Dee Davis SR (6-0, 170) vs Cameron Payne SO (6-2, 180)
The reigning Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year is the team’s second leading scorer at 17.0 points per game, and is one of the most talented young point guards in the country. He’s a big-time scorer that can get into the lane at will and knock down the jumper, even though he hasn’t shot well so far this season (2-for-13 3PT). He also possesses a very high IQ, and leads the team in assists with 5.0 per game. On the defensive end he’s a thief, leading the Racers in steals by a landslide with 14. The next highest total is five by Justin Seymore who comes off the bench. The Musketeers have played some gifted guards already this season, and Payne ranks right up there with the best of them. This should be another great challenge for Dee Davis. Xavier having a veteran like Davis who has been through so many defensive wars and defended so many different types of scorers is a great luxury. It’s also nice for the Musketeers that he is a calming influence that can negate pressure with his handle, so the Racers’ defense shouldn’t be a huge factor. If Davis eliminates the bizarre shot selections and decisions from last game, his performance should be exactly what this team needs out of its point guard.
Moderate Edge Murray State
Remy Abell JR (6-4, 195) vs T.J. Sapp SR (6-3, 190)
Sapp’s stats so far may not look impressive (especially his 2-for-13 mark from three), but the Musketeers have to be careful not to fall asleep on Murray State’s role players while focusing on Payne and Jarvis Williams. Sapp is one of the guys who could make them pay if they help too much on the Racers’ star players. After sitting out half of last season following a mid-season transfer from Clemson, he averaged 13.3 points per game the second half of the year and shot 39.8 percent from 3-point range. He’s not a stud, but Sapp is an experienced guard that always plays hard and willingly accepts his role on the team. This should be a solid match-up. Abell has had some tough individual challenges on defense, and he’s done well against those. Sapp might challenge his discipline off the ball more so than his toughness on the ball, though, so that will be interesting to see how he does within the system.
Slight Edge Xavier
Trevon Bluiett FR (6-6, 215) vs Jeffrey Moss JR (6-4, 188)
Moss has a role similar to Sapp’s; he’s not one of the stars of the team but he is capable of scoring. He averaged 13.2 points per game last season while shooting 37.5 percent from the outside. He’s 5-of-14 from three so far this year. Moss isn’t much of a rebounder or a defender, just a very efficient offensive player that takes care of the ball and makes good decisions. Bluiett has been everything he was hyped to be and then some through his first three collegiate games. He’s the Musketeers’ leading scorer at 18.5 points per game, and he’s been their best overall player with his contributions as a rebounder, passer and adequate (better than expected) defender.
Moderate Edge Xavier
James Farr JR (6-10, 247) vs Jarvis Williams JR (6-8, 215)
Payne received a lot of the hype coming into the season after his Freshman of the Year campaign last season, but Williams is one heck of a sidekick. He leads the team in scoring with 19.7 points and he’s been a monster on the boards, averaging 9.3 rebounds through the first three games. He isn’t just doing his work on the defensive boards either; the Musketeers, particularly the fours who will draw this match-up in Farr and Jalen Reynolds, have to make sure they box him out to keep him from getting putbacks that will help add to his offensive output. Williams has been highly efficient on the offensive end so far this year. He’s an extremely athletic and lean forward that does most of his damage in transition, with hustle points or the aforementioned offensive putbacks – in other words, he’s mostly taking high percentage shots. Farr hasn’t exactly gotten it going on the offensive end yet for the Musketeers, and part of that is because it’s just not his role on this team. He has made a few threes on pick-and-pops or kick-outs, which is where he needs to be a major threat when he’s in the game. This is going to be a big test for Farr to earn/keep his minutes. He has to keep the more athletic Williams off the boards. The good news is the Musketeers do have an athletic freak waiting on the bench, so this match-up won’t be too big of a disadvantage either way.
Slight Edge Murray State
Matt Stainbrook SR (6-10, 270) vs Jonathan Fairell SR (6-7, 265)
Fairell’s bulk will make him a key player in this game for the Racers. He's only averaged 14.7 minutes through the first three games, partially due to foul trouble. He's also had turnover issues and could be in better shape, but he was one of Murray State’s best post defenders last season in a limited role and his presence is a necessity against the much bigger Musketeers. Stainbrook has been everything the Musketeers expect him to be so far. Last game he had a bad match-up defensively, but he made the Lumberjacks pay for it by being so efficient on the offensive end. He may face more difficult match-ups in this game when the Racers decide to go small, but none of their big men shoot like Jacob Parker of Stephen F. Austin.
Significant Edge Xavier
Xavier’s Bench vs Murray State’s Bench
The Racers will go eight deep, starting with Justin Seymour, a 6-3 sophomore guard with a strong build that came off the bench to play 32 minutes in their loss to Houston. Seymour sat out last year after transferring from Utah where he played in 25 games and started two as a freshman. He’s the third leading scorer on the team with an average of 8.3 points and 2.0 assists in 22.3 minutes per game. Six-foot-5, 220-pound forward Tyler Rambo played 25 minutes in the first game of the year against Middle Tennessee, and is averaging 7.0 points in 22.5 minutes per game, with most of his work coming around the basket where he has a knack for drawing contact and getting to the free-throw line. Kedrick Flomo should round out Coach Steve Prohm’s rotation. All three of the 6-1, 180-pound Flomo’s made field goals on the year have been 3-pointers, and he’s also a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe. He has been turnover prone, though. Xavier has been getting a big lift from its bench each game so far. Myles Davis and J.P. Macura have both been instant offense, and Jalen Reynolds should be a big factor in this game as the Musketeers will need him to match-up with a very similar player in Jarvis Williams.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Murray State is the preseason favorite to win the OVC. The Racers are 2-1 on the season, after suffering a 77-74 loss to Houston in their opener and then pounding Middle Tennessee (68-49) and NAIA Brescia (89-56). On the offensive end, they’ll be content to jack threes, especially if/when they start having trouble getting the ball into the paint. The Musketeers have to make sure they get a hand up and get out on shooters. Stephen F. Austin shot 40 percent from beyond the arc against X, and it could have been a lot worse if they knocked down more of their open looks. The last thing Xavier wants in this game is to let Moss, Payne, Sapp or even Seymour and Flomo off the bench get hot. The Racers are only shooting 24.3 percent from beyond the arc as a team, but they have guys who have proven their ability before from the outside and it hasn’t stopped them from taking those shots. Prohm likes to change defenses a lot, but with his experienced backcourt going up against a team with a big size advantage it would seem he might try to pick up fullcourt and pressure Xavier’s guards as much as possible. Either way, it hasn’t mattered for Xavier this year. While the Musketeers have held a size advantage in every match-up so far and the game plan has been to work the ball into the post, they’ve excelled when the game has turned up-tempo and they’ve been able to get out in transition. The Racers should be another decent challenge, similar to Stephen F. Austin, but if X continues to play the way it has for the first three games then it will be able to advance to 4-0 without too much trouble.