Dee Davis SR (6-0, 170) vs Jaren Sina SO (6-2, 185)
Sina is a shooter. He's always looking to find a defender that's not paying enough attention to him and some space to sneak to for a quick look from three. So far, 67 of his 87 field goal attempts have been 3-pointers. Last year, he attempted four shots in two games against the Musketeers, all 3-pointers. He was 2-for-3 with 12 points in the first game, but in the second game X did a better job of not leaving him open and also pressuring him into five turnovers when he was trying to handle the basketball. Look for the Musketeers to try and turn up the temperature on him whenever he has the ball again this time. Davis didn't play his best game at DePaul, committing a few costly turnovers and a terrible foul on a 3-pointer late in the game. But he also did some good things in the second half, finishing with nine points, seven assists and four rebounds. He's shooting 35.9 percent from 3-point range on the year and was six for his last 10 from beyond the arc going into Saturday's game, but went just 1-for-5 from long distance (1-for-4 if you don't include his desperation heave at the buzzer) against the Blue Demons.
Slight Edge Xavier
Remy Abell JR (6-4, 194) vs Sterling Gibbs JR (6-2, 185)
Gibbs is a talented lead guard that is always looking to score. He leads the Pirates in scoring at 16.6 points per game, and can get buckets in a variety of ways. He's currently shooting a ridiculous 50 percent from 3-point range (33-66), but he's constantly attacking off of the bounce as well. The Musketeers will have to do a great job of handling his penetration in ball screen situations where he often likes to reject the screen and take his man off the bounce. He scored 20 points and dished out four assists in 41 minutes in the Pirates' overtime win over Villanova. Gibbs will have the ball in his hands more than Sina, but I moved him down to this slot for match-up purposes since Abell will likely be guarding him. Abell had a good start at DePaul, including hitting a big three in the first half, but he faded a little bit as the game continued. After drawing praise as potentially being the best all-around player on the team following the Georgetown win, he was decent against DePaul. He certainly wasn't the reason the team lost, but he also wasn't the game changer that we saw against the Hoyas. He'll have his hands full on the defensive end with Gibbs, but much like with D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Georgetown, slowing him down will go a long way towards dictating Seton Hall's offense.
Slight Edge Seton Hall
Trevon Bluiett FR (6-6, 215) vs Khadeen Carrington FR (6-3, 180)
Stephane Manga will likely start at the three for the Pirates, but it's pointless to list him here because he barely plays after the opening tip. He only logged eight minutes in the overtime win over Villanova. Carrington is a freshman wing that took home his first Big East Rookie of the Week award this week after scoring 17 points against Nova. He also posted 11 points and three assists in the Pirates' win over St. John's earlier last week. Carrington is a lefty that has a quick first step and a natural ability to break defenders down off the bounce. He's also a bit of a gambler and playmaker on defense, always looking to go for the steal if the opportunity presents itself. Bluiett came out in the first half at DePaul and continued to struggle to put the ball in the basket. He missed open 3-point looks, and had the breakaway layup rim out to end the first half. Despite his frustrating start on offense, he continued to play hard and made an impact on the boards. Eventually, he shot his way out of his slump and found his confidence, scoring a team-high 19 points all in the second half. He also had 12 rebounds. Playing back in the Cintas Center with a little confidence flowing, Bluiett possibly returning to the same offensive player we saw earlier in the season would be a big boost for this team.
Slight Edge Xavier
Jalen Reynolds SO (6-10, 232) vs Brandon Mobley SR (6-9, 225)
Mobley is the classic face-up big man that has given Xavier issues. He's going to look to pick-and-pop after setting ball screens. Last year, he scored 11 points and hit 3-of-6 from 3-point range at the Cintas Center, but went 0-for-4 and had just five points in the rematch at Seton Hall. He's averaging 10.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks this year, and is shooting 35.1 percent form 3-point range. Paired with Delgado, the duo provide some solid rim protection for the Pirates. Mobley has shown up so far in Big East play, finishing with 10 points, six rebounds, three steals and a season-high four blocks against Villanova, plus a double-double of 13-points and 10 rebounds against St. John's. Reynolds finally got his shot in the starting lineup last game after Farr missed the game due to reportedly being ill. Farr could possibly regain his spot in the starting lineup, but even before the DePaul game Reynolds had been earning more minutes when he was able to to stay out of foul trouble. Like most of Xavier players in the DePaul game, Reynolds did some good things and he also had some mistakes. He finished with three turnovers and a couple of glaring defensive breakdowns. He was 3-for-4 from the floor with six points, four rebounds and two blocks in 26 minutes against the Blue Demons. It will be interesting to see if the Musketeers try to work him into the offensive game plan a little more. He's been efficient when it comes to scoring, and so far the more shots he takes the better the offense has performed.
