Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchups: Xavier vs #24 Michigan

Before every Xavier game Rick provides a position-by-position preview of what to expect. This edition focuses on Friday night's road tilt against nationally-ranked Michigan as part of the Gavitt Tipoff games pitting Big East teams against Big Ten rivals.

Edmond Sumner FR (6-6, 183) vs Derrick Walton JR (6-1, 190)

Sumner struggled to finish off some of his drives in the Missouri game, but the redshirt freshman again showed flashes of brilliance in the win. He's done a great job of putting pressure on defenders by being aggressive and drawing fouls. He shot 10 free-throws in each of the first two games. His rebounding has also been a nice benefit from the guard position. He had five boards against Missouri. Walton is a tough and crafty floor general. He scores a lot of his points on spot-up jumpers, and he's constantly using screens or hand-offs to create separation from his defender. He's averaging 14 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists  and 2.0 turnovers after the Wolverines' first two wins. He's off to a great start shooting the ball, hitting 6-of-9 from 3-point range. Last year, he averaged 10.7 points  and 3.0 assists per game, while shooting 35.8 percent from beyond the arc. 

Slight Edge Michigan

Remy Abell SR (6-4, 197) vs Caris LeVert SR (6-7, 205)

Abell had a rough shooting night against Missouri as he went 1-of-6 from the field, including 1-of-4 from 3-point range. He also saw his minutes decrease from 28 against Miami to just 21 on Tuesday night because Myles Davis and Larry Austin both played well. His role will likely be more important in this game as the Musketeers need someone to lock in and accept the challenge of guarding LeVert one-on-one off the dribble. LeVert is an athletic scorer that's aggressive when breaking defenders down off the bounce or looking for his jump shot. He likes to play with the ball in his hands, and does a lot of his work out of ball screen, dribble handoff or isolation situations. He also loves to get out in transition. He's off to a strong start for the Wolverines, averaging 14.5 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the field and dishing out 6.0 assists with 4.0 boards and 3.0 steals. Last year, he led the team with 14.9 points per game, 4.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists through 18 games, but his season was cut short due to a season-ending foot injury that required surgery in January. 

Significant Edge Michigan

Myles Davis JR (6-2, 188) vs Aubrey Dawkins SO (6-6, 205)

Davis tied Bluiett with a team-high 31 minutes played against Missouri. He was only 3-of-7 from the field, including 0-for-4 from beyond the arc, but he was great creating off the dribble. He finished with four assists, two steals and one turnover, and he could have had a few more assists had teammates finished off easy looks. His defense is going to be important in this game. He doesn't have a great match-up against all of Michigan's long wings, so he's going to have to lock in on his assignment and also keep his man off of the glass on both ends. Dawkins is a shooter with size and athleticism. Most of his points come on spot-up jumpers, but he's also good in transition. He'll occasionally use his quickness and leaping ability to slash backdoor to the rim or catch a lob from a teammate in the halfcourt. He's off to an efficient start on the offensive end this year. He's hit 9-of-12 field goal attempts, including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc, while averaging 11 points and 4.5 rebounds over the first two games. Last year, Dawkins averaged 7.0 points and 2.1 rebounds in 20.5 minutes per game as a freshman. Over 56 percent of his shot attempts came from beyond the arc. 

Even

Trevon Bluiett SO (6-6, 208) vs Kameron Chatman SO (6-8, 215)

Bluiett led XU with 18 points against Missouri. He was more aggressive looking to drive and draw fouls against defenders instead of settling for jumpers. He also did a good job on the glass, hauling in seven boards, something he'll need to do against Michigan's longer forwards. Chatman is a face-up forward with good size. He was a five-star prospect ranked 23rd overall in the 2014 recruiting class that had a reputation for being a strong rebounder and passer. He struggled as a freshman, and to this point has limited his offensive game mostly to spot-up shooting. He's off to a slow start shooting the ball this year as he's 6-for-15 from the field, including 0-for-3 from distance. Last year, he averaged 3.6 points (31.8% FG, 26.3% 3PT) and 2.5 rebounds in 15.2 minutes per game. 

