Dee Davis SR (6-0, 170) vs Alex Barlow SR (5-11, 187)
Barlow killed the Musketeers from the perimeter in the Bulldogs' home win in early January, finishing 3-for-4 from beyond the arc with 15 points, five rebounds, two assists and no turnovers in 30 minutes of action. He had 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting (2-6 3PT) with five rebounds, no assists and two turnovers in the game at Cintas Center on February 21 that Xavier won 73-56. If Barlow has to do a lot of creating, Xavier should be in good shape. If the Musketeers allow Roosevelt Jones to create and kick out to Barlow for open 3-point looks, then they’ll have a problem. For the season, he’s shooting 39.2 percent from 3-point range. Davis did a good job of being there on the catch defensively last time the teams played, while also helping out his teammates off the ball in the pack line. On the offensive end, Davis took 15 shots in the first game against Butler and only four in the second game. The way he ran the offense, pushed the pace, and started the ball movement for X in that rematch was a huge improvement from the first meeting. It will be interesting to watch how he approaches his final games as a Musketeer in the postseason. .
Remy Abell JR (6-4, 194) vs Kellen Dunham JR (6-6, 185)
Dunham is a great shooter that averages 16.6 points per game, but Xavier has done a pretty good job against him over the course of his career. He finished with 10 points on 2-of-8 shooting from the field, including 2-of-7 from three in the Bulldogs’ win over Xavier, and then had nine points on 2-of-5 shooting (1-3 3PT) in the Musketeers’ revenge game. The biggest key for Xavier against Dunham has been not letting him get any free looks in transition and not fouling him – those are the only two areas he’s hurt the Musketeers in the two games this year. Abell does a good job of staying attached to him while chasing him around a ton of screens, and then playing up tight and physical with him once he catches the ball. His superior athleticism and strength seems to allow him to be extra-aggressive in how he defends Dunham. He had 15 points at Hinkle Fieldhouse, but only seven in the win over the Bulldogs at the Cintas Center. His defense is always important, but Abell can play a key role in this game if he can help spark Xavier in transition. The Musketeers need to run and create as many easy scoring opportunities as they can before the Bulldogs are set up in their halfcourt defense where they rank 11th in the country in adjusted efficiency.
Slight Edge Butler
Myles Davis SO (6-2, 195) vs Roosevelt Jones JR (6-4, 227)
Jones does everything for the Bulldogs. He showed that in the Bulldogs’ win over the Musketeers when he scored 16 points and dished out seven assists with three boards and two steals. The strong and athletic wing/point guard thrives on getting into the lane and making the defense collapse. It’s these situations that allow him to truly elevate the Bulldogs’ offense and make his teammates better. Davis did a good job of defending him with some help from his teammates when the Musketeers played man in the second game. They also played a 1-3-1 zone that took away Jones’ passing lanes once he got into the lane, and often clogged up his penetration before he got to that point. He still had 14 points in that game on 5-of-12 shooting, but he had no assists. The Musketeers can allow him to get his points, but they can’t allow him to shred their defense and make plays for everybody. Davis played one of his worst games of the season at Hinkle and then followed it up with one of his best against Butler in the rematch at Cintas. After failing to score in the first game, he had 18 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including 3-of-5 from three, to go with four rebounds in the second game. From January 14 to February 21 (which was the date of the second Xavier/Butler game), Davis scored in double figures in 11-of-12 games for X. He finished the season by scoring five, eight and nine points over the final three games. During that stretch he was 4-of-15 from 3-point range.
Moderate Edge Butler
Trevon Bluiett FR (6-6, 215) vs Andrew Chrabascz SO (6-7, 225)
Chrabascz blew up for 19 points in the first game against Xavier. He missed the second game due to a broken hand he suffered on February 14 against Villanova. He made it back for the last two regular season games against Georgetown (8 pts, 2 reb) and Providence (9 pts, 4 reb). With Chrabascz being a uniquely skilled offensive player that likes to face-up, Xavier seems to be better off going small against him. He’s strong and has a nose for the ball on offense, but he’s not actually a very good rebounder. After struggling at Hinkle Fieldhouse, Bluiett was efficient in the second game against Butler. He had 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting (1-2 3PT), grabbed three boards and dished out two assists with no turnovers. He also held his own early on against Tyler Wideman on the boards, and allowed Xavier to play small and establish its faster pace. He finished the season 4-for-12 from 3-point range over the last four games, including an 0-for-4 effort at Creighton.
