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The Matchups: Xavier vs Alabama

Before every Xavier game, Rick provides a position-by-position preview of what to expect. This edition focuses on Thursday's Thanksgiving Day game against Alabama in the first round of the Advocare Invitational in Orlando.

Edmond Sumner FR (6-6, 183) vs Dazon Ingram FR (6-5, 185)

Sumner is averaging 13.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 25.5 minutes per game. He's shooting 48.3 percent from the field, including 4-of-9 on 3-point attempts. Defensively, he needs to pick it up. His length and athleticism have allowed him to make plays at times, but he's also been beaten on straight line drives as much or more than anyone else on the team to this point. Ingram leads Alabama in minutes played at 27.0 minutes per game. He's averaging 9.3 points (54.5% FG), 6.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.7 steals. The big freshman combo guard loves to get into the lane and use his size to hang in the air and finish against defenders. Like Sumner, he's still finding the right mix of when to be aggressive and when to pass at times, but he's been pretty sound in his decision-making thus far with 13 assists and six turnovers. He's not a 3-point shooter. It should be fun watching these jumbo-sized freshman point guards go head to head. 

Slight Edge Xavier

Myles Davis JR (6-2, 188) vs Retin Obasohan SR (6-1, 208)

Davis is averaging 10.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 28.3 minutes per game. After the starting the season 2-of-10 from 3-point range, he hit 2-of-5 attempts against NKU. The NKU game was also the first time he didn't have an assist; he recorded three or more in each of the first three games. Obasohan has been the Crimson Tide's leading scorer through the first three games, averaging 14 points per game on 46.4 percent shooting from the field, including 6-of-12 from beyond the 3-point arc. He's a strong, athletic guard that typically looks to attack and use his body when going to the basket, but he's never hesitant to pull from deep if given room. He'll also post up occasionally against defenders he feels he has an advantage over. 

Slight Edge Alabama

Remy Abell SR (6-4, 197) vs Arthur Edwards SR (6-5, 210)

Abell is averaging 9.0 points and 2.3 assists in 27.5 minutes per game. After nailing two huge threes out of four attempts against Michigan, he was 0-for-2 against NKU to bring his tally to 4-for-14 on the year. He's done a nice job of attacking the rim and drawing contact when the opportunity presents itself. Through four games, he's 10-for-11 at the free-throw line. Edwards is a fifth-year grad transfer from New Mexico. He's averaging 7.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in 21 minutes per game. Head coach Avery Johnson brought him in to play a similar role to that of Abell's for Xavier. He's a big-bodied, strong wing that brings experience and toughness, particularly on the defensive end. He didn't come in known as a shooter but he's 5-for-11 from beyond the arc to start the year, so the Musketeers will have to respect that part of his game. This should be a pretty good matchup between two similar role players. 

Even

Trevon Bluiett SO (6-6, 208) vs Shannon Hale SR (6-8, 226)

Bluiett is the Musketeers' leading scorer at 14.3 points per game. He's also averaging 9.5 rebounds (which is second on the team behind James Farr) and 2.8 assists. Ever since an average performance in the opener against Miami, he's taken his game to another level and has clearly been the best player on Xavier's team. His aggressiveness when driving the ball and toughness on the glass has been two huge factors in the Musketeers' 4-0 start. Against NKU, he finished with a career-high 16 rebounds. Hale is averaging 11.0 points and 3.3 rebounds through the first three games, after posting 8.2 points and 3.2 boards last year. He's a 33.7 percent career shooter from beyond the arc, but he's 5-of-10 so far this year. He looks to space on the perimeter and waits for one of his teammates to hit him for a three on just about every offensive possession. He'll pick-and-pop as well, and he's capable of shot faking and taking a couple of dribbles toward the basket. He's not the toughest or most athletic player, so if Bluiett continues to play with the same intensity he's shown on the glass Hale's size advantage shouldn't be an issue.

