Edmond Sumner FR (6-6, 185) vs Tyler White SR (6-3, 185)
Sumner is coming off a nine-point, three-assist performance with four turnovers in Xavier's win at Michigan. He had multiple big plays in the second half run during which the Musketeers put the game away, including a dagger three. He currently ranks third on the team with an average of 13.3 points per game to go with 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 25.0 minutes of action. NKU likes to pressure the ball, so expect the Norse to try and put the freshman under heavy duress. White is a strong guard that provides a veteran presence and ballhandling. He's averaging 8.7 points, 2.7 assists and 2.0 rebounds in 28.7 minutes per game. He's at his best when he's getting into the lane where he can shoot a floater or score at the rim. However, he's often willing to settle for the long jumper. He shot 37.7 percent from 3-point range on 175 attempts last year. He's a much better shooter off the catch than he is off the dribble.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Remy Abell SR (6-4, ) vs Lavone Holland SO (6-2, 180)
Abell stepped up and had a huge game in Ann Arbor. In addition to drawing the toughest defensive assignment of the night in Caris LeVert, he also provided the Musketeers' offense with some extra firepower, finishing with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range. It was a huge performance by the senior, and his confidence has to be at an all-time high. Holland is the Norse's best all-around player. He's an exceptional athlete and has given their offense a much-needed playmaker after last year's leading scorer Taylor Persons transferred to Ball State. He's averaging 10.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists in 31 minutes per game, all team-highs. He's actually the point guard, but I assume Xavier is going to put Abell on him so I moved him down here for matchup purposes. He's a good scorer in the lane and finds a way to manufacture points despite not being a good shooter. If the Musketeers can keep him out of the lane and out of transition, it will go a long way towards shutting down Nothern's entire operation.
Myles Davis JR (6-2, 185) vs Jordan Garnett SO (6-6, 220)
Davis had 14 points on 3-of-11 shooting (1-3 3PT) at Michigan. He also grabbed six boards and dished out 3 assists with one turnover. On the season, he has 10 assists compared to just two turnovers. His playmaking ability, particularly when operating off of ball screens, has been top notch. This would be a good game for him to gain some confidence in his jumper. After starting the first two games of the year, Garnett only played six minutes off the bench Saturday against Morehead State. However, his size and length will be more necessary in this matchup against Xavier. He's a versatile forward that really runs the floor well. If he grabs a defensive rebound or gets a steal, he's capable of leading the break himself and finishing in transition. Other than that, he's not much of an offensive threat. He'll attempt the occasional jumper or take a bad shot off the dribble, but he hasn't shown the ability to hit those yet. He's averaging 3.0 points and 2.0 rebounds in 13 minutes per game.
Significant Edge Xavier
Trevon Bluiett SO (6-6, 205) vs Cole Murray JR (6-7, 200)
Bluiett has been great the last two games as he's led the Musketeers in scoring with 18 points against Missouri and 15 (tied) against Michigan. Not only has he been shooting well from deep (8-16 3PT), he's also been much more aggressive in attacking defenders off the bounce, which has opened up all types of opportunities for XU's offense. The Norse really don't have a great answer for him. Murray is a tall and lean stand-still shooter. He's averaging 10.0 points and 2.7 rebounds in 22.7 minutes per game. His entire game is to pick-and-pop or space along the perimeter and look for spot-up jumpers. He's 7-for-14 from 3-point range on the year, including a 4-for-7 performance in NKU's win over Tiffin. Last year, 81 of his 86 field goal attempts were from beyond the arc.
Significant Edge Xavier
Jalen Reynolds JR (6-10, 235) vs Jalen Billups SR (6-6, 245)
Reynolds bounced back from his struggles against Missouri with a strong performance in his home state. He finished with 15 points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes against Michigan. The only thing that slowed him down on Friday night was foul trouble. That should be the case once again in this matchup as NKU doesn't have a soul capable of guarding him. Billups is the Norse's best offensive weapon. He's a below the rim bruiser that uses his body well and finishes. He's averaging 12.7 points (73.7 FG%), 3.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 21 minutes per game. On the defensive end, he struggles to stop longer or quicker players, and he is extremely foul prone, especially with the way the game is being called this year. If Reynolds attacks him, he should either score easily or force Billups to the bench with foul trouble.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Xavier Bench vs NKU Bench
James Farr and JP Macura have been exceptional off the bench for Xavier through the first three games. Farr is averaging 9.0 points and 10.7 rebounds in 21.7 minutes, while Macura has put up 13.7 points (2nd on the team) and 3.0 rebounds in 23.3 minutes. Larry Austin has played steady as the backup point guard for 13 minutes per game. Expect to see him get extended minutes in this one. Makinde London, Kaiser Gates and Sean O'Mara should also see more playing time against the Norse. For NKU, Deontae Cole (6-6, 210) is a junior wing that started the last game in place of Garnett. He's another stand-still shooter for the Norse that shot 39.5 percent on 81 attempts from 3-point range last year. Senior Todd Johnson (6-0, 175) is an athletic lead guard that has a lot of experience but isn't seeing the court as much (15.7 mpg) this year. He's quick to pull the trigger from deep, and shot 38 percent on 137 attempts from three last year. Senior center Jake Giesler (6-7, 235) provides size and rebounding off the bench. If he's in the game, Xavier's frontcourt needs to use its athleticism and attack him. Versatile freshman forward Brennan Gillis (6-6, 210) has shown some promise in the first three games of his college career, but he's undersized and not physically tough enough to compete against Division I big men yet. Freshman forward Drew McDonald (6-8, 265) is a big-bodied forward with skills. He can rebound, pass and shoot it from deep. If he's in the game, he's going to be looking to get threes up. Junior Dean Danos (5-11, 175) is the backup point guard that mainly just comes in to handle the ball and distribute while the starters are catching their breath. Junior Matt Rosenwinkel (6-2, 225) is a stocky wing that looks like he just happened to stumble off the NKU intramural courts and onto the bench of the actual team. He didn't play hardly at all during his first two years in the program, but he's averaging 16 minutes through the first three games this year. He looks like a capable shooter from the outside.
Significant Edge Xavier
This shouldn't be a very close game. Northern lacks the talent and athletes to regularly get good looks on the offensive end, or prevent opponents from getting great looks on the defensive end. They have a lot of guys who like to try and space on the perimeter and get open threes. Xavier will have to be mindful of a couple of the more dangerous shooters (White, Murray, Johnson), and make sure they don't get hot from the outside. The Norse are fully bought in and playing hard for new coach John Brannen (former Alabama assistant). Expect to see a lot of ball pressure from them on defense. They'll play man-to-man and a funky 3-2 zone where they still get out and pressure the ball. West Virginia saw mostly zone when it hosted NKU. The Norse will also throw on a full-court run-and-jump press at times to try and make the game ugly. If Xavier takes care of the basketball and is able to feed the post, it should have no trouble scoring at will and drawing fouls. There should also be plenty of open looks from three if the Musketeers move the ball against NKU's overzealous defense.
Score prediction: Xavier 94 NKU 64