Edmond Sumner FR (6-6, 183) vs Chris McNeal FR (6-0, 195)
Sumner ranks second on the team with an average of 11.4 points per game, and leads the team with an average of 2.9 assists per game. He led Xavier with 14 points in the win over Dayton in the championship game of the Advocare Invitational. After a slow start offensively in the Alabama game (1 point, 0-for-3 from 3PT), he was a matchup problem in the semifinals and finals of the tournament. McNeal has shown promise as a playmaker within Western Kentucky's offense. He's fast with a good handle and he can knock down shots. He's averaging 5.1 points, a team-high 4.7 assists and 3.9 rebounds in 27.4 minutes per game. He typically drives to create shots for his teammates, but when he catches on the perimeter he's always looking to fire from three. He's shooting 36.4 percent on the year, with 22 of his 35 shot attempts coming from long distance. He's also one of the Hilltoppers' best defenders.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Myles Davis JR (6-2, 188) vs Aaron Cosby SR (6-3, 200)
Davis is tied for fourth on the team in scoring at 10.1 points per game, and he's tied for second with 2.4 assists. He's been a great playmaker off the bounce and leader for the Musketeers, and his shooting percentage from long range is slowly starting to climb (up to 33%, 10-30). Cosby is the Hilltoppers' best shooter. He's 18-for-37 (48.6%) from 3-point range on the year while averaging 12.1 points per game. Last game against Eastern Kentucky, he scored 26 points on 8-of-11 shooting from distance. Xavier has to find the Louisville-native when he tries to sneak into the corner and spot-up for an open look. On the defensive end, he's average at best.
Slight Edge Xavier
Remy Abell SR (6-4, 197) vs Fredrick Edmond JR (6-4, 205)
Abell is averaging 7.6 points, 2.0 assists, 1.6 rebounds and a steal in 25.6 minutes per game. He's been cold from the outside, hitting just one of his last six attempts over the previous four games. He had 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting, including 1-of-2 from beyond the arc in the Musketeers' win over Dayton. Edmond is a strong wing that does most of his damage off the dribble with his diverse mid-range game complete with runners, floaters and lean-ins. He's averaging 13.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game, while shooting 57.8 percent from the field, including 2-of-6 from long distance. Edmond grades out as one of the Hilltoppers' better defenders, but he also hasn't seen wings as talented as Xavier's. He gets caught out of position at times just like the rest of his teammates, so X should be aggressive in attacking him off the dribble.
Trevon Bluiett SO (6-6, 208) vs Nigel Snipes SR (6-6, 220)
Bluiett was named to the Advocare Invitational All-Tournament team and the Big East Conference Weekly Honor Roll for the second straight week after averaging 14.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists in four Xavier wins last week (NKU, Alabama, USC and Dayton). He's shooting 43.6 percent from three on the season. Snipes ranks second on the team in scoring with 13.3 points to go with 4.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 25.4 minutes per game. He's a strong wing/forward hybrid, with an efficient game on offense. He likes to spot up from three where he's shooting at a 44.8 percent clip (13-29 3PT). He can't guard Bluiett if this match-up comes to fruition.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Jalen Reynolds JR (6-10, 238) vs Justin Johnson SO (6-7, 235)
Reynolds was also named to the Advocare Invitational All-Tournament team. In three games at the tournament, he averaged 9.6 points and 7.0 rebounds. Johnson is the Hilltoppers best offensive player. He's averaging 16.9 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, both team-highs, in 27 minutes per game. He's a strong player, and a decent athlete. He makes up for his lack of length by finishing well from a variety of angles and being crafty in the post. He has good footwork, runs the floor well, and his teammates look to him as a finisher when driving. He's scored 20 percent of his points on offensive put-backs this year, which won't likely happen much in this game, so Xavier might be able to limit some of his production there. Also, for as many good things as he does on offense, Johnson is a poor defender, so look for X to exploit this advantage. Reynolds should be able to get him with his face-up moves as well as his power moves in the post.
Slight Edge Xavier
Xavier Bench vs WKU Bench
James Farr has been a game-changing force on the glass for Xavier. He's averaging a team-high 9.0 rebounds per game (3rd in the Big East). JP Macura ranks third on the team with an average of 10.6 points in 21.4 minutes per game. Makinde London and Sean O'Mara gained confidence at the Advocare Invitational after seeing some extended minutes off the bench in blowout wins over USC and Dayton. The duo even hooked up for a SportsCenter Top 10 play when London flung a behind-the-back pass to O'Mara for a dunk. For Western Kentucky, junior Chris Harrison-Docks (6-0, 175) is a backup ballhandler and spot-up shooter that will play both the one and the two. He's averaging 9.0 points and 2.1 assists per game, while shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc. Over 73 percent of his shot attempts have come from 3-point range. Junior Ben Lawson (7-1, 230) is averaging 4.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and a team-high 2.6 blocks in 13.6 minutes per game. He's a fairly coordinated and mobile 7-footer that lacks strength. Freshman Marlon Hunter (6-2, 195) is averaging 3.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in 12.2 minutes per game. He likes to take mid-range jumpers, and he's extremely active on the offensive glass for a guard. Junior Anton Waters (6-7, 245) is the only other Hilltopper playing double-digit minutes. He's a big body that provides some toughness and rebounding in the paint, while averaging 2.4 points and 3.0 rebounds per game.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Western Kentucky doesn't play at a fast pace at all, but at the same time the Hilltoppers seem to be at their most dangerous this year when they're running in transition or knocking down quick jumpers. Their multiple shooters getting hot at the same time and jacking quick threes is the scariest scenario for X. In the halfcourt, they'll run through their ball-screen motion offense deliberately and move the ball from side-to-side. Johnson has some nice moves in the post, but it will be interesting to see how he does against Xavier's much bigger and more athletic frontcourt. WKU is ranked 219th in the country in defensive efficiency. The Musketeers should hold an advantage at every position on offense, and shouldn't have much trouble getting whatever they want. The Hilltoppers put zero pressure on the ball, and they rank 224th in the country in defensive rebounding percentage, allowing opponents to pull down 31.9 percent of their misses. That could prove fatal against Xavier, which ranks 21st in the country in offensive rebounding percentage. WKU will play man-to-man most of the time, with the bigs sagging off in the lane on ball screens. The Hilltoppers have mixed in a 2-3 zone only about 15 percent of the time this season, but could need it more against X. They'll also use some token 1-2-2 pressure occasionally to slow the ball down, but they never force turnovers with it.
Score prediction: Xavier 88 WKU 68