Dee Davis SR (6-0, 170) vs Brett Comer SR (6-3, 202)
Comer is the lynchpin to the Eagles’ offensive success. He’s great with the ball in his hands, and has tremendous feel when operating in pick-and-roll situations or just penetrating and trying to find a passing lane. He’s their second-leading scorer at 12.2 points per game and his 7.5 assists ranks third in the country. He’s been on an offensive tear, scoring 15, 19 and 22 in his last three games against Florida International, Furman and at Iona. The Musketeers have to be really tough with their ball-screen defense against Comer, which they struggled with in the second half against Auburn. If they give him a lane to drive he’ll make a play, and if they give him too much space he’s a 39.3 percent shooter from 3-point range. Davis made some plays for the 18 minutes he was on the court against Auburn and finished with nine points, but the Musketeers fell apart in the second half without him on the court due to foul trouble. Fortunately for X, he very rarely gets into foul trouble and four of the five fouls called on him in that game were questionable, so they shouldn’t have to deal with that situation too often. Davis’ ball pressure and defense against Comer is going to be important for the Muskies in this match-up.
Slight Edge FGCU
Remy Abell JR (6-4, 194) vs Bernard Thompson SR (6-3, 175)
Thompson is the top overall player for the Eagles and was voted the preseason player of the year and defensive player of the year in the Atlantic-Sun. he’s the leading scorer on the team at 15.3 points per game to go with 3.8 rebounds and 2.0 steals. He’s had eight multi-steal games this year, including five games with three or more. He’s improved his outside shooting every year that he’s been at FGCU and is all the way up to 41.7 percent from the outside this season while attempting six threes per game. The Musketeers will have to keep in check. He’s capable of putting up the big game as he showed at Ohio earlier this year when he dropped a school D1 record 34 points on the Bobcats. Abell came up huge down the stretch against Auburn and really carried the Musketeers at the end of regulation. He played 45 minutes in that double-overtime battle and finished with 18 points, which included a 6-of-7 pressurized performance at the free-throw line.
Slight Edge Xavier
Trevon Bluiett FR (6-6, 215) vs Julian DeBose JR (6-4, 197)
Debose sat out last year after transferring from Rice where he averaged 10.4 points and 4.3 rebounds as a sophomore. This year he’s averaging 11.0 points and 3.6 rebounds for the Eagles. He had a string of five straight games where he scored in double figures snapped in Tuesday’s loss to Iona. Debose is attempting just over two 3-pointers per game, but he’s only shooting 32 percent from the outside. He’s at his best when he’s getting to the foul line where he’s an 89.5 percent free-throw shooter. The Musketeers are hoping Bluiett’s 16 points and seven boards against Auburn is a sign that he’s breaking out of his little scuffle he had for a few games. He started off slow against the Tigers, missing another finish around the rim and a few threes, but then he turned it on in the second half and made some big shots. This should be a good match-up for Bluiett as the Eagles lack a wing with the size, strength and athleticism to shut him down, and they don’t seem to have a big-time scorer or athlete that can expose him on the defensive end.
Moderate Edge Xavier
James Farr JR (6-10, 244) vs Demetris Morant SO (6-9, 209-)
Morant is an athletic forward that was brought in to fit the “Dunk City” style of play that FGCU became known for during their 2013 NCAA tournament run. He can run up and down the court all day and he likes to play above the rim. He scored a career-high 13 points two games ago against Furman, with 10 of them coming on five dunks. This position might be in flux a little bit. To this point in the season, Farr has started and played more minutes than Reynolds. And for the most part, he’s been pretty productive, especially during a four-game stretch starting with Murray State where he was really an animal on the boards. However, over the last few games, particularly against Auburn, he’s struggled a little bit. He had just five points and two rebounds in 12 minutes in that game, while Reynolds came off the bench and provided a major lift with 16 points and 6 boards in 25 minutes. Reynolds has yet to show he can play that way consistently, so this is a big opportunity for Farr to show he can bounce back and deserves to keep his minutes.
Slight Edge Xavier
Matt Stainbrook SR (6-10, 270) vs Nate Hicks SR (6-10, 227)
Hicks is averaging 4.2 points per game and 4.5 rebounds in 16.7 minutes of action. He’s rebounded the ball well against some smaller teams of late, but a full glance at his game-by-game statistics shows that he’s been less than consistent with his production. It seems that he struggles when he’s up against opposing post players that are much stronger or more athletic than him. When Hicks is on the court, the Musketeers need to try and dominate in the post with Stainbrook. Hicks gives him a match-up that he can hang with on the defensive end, but should be able to overpower inside on offense. It will be interesting to see how many minutes (if any?) Stainbrook can give the Musketeers after coming down with an illness Friday. He went through a lift and cardio workout that morning, but was sent home before practice.
Significant Edge Xavier
Xavier Bench vs FGCU Bench
The Eagles will be without the services of Marquette transfer Jamail Jones (11.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg) as he is serving the third of a six-game suspension for a violation of team rules. They still have plenty of bodies, but none as talented as Jones. Marc-Eddy Norelia, a sophomore that sat out last season after transferring from Tulane, provides them with some strength in the frontcourt at 6-9, 225. He’s averaging 10 points and 6.8 rebounds in 24.3 minutes per game. Also, with the Eagles giving up size in the frontcourt, don’t be surprised if 6-11, 230-pound sophomore Eric Moeller gets an extra look or two in this one. He typically averages just 1.8 points and 1.3 rebounds in 10.4 minutes per game. The Eagles also have a pair of young wings in 6-3 sophomore Brian Greene Jr and 6-4 freshman Christian Terrell that see double-digit minutes off the bench. Terrell is looking to do one thing when he gets on the court, and that’s jack 3-pointers. He’s hitting at a 60 percent clip right now on limited attempts. Xavier got a big boost off the bench from Jalen Reynolds in the Auburn game. This is another good match-up for him where he could see a lot of minutes, especially if Farr struggles early. Myles Davis also made some big plays off the bench against Auburn, finishing with eight points, three assists and two steals in 40 minutes of action. The Musketeers should have the scoring spark of J.P. Macura again, after he missed the Auburn game due to sickness. He practiced on Friday.
Moderate Edge Xavier
FGCU sits at 9-3 with its three losses coming to a good Green Bay team (44th in KenPom) a solid Iona (87th) team and a bad FIU (227) team. It has top 100 wins over UMass (84-75) and UC Santa Barbara (81-75 OT). When the Eagles have lost this year, they’ve been beaten up on the boards and in the paint. The Musketeers have the size and personnel to take advantage. Part of that might depend on how well Stainbrook is feeling, but even if he’s not 100 percent Farr and Reynolds are capable of stepping up and controlling the paint against this opponent. Style-wise, the Eagles play a little slower than the Musketeers do, sticking mostly to a tough halfcourt man-to-man defense. They rank seventh in the country in 3-point defense, allowing opponents to shoot just 26.5 percent on the year from beyond the arc. Offensively, they’re similar to X in the sense that they shoot a high percentage (39.1%) from 3-point range, but only score 23.4 percent of their points (278th in the country) from the perimeter.