Edmond Sumner FR (6-6,183) vs Terrence Phillips FR (5-11, 175)
Sumner finished with a team-high 19 points (6-9 FG, 6-10 FT, 1-1 3PT), two rebounds, an assist and three turnovers in Xavier's season-opening win over Miami. The redshirt freshman showed off his impressive burst when breaking defenders down off the bounce, and then used his size to finish at the rim. He still has plenty of room to grow, particularly on defense, but he showed on Friday that he's already capable of being an impact player. Phillips had seven points (2-5 FG, 3-4 FT) and three assists with two turnovers against Wofford, and 13 points (5-7 FG, 3-4 3PT), two assists and one turnover against UMES. He's quick and shifty with his handle, and he likes to split defenders in ball screen situations to get into the lane. So far he's also proven to be a capable 3-point shooter (3-for-5 on the season). On the defensive end, he's pretty undisciplined when it comes to playing within the Tigers' system. Look for the Musketeers to possibly try and exploit the matchup against whoever he's guarding.
Slight Edge Xavier
Myles Davis JR (6-2, 188) vs Wes Clark JR (6-0, 180)
Davis was quiet in the win over Miami. He finished with just five points on 1-of-5 shooting, including 1-of-3 from 3-point range. However, he showed his leadership when the game was on the line in the second half, and he finished with three assists and no turnovers. Missouri's backcourt doesn't have a lot of length but their guards are all quick, so Davis will have to hold his own on the defensive end. Clark had a slow start in Missouri's season-opener against Wofford as he finished with just four points, but he bounced back with a 15-point effort Sunday against Maryland-Eastern Shore, which included 3-of-6 shooting from 3-point range. The tough, athletic guard averaged 10.5 points and 3.0 assists per game as a sophomore last year. He's currently playing off the ball, but he's really more of a second lead ballhandler for the Tigers. He's at his best playing downhill and attacking off of ball screens, and he keeps defenders honest as a capable 3-point shooter.
Slight Edge Xavier
Remy Abell SR (6-4, 197) vs Namon Wright SO (6-5, 202)
Abell had six points (2-7 FG, 1-4 3PT, 1-1 FT), three assists, two rebounds and two turnovers in 28 minutes against Miami. Xavier needs both him and Davis to play better and knock down shots, but at least both guys displayed their leadership in the second half by picking the team's energy up on defense. Wright had 18 points (5-7 FG, 3-4 3PT, 5-8 FT) and seven boards against Wofford, and seven points (1-8 FG, 1-4 3PT, 4-4 FT) and five rebounds against UMES. He gets most of his points shooting spot up jumpers or coming off of screens. Last year as a freshman, he averaged 6.2 points per game and shot 36.7 percent from 3-point range on 98 attempts. He doesn't need a lot of space to get his shot off and he's quick to pull the trigger with confidence. He likes to use a shot fake or jab step when defenders are closing out on him, and then he goes around them for a one dribble step-in jumper. While most of his game is predicated on his jump shooting, he's far from a stand still shooter. He has some shake in his handle and can finish off drives to the rim. He's also good in transition.
Trevon Bluiett SO (6-6, 208) vs Kevin Puryear FR (6-7, 236)
Bluiett got it going a little bit at the end of the Miami game to help Xavier pull away as he finished with 10 points (4-9 FG, 2-5 3PT), six boards, three assists and one turnover. It took a late three to get him into double figures. Nothing to worry about obviously, but the Musketeers would like to see him find his groove and start to fulfill his potential as this team's go-to scorer. His toughness on the glass was good to see, even if Miami wasn't the biggest team the Musketeers will face. Puryear has been Missouri's best player by far through the first two games of the season. He had 20 points (8-14 FG, 3-4 FT, 1-3 3PT) and five rebounds against Wofford, and 13 points (4-7 FG, 5-6 FT) and five rebounds against UMES. Only a two-star recruit out of high school, he has an impressive skill-set for a big-bodied forward with the ability to shoot out to the perimeter, put the ball on the floor, or score in the post. So far, he's been most effective using his mid-range jumper. He'll likely be looking for pick-and-pop opportunities against X's ball screen defense. It will be interesting to see him go up against a longer frontcourt.
