The Matchups: Xavier vs Creighton

Before every game, MusketeerReport breaks down the position-by-position matchups for X's opponent. This edition focuses on the Musketeers’ Wednesday night Big East tilt against Creighton at the Cintas Center.

Remy Abell JR (6-4, 194) vs Austin Chatman SR (6-0, 175)

Chatman is a small but athletic guard that has become a go-to offensive option for Creighton out of necessity. He's not shooting a very high percentage, but a lot of that is due to being asked to make plays for an offense that otherwise lacks guys who can't create their own shot. He leads the Bluejays in minutes (32.7 mpg), scoring (10.8 ppg), and assists (3.9 apg). He did most of his scoring during December against the non-conference schedule, but has struggled a little more against the Big East's big and athletic guards. He's only scored in double-figures twice so far in conference play. Saturday in the Bluejays' loss to Georgetown he was 1-for-7 from the field with six points. He's only shooting 26.8 percent from 3-point range, but that hasn't stopped him from jacking them - 45.1 percent of his shots come from beyond the arc. Creighton's offense usually calls for him to create off of ball screens if they don't get a quick three. In the interest of cutting the head off the snake, I'm thinking Abell may take the duties of guarding Chatman. If he can limit Chatman's penetration and ability to get to the rim or the free-throw line without requiring a lot of help defense, it should really stagnate the Jays' offense. Abell scored five points (2-7 FG, 0-2 3PT) to go with two rebounds and two steals in Saturday's loss at Seton Hall. Over the last two games, he played 75-of-80 possible minutes. Creighton's perimeter defense is poor so Abell will have to step into shots with confidence for Xavier as one of its top shooters, hitting at a 39 percent clip from 3-point range on the season. He's struggled along with the rest of the team recently, though. Since going 5-for-9 from three to lead Xavier back against Marquette on January 17, he is just 1-for-9 from beyond the arc over the last four games.

Even

Dee Davis SR (6-0, 170) vs Devin Brooks SR (6-2, 175)

Brooks is another lead ballhandler type of player with decent quickness that looks to use ball screens and penetrate in Creighton's offense. He's a terrible shooter that really doesn't finish all that well either when he's penetrating. He's at his best when he's drawing fouls or attracting help defenders on the drive so he can assist his teammates. Also, while he may not look the part, he's a guy that the Musketeers have to get a body on when a shot goes up as Brooks is the leading rebounder on Creighton's team as a lightweight guard. He's averaging 6.6 points (32.5% FG, 23.1% 3PT), 4.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 21.9 minutes per game. Davis scored six points on 1-of-4 shooting including 0-for-2 from 3-point range to go with four assists and one turnover in 31 minutes on Saturday against Seton Hall. If Davis ever gets his jump shot back at all, it could be huge for the Musketeers as he seems to constantly be left open from the perimeter. He hasn't hit a three since he was 1-for-6 five games ago at home against Marquette, and he hasn't hit more than one three in a game since he was 2-for-2 on December 9 against IUPUI. Since Big East play started, he's 5-for-29 (17.2%) from beyond the arc.

Slight Edge Xavier

Myles Davis SO (6-2, 195) vs James Milliken JR (6-2, 180)

Rick Kreklow has started the last two games at the three, but Milliken is averaging the second most minutes on the team after Chatman and played 34 and 33 minutes in the last two games that he came off the bench. When he's in the game he provides a third guard with some ability to create on the offensive end and is one of the more athletic players on Creighton's roster. He's aggressive in looking for his shot when driving and attacking off of ball-screens, but he's always looking for an open 3-point look as well. For the season he's attempted 74 threes (43.1%) and 72 twos (32.4%), while averaging 8.1 points per game. If the Bluejays are in a man-to-man, the Musketeers need to attack him off of the bounce as he's a poor defender. Davis didn't have his best performance at Seton Hall on Saturday, especially shooting the ball, but he did continue to play with the same go-to offensive player mentality and creativity for Xavier. He finished with 12 points while going 3-for-12 from the field including 0-for-7 from beyond the arc. He also dished out eight assists with three turnovers and had six rebounds.

