Dee Davis SR (6-0, 165) vs Mike Caffey SR (6-0, 175)
Caffey is a big-time player, as he showed in the season-opening loss at BYU where he scored 26 points (10-16 FG, 4-5 3-PT), dished out six assists and swiped five steals. Caffey entered the season with over 1,100 points in his career, and he was an All-Big West first team selection in his sophomore and junior seasons. Last year he led the team in scoring with an average of 16.2 points per game while also dishing 4.3 assists, another team-best. He’s a volume shooter that only shot 40.9 percent from the field and 29 percent from beyond the arc last year, but he’s off to a hot start this season. So far he’s knocked down 6-of-10 from beyond the arc and he’s shooting 58.3 percent from the field, so the big key for the Musketeers is to keep him from getting in rhythm. He will take tough, contested shots if they play sound defense and keep him out of the lane. Adding another talent like Tyler Lamb, who missed the first two games, alongside Caffey will only make it more difficult to slow him down, though. The Musketeers will need Davis to be at the top of his game in this one against the 49ers veteran backcourt, particularly on the defensive end. These are the kinds of match-ups where his defense can be a huge difference for Xavier.
Moderate Edge LBSU
Remy Abell JR (6-4, 195) vs McKay LaSalle SR (6-3, 185)
LaSalle has been strictly a kick-out shooter so far on the offensive end for the 49ers. He’s yet to attempt a two-pointer and he’s only 1-of-2 from the free-throw line, but he’s 9-of-15 from beyond the arc. He’s played the third most minutes on the team (27.5 mpg) so far, and should only get more open looks from the outside with Tyler Lamb being back in the mix. Abell got the start in game one and other than his three turnovers he played solid. The 49ers play a three-guard lineup so he very well may end up guarding Lamb, but either way his defensive energy will be important in shutting down Long Beach State’s experienced backcourt. Abell played four more minutes than Myles Davis did in the first game, and was tied with Jalen Reynolds for second on the team with 23 minutes. It’s clear, at least right now, the staff values the energy and athleticism that Abell brings.
Slight Edge Xavier
Trevon Bluiett FR (6-6, 215) vs Tyler Lamb SR (6-5, 205)
Lamb hasn’t played in the first two games due to a suspension, but having him back in the lineup is a huge boost for the 49ers. He started 18 games last season and was the second-leading scorer on the team with an average of 15.4 points per game. He shot 36 percent from beyond the arc on 111 attempts, so he’s capable and willing to shoot it from the outside if he gets space. Lamb will probably combine with Caffey to take somewhere around 60 to 70 percent of the team’s shots when they are on the court together. Lamb may not actually start with it being his first game back from suspension, but assume he’ll play as many minutes as possible. Bluiett was outstanding in his college debut as he set the record for most points ever scored by a Xavier freshman in their first game. While pounding the ball inside to Stainbrook should be the plan of attack early in this game again for X, Bluiett should find himself in position for another big offensive night; the ball just finds him on offense and so far the transition to college hasn’t seemed to change his uncanny ability to put the ball in the basket.
Slight Edge Xavier
James Farr JR (6-10, 247) vs Jack Williams FR (6-8, 195)
Williams is a thin, face-up forward that hit 2-of-4 threes in the loss at BYU. Most teams with a stretch big man try to pick-and-pop that guy against the Musketeers because of the way they jump ball-screens with their bigs. It’s unlikely, but if he provides some problems for X then they do have more options than they did last year in these situations. This is another game where Bluiett could slide down and play the four at some point if they feel they need to get quicker and add some offensive firepower. While Williams may provide a little bit of a threat on the offensive end, he becomes a major liability on the defensive end. Like their first game against Northern Arizona, the Musketeers should have a major size advantage in the post. We’ll assume Farr remains the starter even though Reynolds played six more minutes against NAU. Farr didn’t get into the flow on offense Friday but did contribute with 2 points (1-3 FG, 0-2 3PT), 4 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 assists. The Musketeers don’t necessarily need him to score. As long as he’s playing hard on defense and on the glass, he’s fulfilling his role. However, if he gets his confidence going and starts hitting some shots then it just adds another dimension to their offense.
Slight Edge Xavier
Matt Stainbrook SR (6-10, 270) vs David Samuels JR (6-7, 225)
Samuels is the team’s third-leading scorer through the first two games (11.0 ppg) and the leading rebounder (5.0 rpg). However, he’s giving up three inches and 45 pounds to Stainbrook, so it’d be a surprise to see him replicate that type of success against X. He’ll share minutes with FGCU transfer Eric McKnight (6-9. 220) and a 6-7, 260-pound freshman named Temidayo Yussuf. The 49ers will likely rotate their bigs throughout the game to use up their fouls against Stainbrook and company. The Musketeers rode their senior big man early in game one, as Stainbrook scored their first seven points against NAU. The strategy against LBSU should be the same with the 49ers lacking size and talent in the post.
Significant Edge Xavier
Long Beach State Bench vs Xavier Bench
Just like the Musketeers, the 49ers feel like they have a lot of depth this season and they’re expecting their freshman class to contribute. They’ve gone 9 to 10 deep their first two games, and tonight they’ll be adding another starter back into the mix with Lamb. The most notable substitute off the bench is 6-4 freshman wing Deyontae North. Despite coming off the bench, North has averaged the second most minutes on the team over the first two games at 28.5 minutes. He’s 2-for-4 from beyond the arc and is averaging 9.5 points and 3.0 rebounds. Eric McKnight is an athletic 6-9 transfer from FGCU’s Dunk City team, who’s averaging 17.5 minutes per game but could see his role increased against Xavier’s frontcourt. The Musketeers outscored NAU, 45-17, in bench points Friday night. They received a big lift from Myles Davis (13 pts, 3-3 3PT, 3 assists) and Jalen Reynolds (16 pts, 8-9 FG, 5 reb.) in particular, though it’s hard to call either one of them bench players as either could very easily be starting. At this point in the season while Chris Mack’s rotation is so big, it’s going to be fun to watch who steps up out of the young guys on a game-to-game basis. After Bluiett, Macura was the most impressive in game one with seven points on 3-of-7 shooting. Sean O’Mara will be trying to settle down and avoid fouling after disqualifying himself in just six minutes of action Friday night. If he’s able to stay on the court, he could have a very productive night against another undersized opponent.
Moderate Edge Xavier
The Musketeers game plan, at least offensively, will likely be the same as it was in the opener against NAU – pound the ball inside to Stainbrook and Reynolds and let them overwhelm an undersized frontcourt. LBSU would like to get up and down the court and try to negate Xavier’s size advantage by playing fast at both ends, but I don’t think the Musketeers will mind getting out and running with the 49ers. Xavier has to be prepared for the fact that their big men are face-up, mobile guys that can handle it. The biggest concern with the 49ers is shutting down Caffey and Lamb, though. If the Musketeers are able to hold those guys in check, they should be fine. Long Beach State comes into the game averaging 82 points through two games, while Xavier is leading the nation in 2-point field goal percentage (82.9%) after one game - expect a high-scoring affair.