Jalen Reynolds JR (6-10, 238) vs Jakeenan Gant SO (6-8, 212)
Reynolds gave X what it needed in game one in terms of his motor on the glass and on defense. He overwhelmed the Redhawks with his size and athleticism at times, finishing with a double-double of 16 points and 15 rebounds. He also had four steals on defense. The coaches would like to see him improve on the six turnovers he had in that game. He didn't handle passing out of double teams very well against Miami. Gant scored four points (1-5 FG, 2-2 FT, 0-3 3PT) and grabbed four boards against Wofford in 16 minutes, and had four points (2-5 FG) and one board with two blocks against UMES in 13 minutes. He averaged 4.9 points and 2.2 rebounds in 14.1 minutes per game last year as a freshman, and he only made one out of 14 attempts from distance. He's mostly on the court to defend, rebound and set screens. He's a little undersized, but he's a tremendous athlete with great leaping ability and quickness. Xavier will have to make sure to account for him running the floor in transition and crashing the offensive glass looking for tip dunks. In the halfcourt, he typically sets up along the baseline facing the opposite basket, making himself available for dump-offs from driving teammates. He's also capable of knocking down the occasional mid-range jumper.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Xavier Bench vs Missouri Bench
JP Macura stepped up and once again provided a spark off the bench for the Musketeers against Miami. He finished second on the team with 17 points (4-9 FG, 2-4 3PT, 7-7 FT) to go with four rebounds, an assist, a steal and no turnovers in 21 minutes of action. James Farr had four points and five boards in 19 minutes off the bench. He struggled a bit on offense, hitting just 2-of-6 field goal attempts and turning the ball over three times. Kaiser Gates added four points (0-4 FG, 4-6 FT, 0-3 3PT), four rebounds and a block in 10 minutes, and Larry Austin didn't record a stat in 11 minutes of action. Sophomore forward DeAngelo Allen (6-7, 216), junior forward Russell Woods (6-8, 225) and senior Ryan Rossburg (6-10, 260) bring frontcourt depth off the bench for Missouri. Allen is an undersized face-up forward that can knock down a spot-up three, Woods is a catch-and-finish guy, and Rossburg is a space-eater that comes in to rebound and set screens. Freshman KJ Walton (6-3, 197) got the start and played 17 minutes in game one, but Missouri coach Kim Anderson elected to go with Wright in game two. Walton was productive in each, scoring six points (3-5 FG) and dishing out two assists with no turnovers against Wofford, and 11 points (1-3 FG, 9-10 FT) with three assists an no turnovers in 15 minutes against UMES. Walton is an athletic and well put together guard that has provided a spark on both ends of the court for the Tigers in his limited action.
Slight Edge Xavier
Missouri pulled off an 83-74 win over an average Wofford team in its season opener, and then beat a terrible Maryland-Eastern Shore team 73-55 on Sunday. In those two games they've averaged 1.20 points per possession on offense while their opponents have averaged 0.96 ppp. Kim Anderson is known as a defensive-minded coach, but so far the Tigers have looked inconsistent on that end with this young lineup. They've given up a lot of open jump shots; Wofford was 10-for-27 from beyond the arc, and UMES was 7-for-20. Mostly, they've made the game ugly in their halfcourt man-to-man. They've also flashed a few possessions of full-court man-to-man pressure, as well as an all-out run-and-jump defense where they attack the ballhandler near midcourt with a trap and fully sell out to take away the next pass. With the Musketeers running out a pair of young point guards, it wouldn't be surprising to see Missouri slap that on a time or two in hopes of getting a quick turnover. If the guard is able to handle the pressure and see over the defense, an advantage the 6-foot-6 Sumner may enjoy, this defensive tactic has massive holes at the back end with offensive players left all alone under the rim. Missouri's strength lies in the speed and athleticism of its backcourt. Xavier just needs to be sharper than it was on Friday. The Musketeers have to be more energetic and more sound fundamentally within their system on defense, and offensively they need to clean some things up. This is a better Missouri team than what they faced last year, but how much better remains to be seen. A good performance should lead to a comfortable win for X.
Score prediction: Xavier 78 Missouri 67