part of it was probably due to a combination of the Musketeers being fatigued/out of position from chasing their bigs all over the perimeter and lots of long rebounds coming off of all their jumpers, but I still think a huge key to pulling off this upset will be absolutely owning the paint and the boards. If the Blue Jays don't shoot it all that well, Xavier definitely has a great chance to pull the upset on the home floor, but with the way the Muskies have defended the perimeter it's almost impossible to expect that. It will be very interesting to see what Coach Mack comes up with defensively for this game, especially after Friday's practice was closed to the media.
Score Prediction: Creighton 81 Xavier 75