Moderate Edge Xavier

James Farr JR (6-10, 244) vs Avery Dingman SR (6-6, 215)

Dingman is a stocky wing that mostly floats on the perimeter looking for threes. He'll set some screens for the guards in the Bluejays four-out offense and then pop back behind the 3-point line waiting for a shot himself. He's not a bad athlete, but he's just not very involved. He's 5 for his last 12 from distance over the last three games, and is averaging 4.4 points (34.3% FG, 34.3 % 3PT) and 2.8 rebounds in 19.7 minutes per game on the year. On the defensive end, he's very average, lacking the size and strength to defend or rebound with real forwards and the lateral quickness to stay with athletic wings. Against Georgetown the Creighton used this forward position, whether it was Dingman or others, to clog the lane on the defensive end by completely ignoring Mikael Hopkins outside of the lane, It will be interesting to see if they do the same thing against Farr, who has struggled with his jump shot this year. Either way, this is a match-up they must dominate on the offensive end when they're playing two bigs. Farr or Jalen Reynolds have to make them pay for doubling Stainbrook by finding the open area for dump-offs and impacting the offensive glass. Farr had eight points (4-6 FG), six rebounds and two blocks in Saturday's loss at Seton Hall.

Moderate Edge Xavier

Matt Stainbrook SR (6-10, 270) vs Will Artino SR (6-11, 230)

Artino is a traditional post player that mostly brings some size on defense and rebounding. He hasn't attempted a three. His role in the offense is to set screens along the perimeter for the shooters and then crash the glass. He's averaging 5.9 points (51.4% FG, 54.8% FT) and 4.4 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game. He's seen his minutes take a major hit over the last three games as freshman Toby Hegner and sophomore Zach Hanson have produced off the bench. Strength-wise he's no match for Stainbrook and the Bluejays will almost assuredly double the Musketeers' big man similar to the way they did Josh Smith on Saturday. That's why Stainbrook needs to make sure that he seals his man deep when he catches so that he can either still power his way through for points, or the double team will lead to an easy pass across the blocks for a dunk. Over the last three games, he averaged 13.3 points on 15-of-18 combined shooting from the field to go with 3.3 assists.

Significant Edge Xavier

Xavier Bench vs Creighton Bench

Freshman big man Toby Hegner (6-10, 225) is the most impressive weapon off of Creighton's bench. Hegner is the team's second-leading scorer now with Isaiah Zierden out at 8.3 points per game to go with 3.6 rebounds. He has a quick trigger from the perimeter where he shoots 37.7 percent. As mentioned, senior Rick Kreklow (6-7, 195) may start but he's only averaging 20.6 minutes per game. He's a shooter (34.9% 3PT) that has scored in double-figures in five of the last seven games. Sophomore big man Zach Hanson (6-9, 240) is averaging 5.2 points and 3.0 rebounds in 14.4 minutes per game. Like Artino, he's a true post that's mostly used to set screens and rebound. Finally, the Bluejays' Geoffrey Groselle (7-0, 240) is certainly on Dan's short list of favorite Big East players, but isn't much of a threat. Trevon Bluiett played another good game while coming off the bench in the loss to Seton Hall on Saturday, finishing with 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting while making the Musketeers' only three. This is a great matchup for him where he should see plenty of playing time. Jalen Reynolds will be the guy to keep an eye on for Xavier. He was completely dominant in 15 minutes off the bench against Seton hall, going 8-of-10 from the floor to finish with 17 points and eight rebounds with two blocked shots. This is another great matchup for him where he could make a huge impact for the Musketeers. Also, Brandon Randolph will be an interesting guy to watch in this game. After his mysterious minute in the Georgetown game, he played nine minutes against Seton Hall (more than J.P. Macura). Speaking of Macura, this could be the type of game where he gets off double-digit squeezes if he's on the floor long enough with the way Creighton leaves shooters.

Moderate Edge Xavier

Overall

As is often the case with this Xavier team, this game will depend on how well the Musketeers defend and the Bluejays shoot from the perimeter. Threes account for 45.1 percent of Creighton's field goal attempts and 36.4 percent of its points, both rank tops in the conference. Artino and Hanson are the only two regulars in the Blujays' rotation that don't shoot it from deep, and they're typically roaming the perimeter setting screens for shooters within the offense and then crashing the glass. On the other side of the ball, this is an opportunity for Xavier to get back on track shooting the ball from the outside. Creighton is one of the worst defensive teams in the country allowing opponents to score 35.3 percent of their points from beyond the arc while shooting 38.8 percent, which ranks 332nd out of 351 Division I programs. The Bluejays really pack it in defensively in their man-to-man, and will also play some zone. Even despite Creighton's seeming willingness to give up open 3-point attempts, Xavier has to be patient in working the ball inside and getting good shots as the Bluejays are a poor defensive team overall with slow feet and they lack the inside presence to stop determined post players. In terms of resume, this is a loss that the Musketeers simply can't afford.

Score prediction: Xavier 78 Creighton 65


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