Dee Davis SR (6-0, 170) vs Trey Pinkney JR (5-9, 160)
Pinkney is an experienced point guard that started every game last year for the Lumberjacks. He’s not a threat to score, but he is a savvy guard with quickness that the Musketeers have to keep in front of them on the defensive end. If he’s able to get into the lane and X has to help, he’ll take advantage by finding the open guy. He’s the team’s assist leader with 3.5 per game so far. He’s a capable 3-point shooter if left alone or found on a kick-out, but he won’t attempt more than one or two a game. Davis doesn’t look to be showing any ill effects from his rib injury that was bothering him over the last few weeks. He’s coming off a strong performance in the win over Long Beach State where he helped get the offense off to a smooth start with two early threes, and finished the game with nine assists and two turnovers. If he can play another game like that offensively and provide tough defense against Pinkney and more importantly spark plug guard Demetrious Floyd off of the bench, it will go a long way toward a Xavier win.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Remy Abell JR (6-4, 195) vs Dallas Cameron SO (6-3, 180)
Cameron played in every game last year as a reserve off the bench and averaged 2.4 points and 1.4 assists. He didn’t look to be much of a shooter, finishing the year just 5-of-27 from beyond the arc, but he hit 3-of-5 in the first game of the season and scored 11 points. In the second game against Northern Iowa he fouled out in 21 minutes of action with no points, no rebounds, one assist, one block and one turnover. It’s hard to tell who the real Dallas Cameron is just yet at this point in his career, but it would seem that the Musketeers should get a hand in his face early and make sure he doesn’t gain some confidence and become a real threat. Abell gave Xavier exactly what they expect out of him last game – he accepted a tough one-on-one challenge on defense and did well (even though he can still improve overall on that end within the system), and he gave them energy on offense with 13 points (6-13 FG, 1-6 3PT), 3 assists and no turnovers. The main aspect you could nitpick about his game so far and ask him to improve on is his willingness to settle for quick threes instead of attacking the rim where he’s been almost impossible to stop, especially in transition.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Trevon Bluiett FR (6-6, 215) vs Thomas Walkup JR (6-4, 195)
Walkup was named to the preseason All-Southland League Conference’s second team after starting last year and averaging 13.1 points and 5.3 rebounds. His junior season is off to a strong start, as he’s the Jacks’ leading scorer and rebounder at 16.5 points per game to go with 7.5 rebounds. He also leads the team with 2.5 steals. Walkup can score in a variety of ways, including from the perimeter, and he does a good job of using his size and body to get his shot off. Bluiett will probably draw this match-up initially, and it should be a good one for him. Walkup isn’t a special athlete or super quick. He’s similar to Bluiett and more experienced, though not as talented. Bluiett has shown off his full skill-set over the first two games, impacting the Musketeers in every facet of the game while leading them in minutes and scoring. It’s likely that Bluiett will end up spending a lot of the time playing at the four in this game, and he’ll be guarding someone else, though SFA’s players don’t really get a whole lot bigger.
Slight Edge Xavier
James Farr JR (6-10, 247) vs Clide Geffrard JR (6-5, 220)
Geffrard is a versatile and athletic JUCO recruit that head coach Brad Underwood brought in to add some energy and defense to his lineup. He’s averaging 8.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 steals per game, but he’s also been erratic and careless with the ball in his hands while leading the team with 4.0 turnovers. He’s also just 1-for-8 from beyond the arc. He can make opposing defenders look bad at times with his ability, but him getting shot happy and trying to take over the game on offense is also a best case scenario for the defense. Farr played much better against Long Beach State than he did in the exhibition or the season-opener. He was more involved on offense, scoring 8 points (3-9 FG, 2-3 3PT) to go with four rebounds, a block and a steal. His night would have looked much better if he could finished off at least two or three more easy shots at the rim. His improved mobility on defense will be key to staying on the court in this game.
