Edmond Sumner FR (6-6, 183) vs Kareem Canty JR (6-1, 185)
Sumner ranks third on the team with an average of 10.6 points per game on 43.5 percent shooting from the field and 35 percent from 3-point range. He's also dishing out 3.3 assists and grabbing 2.6 rebounds per game. He's scored in double-figures in all but three games this season, including an 11-point effort with five assists and three steals in the Crosstown Shootout last Saturday. Canty is Auburn's leading scorer at 19.0 points per game (44.9% FG, 42.6% 3PT) to go with 6.0 assists and 3.2 rebounds. He scored a season-high 28 points (8-13 3PT) two games ago in an overtime loss to Middle Tennessee. Nearly 60 percent of his possessions are used in a ball screen or isolation situation, and he's a proficient scorer in either scenario. He plays with extreme confidence, shooting a lot of his 3-pointers off the dribble with a defender on him, and he also has a nice mid-range game equipped with floaters and pull-ups. It would seem likely that Remy Abell will be defending Canty.
Slight Edge Auburn
Remy Abell SR (6-4, 197) vs TJ Dunans JR (6-5, 174)
Abell went off last year against the Tigers, finishing with 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting, including 2-of-4 from three. He's coming off a clutch performance in the Crosstown Shootout where he nailed three big 3-pointers and dished out three assists in the Musketeers' win over Cincinnati. He's averaging 7.2 points, 2.3 assists and 1.5 rebounds in 26.0 minutes per game. Dunans is an athletic guard with some length that is at his best when he's in transition. His handle and first step are good enough to get him into the lane with regularity, and he's shooting 59.1 percent from 2-point range. The Tigers will even find him on the occasional alley-oop to utilize his athleticism.He's averaging 13.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. He's a capable outside shooter (10-26, 38.5% 3PT), and Auburn's top perimeter defender. He was one of the top-rated JUCO players in the country last year before signing with Auburn. If Abell is on Canty, Sumner should be a good match-up for Dunans.
Myles Davis JR (6-2, 188) vs TJ Lang SO (6-7, 200)
Davis is averaging 11.7 points per game on 45 percent shooting from the field, including 41.9 percent from beyond the arc, to go with 3.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He led the Musketeers with a season-high 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the Crosstown Shootout. Last year, he had eight points on 3-of-7 shooting in the overtime loss to the TIgers. Lang injured his right ankle and Achilles tendon in the first half of Tuesday's game against Mercer and didn't return, but Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said on Wednesday that the injury wasn't as serious as originally expected and Lang could return for today's game against Xavier. The sophomore guard has started all seven games so far this season and is averaging 7.3 points and 2.3 rebounds. Most of his offensive game is spotting up on the perimeter. He's 12-of-22 (54.6%) on the year from 3-point range, and 5-of-8 from inside the arc. He's a poor defender.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Trevon Bluiett SO (6-6, 208) vs Tyler Harris SR (6-10, 228)
Bluiett is coming off a rough outing in the Crosstown Shootout where he only had 3 points on 1-of-8 shooting. It snapped his streak of nine-straight games in double figures to start the season. He's the Musketeers' leading scorer at 14.6 points per game (44.2% FG, 45.5% 3PT) to go with 7.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists. Last year, he had 16 points, seven boards and five assists against the Tigers. Harris never recorded a double-double prior to playing at Auburn, but he's recorded three of them over the last three games. He's averaging 16.5 points (51.5% FG, 20.0% 3PT) and 8.8 rebounds per game. The Musketeers are familiar with Harris after playing against him four times over the last two years while he was at Providence, but under Bruce Pearl's direction he's floating on the perimeter waiting for spot-up jumpers less and scoring in the post, on put-backs and off of cuts to the basket more often. According to his listed weight, he's only added five pounds since last season, but he looks like he's bulked up and is playing much more aggressive on the glass at both ends this year.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Jalen Reynolds SR (6-10, 238) vs Cinmeon Bowers SR (6-7, 250)
Reynolds was in foul trouble for most of the Shootout, but had a strong stretch in the closing minutes to help seal the 10-point win as he finished with eight points, six boards and three steals. Last year, he had 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting and six rebounds in the loss to Auburn. Bowers is a big-bodied, physical forward, though not quite as big as he was last year when he scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds against the Musketeers. He lost nearly 30 pounds over the summer to improve his athleticism and stamina. He's averaging 13.0 points and 9.3 rebounds per game this season. Last week he scored 19 points and grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds at Middle Tennessee. It will be fun to watch him battle on the glass with Xavier's frontcourt. On offense, he gets a lot of his points by running the floor and getting easy buckets in transition. His second biggest source of offense is spot-up jumpers, surprisingly. When it comes to posting up, Bowers relies on his strength and athleticism to try and overpower his man; he doesn't have much of a back to the basket game.
