Edmond Sumner FR (6-6, 183) vs Eric Washington SR (5-10, 178)
Sumner appears to have won the starting job in the preseason after getting the nod in the Musketeers' closed scrimmage against Illinois and their public exhibition against Northwood. He led the team with 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including 1-of-3 from distance and 6-of-7 at the free-throw line in that exhibition. His athleticism and length give the Musketeers something they've rarely if ever had at the point guard position. Washington, a preseason East All-MAC Team selection, is the top returning player for the Redhawks. He started 31 of 32 games last season and led the team with averages of 14.2 points and 5.5 assists per game to go with 3.2 rebounds. He shot 45.1 percent from the field and 32.9 percent from 3-point range on 79 attempts. A good portion of Miami's offense stems from Washington operating off a high ball screen where he's good at creating points for himself and his teammates. He also excels in transition. Washington is similar in some ways to Northwood guard Maurice Jones, who gave Sumner fits and forced him to foul in Saturday's exhibition.
Myles Davis JR (6-2, 188) vs Abdoulaye Harouna SO (6-5, 178)
Davis looked ready to fully step into a leadership role during the preseason, both with his attitude in practice and his play on the court. He had nine points on 3-of-4 shooting with seven assists and three rebounds in the win over Northwood last week, but he also had six turnovers. Last year, he was third on the team with 10.6 points per game. He also connected on 38.4 percent of his 3-pointers while making a team-high 63 shots from beyond the arc. Harouna is a Nigerian JUCO transfer from the College of Southern Idaho. He was named MVP of the NJCAA Region 18 tournament after lighting it up from long range in the semifinals and finals. He's an athletic guard that can shoot it from deep and play off the dribble. He averaged 9.7 points, 2.3 boards, 1.7 steals, and 1.3 assists in 20.9 minutes per game last year, while shooting 36 percent from the floor and 34.8 percent from 3-point range on 187 attempts. He started the Redhawks' exhibition last week, but played only 13 minutes and had five points on 2-of-7 shooting, including 0-for-2 from distance.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Remy Abell SR (6-4, 197) vs Geovonie McKnight SR (6-3, 181)
Abell is a solid veteran that is in his fifth year of high major college basketball. He's a great on-ball defender, a respectable outside shooter and a strong finisher in transition. He had 14 points on 3-of-6 shooting, including 2-of-3 from distance with four assists, three rebounds and a block in the exhibition against Northwood. Last year he averaged 8.4 points and shot 41 percent from three. He should play the same role this season, and another year in the program should help him stay within the system more consistently on defense. McKnight is an athletic wing from Middletown that started all 32 games and averaged 10.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game last year. He's one of the Redhawks' top scorers, but he's not a shooter. He plays with the ball in his hands a lot and settles for a lot of mid-range shots, which is typically a good thing for the defense. He likes to create his own look by getting a step on a defender, jump-stopping into the lane and rising up. He's actually at his best when he's attacking off a pick-and-roll or isolation situation and getting to the rim or getting fouled. Defensively, he uses his athleticism to gamble for steals. McKnight led the Redhawks with 19 points in their exhibition win over Ohio Midwestern.
Trevon Bluiett SO (6-6, 208) vs Chris Bryant SR (6-8, 217)
Bluiett finished second on the team in scoring at 11.0 points per game last season as a freshman. This year he'll be expected to shoulder more of the scoring load. He slimmed up in the offseason in hopes of lasting through the grind of the college schedule better than he did last year, and it's almost a certainty he'll improve on his 32.6 percent mark from 3-point range last year. He had 14 points in the exhibition on 4-of-8 shooting, including 1-of-4 from distance, with a team-high nine rebounds and two assists. Bryant got the start in Miami's exhibition after starting 15 games last year, including the last seven. For the season, he averaged 4.4 points and 3.2 rebounds in 17 minutes per game. He had a season-high 10 points against Dayton in early December. Bryant is an average defender, and on offense he relies mostly on Washington or one of the other guards to create and find him on a dump off or on a roll to the basket after setting a ball screen. He's a below the rim type of player who struggles to finish against length. His main role is to bring some toughness and energy to the Redhawks' frontcourt.