Moderate Edge Xavier

Jalen Reynolds JR (6-10, 238) vs Mark Donnal SO (6-9, 240)

Reynolds is coming off one of his worst performances in a Xavier uniform. He was in foul trouble throughout the game against Missouri, and finished with zero points and two rebounds in 15 minutes. He has to put that game behind him immediately and provide Xavier with a big advantage in this game. He can overwhelm Donnal with his athleticism. Missouri did a great job of double-teaming Reynolds and forcing him to give up the ball, so he'll probably continue to see that. He'll have to do a better job of sealing defenders closer to the basket or making better passes when double-teams do come. Donnal is a big body that spends most of his time setting screens and rolling to the basket on the offensive end. However, he's a capable finisher in the post with decent footwork. He also has touch on his jump shot with range extending out beyond the arc. Last year, he averaged 3.4 points and 2.1 rebounds in 10.7 minutes per game as a redshirt freshman. He started the first 10 games of the year before seeing his minutes dwindle as the season continued. He was 7-of-19 from 3-point range. This year he's started the first two games of the season, but he only played 10 minutes against Northern Michigan and 15 minutes against Elon. He had six points in both games and three total rebounds. 

Slight Edge Xavier

Xavier Bench vs Michigan Bench

JP Macura played well for the second straight game off the bench, finishing with 16 points on 4-of-5 shooting, three rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes against Missouri. If he holds his own on the defensive end, he could see extended minutes in this game at the two to help match-up with Michigan's length. James Farr also played a huge role off the bench on Tuesday night for the Musketeers, as he had 15 points and 14 boards. Larry Austin saw his minutes increase from 11 against Miami to 15 against Missouri as he finished with four points and three steals against the Tigers. He could have had eight points easily had he finished off two layups in transition. His defense could be important against Michigan. It will also be interesting to see if either Kaiser Gates or Makinde London play a role with Michigan having an abundance of face-up forwards. Junior Zak Irvin (6-6, 215) was the Wolverines' most valuable player a year ago, but he's been slowly recovering from offseason back surgery. He missed the season-opener and then struggled through 15 minutes against Elon, going 0-for-5 from the field (0-3 3PT). He was a 35.5 percent 3-point shooter last year when he led the team in scoring with 14.3 points per game to go with 4.8 rebounds. Also, senior back up point guard Spike Albrecht (5-11, 175) is still recovering from offseason double hip surgery. He played 17 minutes and scored seven points with three assists and two steals against Northern Michigan, but was held scoreless in 10 minutes against Elon. He averaged 7.5 points and shot 36.5 percent from three in 32 minutes per game last year. Sophomore big man Ricky Doyle (6-9, 250) is a big plodder that replaces Donnal at the five. He averaged 6.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in 18.2 minutes per game as a freshman last year. Sophomore Duncan Robinson (6-8, 210) scored 19 points on a perfect 6-of-6 shooting performance, including 5-of-5 from 3-point range, in 18 minutes off the bench against Elon after not scoring against Northern Michigan. He sat out last year after transferring from Division III Williams College. Redshirt freshman forward DJ Wilson (6-10, 240) provides some size and shooting off the bench. He scored five points in each of the first two games, and has hit 2-of-3 from long range. 

Slight Edge Michigan

Overall

Michigan has played exclusively halfcourt man-to-man defense through its first two games, but John Beilein always has his 1-3-1 zone in his back pocket. Last year the Wolverines mixed in a little over 20 percent zone. In their man-to-man, their big men will jump out and hedge ball screens similar to the way Xavier's big men do, so look for the Musketeers to take advantage of that with throwbacks to shooters and by hitting Reynolds or Farr on the roll. The Musketeers have struggled through extended field goal droughts in each of their first two games. A similar stretch on Friday night could prove fatal on the road against the No. 24 ranked team in the country. On the other end of the court, Xavier has to keep the Wolverines from going nuts from the perimeter, while also keeping LeVert and Walton from carving the defense off the bounce. Michigan was 13-of-24 from 3-point range on Monday against Elon. The Musketeers will have to stay locked in on defense to handle all of the Wolverines' handoffs and ball screens while also keeping an eye on the backdoor cuts. This certainly doesn't seem like an ideal match-up for XU, but if it can find a way to steal one early on the road with Irvin not being 100 percent this could be a huge resume builder. 

Score prediction: Michigan 77 Xavier 70


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