Slight Edge Xavier
Xavier Bench vs Auburn Bench
James Farr is one of six Musketeers averaging double-digit points, posting 10.0 points and a team-high 8.4 rebounds in 19.4 minutes per game. He had another strong performance in the Crosstown Shootout with nine points on 4-for-4 shooting and six rebounds in 24 minutes of action. He's had five or more rebounds in every game this season. Last year, he had five points (2-6 FG, 0-2 3PT) and two rebounds in 12 minutes at Auburn. JP Macura is averaging 10.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 20.6 minutes per game. His 2.8:1 assist to turnover ratio is tied for the best on the team with Myles Davis. He didn't play in last year's game against the Tigers. For Auburn, with Lang being limited or potentially not even playing due to his injury, freshman guard Bryce Brown (6-3, 195) should see an increased role. The athletic three-star prospect came off the bench to score eight points and grab four rebounds in 31 minutes against Mercer after Lang got hurt. He's 13-for-33 (39.4%) from beyond the arc on the season. Freshman forward Horace Spencer (6-9. 220) gives the Tigers some toughness, athleticism and size off the bench. The four-star prospect is averaging 5.0 points, 6.2 boards and a team-high 1.7 blocks in 16.7 minutes per game. He's a good leaper that likes to play above the rim on both ends. Junior guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen (5-9, 175) returned to the court Tuesday night and played 12 minutes in a 78-71 win over Mercer. He's missed three games this year plus both exhibitions with a nagging shoulder injury. He gives the Tigers experience, ballhandling and a high IQ on the offensive end. Senior forward Jordon Granger (6-8, 220) provides some spot-up shooting ability off the bench. He's 2-of-8 from 3-point range and 2-of-2 from inside the arc this season, but last year he was a 37 percent 3-point shooter on 73 attempts while playing 23.1 minutes per game.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Gone are four of the top guys who helped Auburn knock off Xavier last year in KT Harrell (24 points), Malcolm Canada (15), Antoine Mason (12) and K.C. Ross-Miller (8). However, the Tigers are playing the same fast-paced style, and actually seem to be slightly better so far this year. Pearl was able to infuse the program with three impact transfers in Canty, Harris, and Dunans, to avoid suffering through a complete rebuilding year with an inexperienced roster. This team shoots the ball better from three - 40.1 percent as a team, which ranks 30th in the country - but they aren't as aggressive in attacking off the bounce and drawing fouls. Still, a huge key for Xavier will be stopping the ball in transition, which was a major struggle for the Musketeers at Auburn last year. The Tigers don't want to setup their offense; they want to play as fast as anyone in the country. Last year XU wasn't ready for that on the defensive end. Auburn gets good rebounding production out of its frontcourt (Harris, Bowers, Spencer), but they don't rebound well as a team. The Musketeers rank third in the country in defensive rebounding rate and 19th in the country in offensive rebounding rate, while Auburn ranks 143rd and 134th respectively. The Tigers play a man-to-man exclusively on defense, and they don't do a great job of handling ball-screen situations so look for Xavier's guards to be aggressive in attacking off the bounce. Auburn ranks 199th in the country in defensive efficiency.
Score prediction: Xavier 96 Auburn 72