Moderate Edge Xavier

Jalen Reynolds JR (6-10, 238) vs Jimmie Taylor JR (6-10, 240)

Reynolds is averaging 10.5 points and 8.0 rebounds in 22.5 minutes per game. He stepped up in the biggest game of the year so far at Michigan with 15 points and nine boards, but he struggled against Missouri and seemed out of sorts in a subpar performance against NKU. If Xavier is to make a run in this holiday tournament, they'll need the big man to set the same tone on the neutral court in Orlando as he did in Ann Arbor. Taylor has legit size and plays tough inside.He's averaging 6.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in 20 minutes per game. Offensively, he's a little raw, but he has pretty good hands and typically tries to finish strong with a dunk when he catches around the hoop. He was 4-for-4 from the field with nine points and three blocks in 19 minutes last game against Louisiana-Lafayette. While it would seem Taylor has many of the necessary traits to neutralize Reynolds, I actually expect this to be a good match-up for Xavier. Reynolds seems to love playing against guys that are similar to him. Also, this will be an interesting matchup to keep an eye on because Taylor has a tendency to get tangled up with opponents and play a bit rough.

Moderate Edge Xavier

Xavier Bench vs Alabama Bench

JP Macura is still the Musketeers' third-leading scorer at 10.8 points in 21.5 minutes per game, but he's coming off his worst performance of the year as he finished with just two points on 0-for-3 shooting against NKU. After scoring 33 points in the first two games combined, he's managed just 10 in the last two. XU would love to get him back on track to jumpstart the offense away from the Cintas Center. James Farr is averaging 10.0 points and 10.0 rebounds in 21.3 minutes per game. While his scoring role is going to fluctuate from night to night, Farr has been one of the Musketeers' most consistent contributors, fulfilling his role as a dominant rebounder. Larry Austin is averaging 2.0 points in 12.3 minutes per game. He'll likely see an increased role during this tournament with three games in four days. The rest of Xavier's bench has underperformed in limited action to this point. After a poor showing in Monday night's opportunity against NKU, they're going to have to earn trust back from the coaches if they get another chance this week. For Alabama, sophomore Justin Coleman (5-10, 160) is a speedy distributor that loves to get into the lane and kick out to shooters. He's averaging 9.0 points, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game. He's a poor shooter (26.9 percent from the field), but that hasn't stopped him from hoisting up threes. Last year, he shot 23.9 percent on 109 attempts from beyond the arc. This year he's 4-for-15 over the first three games. He'll come in to run the point and let Ingram play off the ball at times. Smaller, waterbug-type point guards have seemingly been tougher for Sumner to match-up with so far this year, despite his impressive athleticism and quickness, so keep an eye on that. sophomore wing Riley Norris (6-7, 207) provides some shooting off the bench. He's averaging 9.0 points (3-5 3PT) and 3.7 rebounds per game. He had 18 points last game against Louisiana-Lafayette as he went 4-of-5 from the field and 8-of-10 at the free-throw line. He's skilled and fluid enough to pump fake a bad closeout and take a defender off the bounce. Freshman forward Donta Hall (6-10, 205) has been able to make an impact on the glass and on defense with his length and athleticism. He's averaging 3.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in 15.7 minutes per game. His rebound rate is the highest on the team. Junior forward Michael Kessens (6-9, 223) hasn't played a whole lot yet, but he could see a little extra action in this one against the Musketeers' bigger frontcourt. He's averaging 5.7 points and 1.7 rebounds in 12.3 minutes per game, and he's 7-for-8 from the floor so far this year. 

Slight Edge Xavier

Overall

Anytime a team has multiple players shooting threes with confidence, like Alabama has, that team is dangerous against the Musketeers' pack-line defense. They saw how threes can keep an inferior opponent in the game Monday night when they faced NKU. XU's energy has to be up on the defensive level to contest all of those perimeter shots, or they could pay the price by letting the Crimson Tide build momentum. On defense, Alabama is strictly a man-to-man team. It has allowed opponents to shoot 40.3 percent (306th in the country) from 3-point range on the season, while also allowing them to rebound 35.3 percent (287th) of their misses. Xavier needs a complete turnaround from Monday's performance against NKU. If the Musketeers play with energy on defense and toughness on the boards, that should be enough to put away the Crimson Tide. This is the exact type of game that XU has struggled with in these holiday tournaments at neutral sites in recent years, so this is a good opportunity to start changing that narrative. In six seasons as Xavier's head coach, Chris Mack's teams are 7-11 in such events. 

Score prediction: Xavier 83 Alabama 76


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