Matt Stainbrook SR (6-10, 270) vs Kameron Woods SR (6-9, 200)
Woods isn’t going to beat Xavier by himself, but if the Musketeers don’t do their job by playing sound team defense then he can become a problem. The long and athletic big man finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds in the first game against X, and seven points and nine rebounds in the second game. The key to limiting his impact is keeping him off of the offensive glass, and cutting down on penetration by guys like Roosevelt Jones, who will drop it off or lob it up to Woods for an easy dunk. The Musketeers had a lot of success with Stainbrook guarding him when they were playing man-to-man defense in the second game, because Woods isn’t a guy that can create his own offense. In Xavier’s dominating win over the Bulldogs, Stainbrook only had to play 18 minutes. When he was on the floor, the Musketeers pounded the ball into him on almost every possession and forced Butler to make a decision on how it was going to defend him. When the Bulldogs didn’t double, he scored easily. When they did, he hit open shooters, racking up five assists with only one turnover. Also, when he was on the court the Musketeers played a lot of zone on the defensive end, with Stainbrook serving as a clog in the middle of the lane at the bottom of the 1-3-1. There is no question that the big man is huge to Xavier’s gameplan against the Bulldogs. He’s coming off a career-high 26 points against Creighton on Saturday, and this will only be the second game he’s played in the last 12 days. Who knows how quickly he’ll be able to bounce back in the semifinals, but at least against Butler Stainbrook should be well rested.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Xavier Bench vs Butler Bench
Freshman forward Tyler Wideman (6-8, 245) had his best game of the year in the first meeting against Xavier when he was 4-of-4 from the field with eight points, nine rebounds and a block in 16 minutes of action. He finished with two points and four rebounds in 25 minutes in the second game. Senior forward Austin Etherington (6-6, 215) scored two points with a rebound an assist in eight minutes of action in the first game, and had three rebounds and three turnovers in 11 minutes in the second game. Freshman forward Kelan Martin (6-6, 215) had five points on 1-of-5 shooting in 14 minutes in the first game against X, and eight points (3-14 FG) and four rebounds in 24 minutes in the second game. Jalen Reynolds was effective in the first game at Butler, scoring 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting and grabbing five rebounds, but he also struggled to stay on the floor and was playing less for the Musketeers in general at that point in the season. He had nine points (4-5 FG), 11 rebounds, two steals and a block in 23 minutes in the second game. J.P. Macura didn’t score in 11 minutes of action at Hinkle, but gave the Musketeers a nice spark with eight points on 2-of-4 shooting from 3-point range in 17 minutes in the second game. James Farr played well in both games against the Bulldogs during the regular season. He had nine points (2-3 FG) and grabbed five boards in 20 minutes in the first game, and had eight points (4-6 FG) to go with 11 rebounds and two blocks in the second game. Larry Austin also saw 14 minutes in the second game against Butler, partly because it was a blowout.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Xavier looked like two completely different teams if you re-watch the games against Butler during the regular season. The biggest difference between the two performances is the way the Musketeers performed on defense. They came out and played some of the best man-to-man they’ve played all season early in the first half, and then switched to the 1-3-1 zone in the final four-minute war right before halftime which completely threw the Bulldogs off. Chrabascz being available for this game obviously makes a difference – the question is how much of one? It’s unlikely that he’ll replicate his performance against the Musketeers earlier this season, but he may prove to be a bad matchup for X and be enough to give the Bulldogs back the advantage. Another interesting trend to watch will be the way the game is officiated. The refs called 51 fouls in the first game between these teams, and only 32 in the second. If Reynolds and Stainbrook are allowed to play physical without fouling, that clearly favors the Musketeers. The recipe for success last time for Xavier seemed to be pounding the ball inside in the halfcourt and quickly rotating it with excellent passing by the bigs, and scoring some easy buckets in transition. If the Musketeers can do that again while making a few shots and playing with the same intensity on defense, this is a matchup that should go in their favor.