Matt Stainbrook SR (6-10, 270) vs Jacob Parker SR (6-6, 210)
Parker was the Southland Conference Player of the year last after averaging 14.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists. He’s tied with junior Demetrious Floyd as the second-leading scorer on the team so far this year at 14.5 points per game. Parker might be the most skilled player on the Lumberjacks’ roster. He plays as a face-up forward that never really works on the block offensively, though he does battle in the paint for boards. He was 3-of-6 from 3-point range and 6-of-10 from the field in the loss to Northern Iowa with 15 points, 9 boards and 3 assists. This is a match-up that is certainly worrisome for both teams on the defensive end. Parker is the exact type of forward that typically gives Xavier trouble and the only post player they have that can guard him may be Bluiett, but at the same time the Lumberjacks have absolutely no answer for Stainbrook’s size in their starting lineup or on their bench. Northern Iowa outscored them 44-18 in the paint and out-rebounded them 36-30. The Musketeers showed they can still find success on offense without Stainbrook being super involved last game, as he only finished with 11 points and two assists in their 97-74 win over Long Beach State, but it would seem that if they can hide him enough on defense to keep him on the court then he could really control the game on offense against a very undersized Stephen F. Austin team.
Slight Edge Stephen F. Austin
Xavier’s Bench vs Stephen F. Austin’s Bench
In addition to the three returning starters from last year, the Lumberjacks also have senior wing Connor Brooks, senior forward Tanner Clayton, and sophomore guard Justin Dotson back in their rotation from a year ago. Demetrious Floyd, a 5-11 JUCO transfer that averaged 11.6 points per game last year at Chipola College, has played a sixth-man role for this team so far, averaging 22 minutes and 14.5 points per game off of the bench. He’s taken the second most shots on the team, and is always looking to jack a three (6-of-12) if he gets any space. He’s short but quick, and he can score points in a hurry when he gets going. Brooks started the first game and only played 15 minutes, but then came off the bench against Northern Iowa and responded with 9 points (2-2 FG, 1-1 3PT), 4 boards, 3 steals and 2 assists. Freshman 6-5 guard Ty Charles, a three-star recruit out of Texas, will likely see the next most minutes. He’s a well-put together young player that can create off the dribble, but he’s also had three turnovers and just one assist in these first two games. Xavier has received 42.0 points per game from its bench so far on the year, and different guys have contributed each game. Expect this to be another opportunity for the guards – Myles Davis, Brandon Randolph, and J.P. Macura – to get some extra minutes on the court due to Stephen F. Austin’s smaller and skilled lineup. Macura and Davis are both coming off big performances in the win over Long Beach State, as Macura finished with 17 and Davis had 15. Xavier needs those guys to step up again, not only on the offensive end but also more importantly on defense. It will be interesting to track Jalen Reynolds’ role in this one. He may be a better option at the five over Stainbrook because of his defensive mobility. Or, this game may not suit his style at all and his minutes might be depleted if Xavier has to go small the majority of the time.
Slight Edge Xavier
This is the Musketeers’ first-ever meeting with the two-time defending Southland League Conference regular season and tournament champions, and it should be a great test this early in the season for Chris Mack’s team. The league’s coaches and sports information directors named the Lumberjacks the preseason favorite to repeat as conference champs again this season. They lost two starters and the sixth man off of last year’s team that went 32-3 overall, and a perfect 18-0 during conference play. The chess match between SFA trying to use its five-out offense and skilled undersized lineup to negate Xavier’s size versus the Musketeers trying to utilize their significant advantage in the paint will be entertaining to watch. The Jacks typically play tough, half-court man-to-man defense, so Xavier will have to take care of the ball and be patient enough to get it into the post. SFA has an experienced and confident core leading the way, but it also added a bunch of new faces to the mix and coach Brad Underwood is still trying to find the right on court chemistry for his team to be most efficient. This game will tell us a lot about both teams: Is Xavier as talented and advanced offensively as it’s looked against two overmatched opponents? Is Stephen F. Austin the same team it was last year and ready to bounce back after suffering a tough home loss, or has the chemistry of this team changed with one of the most winning senior classes in school history graduating last year?