Significant Edge Xavier
Jalen Reynolds JR (6-10, 238) vs Jere Vucica SR (6-9, 204)
Reynolds finished fourth on the team with 9.9 points and second with 6.1 rebounds per game last season. He only played 20.3 minutes per game last year as a secondary option in the post to Matt Stainbrook, but now the focus is all on him. He has the ability to dominate games in the paint with his effort, but his consistency will be the key for X. Reynolds was selected to the preseason All-Big East first team. Vucica is a Croatian grad transfer from Division II North Alabama that started 43 games over the course of three seasons. Last year he averaged 12 points and 6.8 boards in 30.4 minutes per game. He also played for the Croation U20 National Team. He's a fairly fluid face-up big man that loves to step out and shoot jumpers. Last year 47 percent of his shot attempts came from beyond the arc. However, he shot just 26 percent (33-of-124) from 3-point range. Even still, he'll likely be licking his chops for pick-and-pop opportunities against the Musketeers with the way they hedge ball screens.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Xavier Bench vs Miami Bench
Xavier's depth looks to be a strength of this year's team. James Farr and JP Macura will likely be the top two options off the bench. Farr is one of the top rebounders in the conference, and Macura has the capability of providing instant offense. Both players played well in the preseason. Sophomore point guard Larry Austin will also play a significant role backing up Sumner. After that, it will be interesting to see which interior bench player out of freshman Kaiser Gates, sophomore Sean O'Mara and redshirt freshman Makinde London produces the most for the Musketeers. Gates received 16 minutes in last week's exhibition against Northwood, while O'Mara played eight minutes and London saw six. For Miami, Dion Wade, an Auburn transfer, brings 3-point shooting off the bench. The 6-foot-6 wing had a big game in the exhibition against Ohio Midwestern as he finished with 15 points (5-8 FG, 3-6 3PT), five rebounds, five steals, three assists, and three blocks in 23 minutes. Willie Moore, a 6-foot-3 Aiken grad and Oregon transfer, averaged 7.3 points (41.9 FG%, 37.5 3PT%) and 2.8 rebounds last year. He's a ball-dominant player that's tough to guard one-on-one when he gets going. He's capable of scoring at all three levels. He had 13 points (4-7 FG, 3-4 3PT), six assists, five rebounds and four steals in 24 minutes in the exhibition. Also LJ Livingston, a 6-foot-10, 200-pound forward who started 12 games last year, adds size and defense off the bench. He chipped in with 4.4 points and 2.9 rebounds in 14.5 minutes per game last season. Sophomore St. Xavier grad Rod Mills, a versatile 6-foot-7 forward, didn't play much of a role last year, but he saw 20 minutes in the exhibition win over Ohio Midwestern and finished with eight points and 10 boards.
Moderate Edge Xavier
This is an incredibly experienced Miami team, even if not all of that experience came while playing together. The Redhawks have no freshmen on the roster and six seniors on scholarship. Last year under the direction of John Cooper, Miami played about 80 percent man-to-man and 20 percent zone. They also busted out a 2-2-1 or 1-2-1-1 press occasionally. Offensively, look for Miami to set a lot of high ball screens in an attempt to create mismatches or driving creases for Washington. The Redhawks were 8-of-19 from distance in last weekend's exhibition win over Ohio Midwestern, so watch for more 3-point attempts than we've seen from them over the last few years as well, particularly with a pick-and-pop player like Vucica. Xavier is the more talented team, but for the Musketeers there are two concerns. The first is the standard sloppy play and jitters that come with a first game. You never quite know what to expect from teams in the first live action of the year, and if nerves and emotions go the wrong way early, X doesn't want to find itself in a dogfight warding off a home loss from a bottom-tier MAC team. Second, is staying healthy. Losing a key player in early buy games like this is always devastating. If Xavier can avoid those two scenarios, they should be in good shape.
Predicted Score: Xavier 84 Miami 66