Dee Davis SR (6-0, 170) vs Ricky Tarrant JR (6-2, 190)
Tarrant, a Tulane transfer, has made a big impact for the Crimson Tide’s offense after sitting out last season. He’s always been known as a bucket-getter, and scored 1,013 points in two seasons as an All-Conference USA performer before arriving in Tuscaloosa. His 14.0 points per game is second best on his team, and he’s been on a roll recently, averaging 15.8 points over the last five games, including a 17-point (3-9 FG, 2-5 3PT), 8 assist and 5 steal effort last time out against South Florida. Regardless of what the stats say, Xavier needs more out of Davis. He made some very questionable decisions during the Wooden Legacy tournament, especially when it comes to shot selection, and provided very little guidance when the Musketeers were on the ropes during their two losses. He's putting up steady numbers, but X needs more than steady from its senior point guard if it wants to reach its full potential this season.
Moderate Edge Alabama
Remy Abell JR (6-4, 194) vs Levi Randolph SR (6-5, 208)
Randolph, a team captain, leads the Crimson Tide in points (19.5 ppg), rebounds (6.2 rpg), assists (2.3 apg) and minutes (34.2 mpg). He scored a season-high 28 points against Arizona State a few weeks ago, and had 14 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals against South Florida. The Musketeers absolutely cannot give him open looks from three where he’s shooting 41.2 percent, or put him at the free-throw line where he’s shooting 97.3 percent. Abell averaged 7.3 points, 1.3 assists and 1.3 steals with no turnovers in three games during the Wooden Legacy tournament.
Moderate Edge Alabama
Trevon Bluiett FR (6-6, 215) vs Rodney Cooper JR (6-6, 215)
Cooper is a big-bodied, skilled wing. He ranks third on the team in scoring at 12.3 points per game, but he’s averaged 17.3 points over the Crimson Tide’s last three games. He’s the team’s top 3-point shooting option at 43.5 percent and is capable of putting up big totals as he showed in the Iowa State game when he scored a season-high 27 points or in Tuesday’s game against South Florida when he put up 20. Bluiett is tied with Matt Stainbrook at 16.0 points per game as Xavier’s leading scorer. Despite his impressive start, the freshman did show his first signs of struggling during the Wooden Legacy tournament. While he still played well in comparison to the rest of the team, he shot a poor percentage in the two losses, including 0-for-3 from beyond the arc in the Long Beach State loss. He had trouble finishing off drives around the rim, and just looked a little off in the second halves of those games. His effort never wavered, though, as he hauled in 6.5 rebounds per game in those losses. This should be a good match-up between two fairly similar players.
Slight Edge Xavier
James Farr JR (6-10, 244) vs Shannon Hale SO (6-8, 226)
Hale, an SEC All-Freshman selection last year, is a skilled face-up forward. Though he’s only shooting 17.2 percent from 3-point range this season, he’s a pretty good shooter (35.2% last year) and could be a problem for Xavier’s struggling 3-point defense. Hale also likes to use a pump fake and then drive his defender to the rim. He’s a good ballhandler, and a strong rebounder. Farr, and really the power forward position in general, was a bright spot for the Musketeers in Anaheim. Farr produced two double-digit rebounding efforts in the three games, including hauling in 11 last game against Long Beach State to go along with three blocks and two steals. Continuing to earn an advantage on the glass is huge for this Xavier team at both ends, and lately Farr has set the tone on the boards.
Matt Stainbrook SR (6-10, 270) vs Jimmie Taylor SO (6-10, 240)
Taylor is a rebounder and rim protector that is basically an offensive zero as long as you keep him off of the boards. He’s not huge, but he has legitimate size and is a big man that plays above the rim. He recorded a career-high 11 rebounds last game against South Florida. Stainbrook still hasn’t ran into too many legitimate big men that can contain him when he catches the ball inside, and as a result he leads the team in field goal percentage at 72.6 percent. However, Xavier needs more out of him. Like Davis, he didn’t have any answers when the Musketeers struggled at the Wooden legacy, and his defense (particularly ball-screen defense) really cost this team at times. Stainbrook has been a huge asset on the offensive end this year, but he can do more.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Xavier Bench vs Alabama Bench
The Crimson Tide’s sixth-man is a 5-10 freshman point guard named Justin Coleman. He averages 7.0 points and 2.3 assists per game in 23 minutes of action. He hasn’t proven to be a good shooter yet, but that hasn’t stopped him from jacking 3-pointers. One of Alabama’s other top reserves is another freshman, 6-7 wing Riley Norris. He’s a solid rebounder that typically floats on the perimeter looking for threes on the offensive end. Sophomore forward Michael Kessens, a 6-7 Longwood transfer that sat out last year, played a big role in Tuesday’s win over South Florida with career-highs of 9 points and 8 boards. Myles Davis (10 ppg, 3rd on the team) and Jalen Reynolds (8.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg) have been Xavier’s top reserve options this season off a deep bench. The Musketeers received a lift from both of those guys in their two losses at the Wooden Legacy tournament.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Alabama is 5-1 with its lone loss coming to Iowa State. Xavier has to take care of the ball in this game. Anthony Grant's teams like to turn up the pressure and play aggressive defense. The Crimson Tide forced South Florida into 21 turnovers in its 82-71 win on Tuesday and converted those miscues into 26 points. If the Musketeers do take care of the basketball, they should get some easy points as the Crimson Tide are ranked 268th in the nation in effective field goal percentage on the defensive end, allowing opponents to shoot 52.1 percent. Their high-intensity, gambling style of play causes them to over pursue and get out of position at times. Xavier ranks 11th in the country in effective field goal percentage at 57.7 percent. Alabama only shoots 32.4 percent from 3-point range as a team, but they are one of those squads that could be a problem for the Musketeers if their perimeter defense is lacking again. The Crimson Tide have a few very willing and capable shooters. Alabama, ranked 62nd by KenPom, is Xavier’s stiffest test of the season so far on paper. Stephen F. Austin is ranked 65th currently. With both of these teams playing at an above average pace and having questionable defenses, we could see a lot of points put up in the Cintas Center.