Slight Edge DePaul
Matt Stainbrook SR (6-10, 270) vs Angel Delgado FR (6-9, 230)
Delgado is a factor in the lane already as a freshman because of his talents as a shot blocker and rebounder for the Pirates. And it’s a good thing too, because the Pirates rely on him to man the post without much depth behind him. He's averaging 8.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 24.1 minutes per game on the year. He's second behind only UCLA's Kevon Looney in the nation in rebounds and double-doubles for a freshman. Against Villanova he had four points, six rebounds, a block and a steal while playing only 15 minutes due to foul trouble. Stainbrook didn't have a good outing at DePaul, finishing with five points (2-3 FG), eight rebounds, two assists and two turnovers in 27 minutes on Saturday. His scoring average is down to 12.1 points per game now after failing to score in double figures for the fourth time in the last six games - He had 11 points against both Auburn and Florida Gulf Coast during that stretch. He may not be the best defensive player, but he's a very good offensive player and he needs to do a better job of making teams have to defend him in the post. Seton Hall is a team that is thin and mostly inexperienced in the frontcourt, so Stainbrook rediscovering his mojo on the block might be exactly what the Musketeers' offense needs.
Slight Edge Xavier
Xavier Bench vs Seton Hall Bench
Desi Rodriguez is a 6-6, 215-pound powerfully-built freshman forward that is averaging 5.2 points and 4.4 rebounds in 16.6 minutes per game. He's a good athlete that impacts the game as a rebounder and a defender in addition to providing offensive pop to the Pirates' lineup. He can handle the ball or score on the block with his strength, but he's not a shooter (0-5 3PT) As previously mentioned, senior Stephane Manga (6-6, 215) will likely start but he only plays 10.4 minutes per game, averaging 2.6 points and 1.5 rebounds. Rashed Anthony is a 6-9, 255-pound redshirt freshman forward that sees 11 minutes per game. He's not very productive at this point (1.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg), but he's the only back-up with legitimate size that can spell Delgado or Mobley. Especially with five-star freshman Isaiah Whitehead out with a stress fracture, the Pirates aren't very deep. Only three players - Gibbs, Mobley and Carrington - scored in the second half for the Pirates against Villanova. Outside of Myles Davis' 14 points (only 2-8 FG, 1-4 3PT but 9-9 FT) and J.P. Macura's six points (2-5 FG, 1-2 3PT) the Musketeers only got 11 minutes, a missed three and two fouls combined from the rest of its bench - Brandon Randolph, James Farr and Sean O'Mara - against Depaul. There was plenty of blame to go around in that loss, including the bench. They'll need those guys to step it up to pull off the win over Seton Hall.
Slight Edge Xavier
The Musketeers now have to start building a case for why they still deserve to be in the tournament, and that process needs to start tonight with 19th ranked Seton Hall visiting the Cintas Center. One thing most teams look to do when they play the Pirates is to heat up their guards, who aren't great at handling pressure. In their two losses, they're averaging 16 turnovers per game. Xavier did a good job of that in the second match-up at Seton Hall last year and forced them into 15 turnovers, so expect that to be the strategy again this time. Seton Hall ranks first in the Big East in 3-point defense, holding opponents to just 25.9 percent on the year, while the Musketeers rank first in 3-point shooting at 39.2 percent. The Pirates are right behind XU in second place at 37.5 percent from beyond the arc. It's interesting to note that Seton Hall actually shoots the ball better from the perimeter on the road than it does at home (43.6% vs 33.3%). Seton Hall will have to like its chances if the game comes down to the final possessions. Granted both wins came at home, but the Pirates have been great at locking in defensively down the stretch and getting stops so far in Big East play. They held St. John's and Villanova to a combined 6-for-31 (19.4%) from the field in the last five minutes and overtime in back-to-back victories. Personnel-wise, this should be a pretty good match-up for X, and if the Musketeers play like they did the last time they were at the Cintas Center then they should be in good shape.