The Matchups: Xavier vs St. John's

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

Dee Davis SR (6-0, 170) vs Rysheed Jordan SO (6-4, 185)

Jordan is an athletic lead guard that plays aggressively on the offensive end. When he's been on campus this year, he's been the special talent that many were projecting him to be last year when he showed all types of glimpses as a freshman. He's the second leading scorer on the team, averaging 14.2 points per game to go with 3.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 30.5 minutes. He's shooting 35.6 percent from 3-point range, and he's a streaky shooter that likes to hit them in bunches like he did last Saturday when he went 6-for-8 from deep and hung 25 points on Creighton. Keeping him off of the offensive glass is also a huge key, especially if Davis is matched up on him. The Musketeers' senior point guard looked a little worn down in the Marquette game on Tuesday night. He didn't play poorly, but did have some unusual miscues with the basketball on his way to a season-high six turnovers in the win. Despite the giveaways, he still did a decent job of keeping the offense in attack mode without getting funneled into bad shots.

Moderate Edge St. John’s

Myles Davis SO (6-2, 195) vs Phil Greene IV SR (6-2, 187)

Greene is a scoring guard with a smooth game. He's a good finisher when attacking the basket, but he also likes to spot up and shoot the three (35%). He's averaging 12.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. Though not the biggest guy, he has the length and quickness to be a pretty solid defender when he's locked in. He's coming off an 18-point performance on 7-of-12 shooting (1-2 3PT) Wednesday in St. John's win over DePaul. He also had five rebounds and four assists. This should be a pretty fun matchup between two talented scorers. Davis just barely kept his current string of double-figure scoring performances in tact on Tuesday, scoring 10 points on 2-of-7 shooting (0-4 3PT) to advance his streak to nine games. That stretch dates back to the game at Butler on January 10 when he was shut out in 13 minutes of action. Since then he's been a different guy. He's third on the team in scoring at 11.3 points per game to go with 2.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 26 minutes.

Even

Remy Abell JR (6-4, 194) vs D’Angelo Harrison SR (6-4, 202)

Harrison is a tough, physical guard that is a volume shooter with great range. He's the team's leading scorer at 19.2 points per game to go with 5.9 rebounds. He can bully opponents to the rim, often drawing contact to get to the free throw line where he shoots 81.8 percent, or shoot the three (38.5%)… with distance… off the dribble. He scored a season-high 33 points Wednesday night against DePaul on 10-of-14 shooting, including 7-of-7 from the free-throw line and 6-of-8 from 3-point range. It was also the second consecutive game where he posted a double-double. He finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds against Creighton on Saturday and 33 and 10 against DePaul. Abell's size and strength should give him a chance to contain Harrison. After playing 40 minutes in the overtime loss to Creighton, Abell has played just 11 and 18 minutes in the last two wins over Providence and Marquette. The Musketeers played a bigger lineup more often in those games, and also played a zone at times which made it easier to keep Abell off of the floor. It would seem they might need him to play more minutes in this game to help match up with St. John's athleticism.

Moderate Edge St. John’s

Trevon Bluiett FR (6-6, 215) vs Sir'Dominic Pointer SR (6-6, 192)

Pointer is an ultra-athletic forward with great length that is a playmaker in transition and a great finisher. He's averaging 12.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. He can hit the occasional mid-range jumper, but has only hit 1-of-18 3-point attempts on the season. On the defensive end, he's a versatile perimeter defender that likes to take chances and get deflections. Keeping him off of the offensive glass is always important as he's constantly lurking in hopes of the tip dunk. It will be interesting which lineup proves to be more effective for Xavier in this game. On one hand, the Red Storm is mobile and athletic which may be hard for the Musketeers' bigger lineup to keep up with. On the other, Pointer can be taken advantage of as a defender in the post when guarding bigger players on the block. Bluiett got the start at the four against Marquette on Tuesday, and finished with 14 points and six rebounds. The best part about his play recently has been him breaking out of his shooting slump from long range, hitting 5-of-11 from deep over the last two games.

Slight Edge St. John’s

Matt Stainbrook SR (6-10, 270) vs Chris Obkepa JR (6-9, 230)

Obekpa is an elite shot blocker and a good rebounder that gives St. John's some legitimate size and post play in an otherwise small lineup. He sprained his ankle in the first six seconds of last Saturday's win over Creighton, and was held out of Wednesday night's win over DePaul. He's listed as a game time decision, same as he was for the DePaul game. He averages 6.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.2 blocks in 28 minutes per game. While he's not a huge difference maker on the offensive end, not having him would leave the Johnnies shorthanded in general and without any size. His impact on the defensive end is huge for a team that ranks 63rd in the country in defensive efficiency. Stainbrook still didn't quite seem to be himself against Marquette, but he did produce against the Golden Eagles, particularly in the second half, finishing with 13 points, six rebounds and three assists in the win. Obekpa isn't the best match-up for him, but if the big man doesn't play then St. John's really doesn't have an answer for him.

Slight Edge Xavier

Xavier Bench vs St. John’s Bench

If Obekpa is unable to play, then Steve Lavin just slides junior guard Felix Balamou (6-4, 192) into the lineup and Pointer slides down to the five. At that point, St. John's becomes not only small but extremely thin. On Wednesday against DePaul, those five starters played all but 18 minutes of the game, with freshman forward Amar Alibegovic (6-9, 230) scoring two points and grabbing four rebounds in 10 minutes and junior guard Jamal Branch (6-3, 169) playing eight minutes without taking a shot. Alibegovic may need to see the floor more against the Musketeers' bigger frontcourt. Xavier has been getting a big boost from its bench lately with Jalen Reynolds playing starter minutes and J.P. Macura providing a spark on the offensive end. Freshman big man Sean O'Mara has also played well over the last two games, and could be an option for the the Musketeers if they want to go big but Stainbrook isn't moving well enough. Also, even though James Farr has been removed from the starting lineup and his playing time has been limited to just seven and four minutes in the last two games, he could see an increased role against a long and athletic St. John's team.

Significant Edge Xavier

Overall

The Johnnies are currently being seeded somewhere around an 11 seed in most bracket projections right now and sit at No. 51 in the RPI. Picking up a road win at Xavier (No. 34 in the RPI) is the type of win they need to help solidify their resume for an at-large bid. In other words, the Musketeers aren’t the only ones in the Big East gunning for important victories down the stretch of the regular season to try and ensure their reservations at the dance. With or without Obekpa, St. John’s athleticism won’t be easy for the Musketeers to match up with, but without him the Johnnies will have a lot more difficulties matching up with Xavier’s size. Wednesday against DePaul St. John’s was in transition the entire game, with all five players on the court being fairly skilled guards or wings that could start the fast break themselves after grabbing a rebound. The matchups in this game will be very interesting. Expect St. John’s to mix it up on the defensive end between man-to-man and different zone looks. The Johnnies will also apply some pressure to create transition opportunities and push the pace of the game. Xavier has a lot of success with its zone defense over the last two games against Providence and Marquette, two teams that lack shooters, so it would seem the staff might go back to it. St. John’s has three guys in Greene, Harrison and Jordan that are capable of knocking down a three, but the team as a whole shoots very few, ranking 287th in the country in percentage of total points coming from beyond the arc.

Score prediction: Xavier 84 St. John’s 75


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