Edmond Sumner FR (6-6, 183) vs Bryant Crawford FR (6-3, 200)
Sumner was named the Big East Rookie of the Week after scoring 13 points and dishing out five assists to go with a career-high six rebounds in Xavier's win over Auburn. He's tied with Jalen Reynolds for third on the team in scoring at 10.8 points per game while shooting 44 percent from the field, including 40 percent from 3-point range on 25 attempts. He's also averaging 3.5 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game. Crawford is a point guard with good size, athleticism and skill. He scores most of his points on spot-up jumpers, but he has the game to get all the way to the rim. He does a good job of spacing on the perimeter and making himself available for kick-out jumpers, and he's also oddly good at ball-faking to freeze defenders and then hitting out-of-rhythm 3-pointers. He's inefficient from inside the arc and he turns the ball over too much, but he's a playmaking threat with averages of 13.1 points, 5.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
Slight Edge Xavier
Myles Davis JR (6-2, 188) vs Mitchell Wilbekin SO (6-2, 175)
After shooting well and scoring in double-figures for five-straight games, Davis was 1-for-5 from distance and only had five points against Auburn. He still played a solid floor game, finishing with five assists, three steals and one turnover. He's shooting 39.6 percent from 3-point range on 48 attempts. Wilbekin is mainly just a threat to shoot it from deep, but the unique aspect to his game is that he's a very good shooter off of the dribble. He likes to come off of high ball screens and fire from three, so X's bigs will have to stay with him long enough on the hedge to ensure he doesn't get a clean look while his man is still recovering. He's playing a team-high 32.8 minutes per game and averaging 9.6 points while shooting 37.7 percent from three. He stepped up in both of the Deacons' biggest wins, scoring 13 points on 3-of-5 shooting from distance against Indiana and 15 points on 4-of-7 from deep against UCLA.
Slight Edge Xavier
Remy Abell SR (6-4, 197) vs Cornelius Hudson SO (6-7, 195)
Abell had four points, three rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes against Auburn. He hasn't scored in double figures since the Dayton game, but he's done a tremendous job of fulfilling his role as a defensive stopper and team leader. He's made great decisions, leading to an over 2:1 assist to turnover ratio. Hudson is a lanky and athletic wing that seems to be just scratching the surface of his potential. After returning from an early season suspension, he had 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals in his first game back against UCLA. His other big game came against Arkansas when he finished with 17 points and two assists. He's averaging 10.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 26.6 minutes per game. He turns the ball over a little too much, and he settles for too many jump shots despite being a below average shooter. He's shooting just 35 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range, and half of his shot attempts have come from beyond the arc. However, when he's active, he can get stuff done off the bounce and with his athleticism, impacting the game in multiple ways.
Slight Edge Wake Forest
Trevon Bluiett SO (6-6, 208) vs Devin Thomas SR (6-9, 245)
Bluiett ranks eighth in the Big East in scoring at 14.5 points per game and 10th in rebounding at 7.5 per game. After only scoring three points in the Crosstown Shootout - the first time he's failed to hit double-digits this year - he bounced back with 13 points, four boards and two steals in 29 minutes against Auburn. He was 4-of-7 from 3-point range. Exactly half of his shot attempts this year have come from beyond the arc. Thomas is an athletic and active big man that gets his points in a variety of ways. He runs the floor well for easy buckets in transition, his teammates find him in pick-and-roll situations as a finisher, and he uses his quick feet to beat defenders one-on-one in isolation situations. He's averaging a double-double with a team-high 17.3 points and 10.7 rebounds to go with 2.4 assists and 2.0 blocks in 28.8 minutes per game. This will be an interesting match-up for Bluiett when the Deacons are playing big. At times they go smaller and play four out, but when they don't it will be interesting to see if the Musketeers can hold their own on the glass with a smaller lineup, or if they have to adjust and go bigger as well.
Slight Edge Xavier
Jalen Reynolds JR (6-10, 238) vs Dinos Mitoglou SO (6-10, 245)
Reynolds had his best offensive game of the season against Auburn, finishing with 18 points (7-9 FG) and six rebounds. That earned him a spot on the Big East's Weekly Honor Roll for the second time this season. This could be an important match-up for X. Reynolds has the chance to use his athleticism and strength to give the Musketeers an advantage on the offensive end, but he also has to be locked in against Mitoglou's specialized skill-set on defense. Mitoglou is a face-up big man that gets most of his points on spot-up jumpers, either from kick-outs or pick-and-pop situations. He's shooting 37.3 percent from distance with over 60 percent of his shot attempts coming from beyond the arc. He's also a decent rebounder at both ends, and a 91.4 percent free throw shooter. He's averaging 12.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 25.7 minutes per game, and comes in with the hot hand after nailing 9-of-16 from 3-point range over the last three games. Xavier can't lose him, or he's more than capable of going for a 20-point night.
Slight Edge Xavier
Xavier Bench vs Wake Forest Bench
James Farr (6-10, 247) is averaging 10.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. He's coming off a 12-point (5-8 FG), 11-rebound performance on Saturday against Auburn. He also tied a season-high with three blocked shots in that game. JP Macura (6-5, 195) is averaging 9.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. He's in a little bit of a shooting slump, having hit just three of his last 13 from long range, and he's managed just 10 points combined in the Musketeers' last two games. Sean O'Mara (6-9, 247) made a statement with his play Saturday by scoring 10 points and grabbing six boards in 14 minutes of action. He's currently playing with a lot of confidence. For Wake Forest, sophomore Greg McClinton (6-7, 200) is a slashing combo forward that slides between the three and the four and gets most of his points in transition or on offensive rebounds. He's averaging 6.2 points and 3.7 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game. He may get the start, but Hudson plays more minutes than he does. Senior Codi Miller-McIntyre just returned two games ago from a fractured foot suffered in the preseason. He's been the Deacons' leading scorer each of the last two seasons, including last year when he averaged 14.5 points per game. He's easing back into his role on the team and isn't at mid-season form yet, but he did play 24 minutes and scored 10 points while dishing out five assists last friday in a win over Coastal Carolina. He's at his best when he's attacking off the dribble and finishing or drawing fouls. Junior Trent VanHorn (6-3, 215) is averaging 2.7 points and 1.1 rebounds in 20.1 minutes per game. He's a fairly skilled utility player that provides some experience. Freshman John Collins (6-10, 225) is a super-impressive young forward with length, bounce and great feet. He's averaging 9.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 14.7 minutes per game. Freshman center Doral Moore (7-1, 250) is a long and lean big man with some coordination and touch. He's averaging 2.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in just 6.9 minutes per game.
Slight Edge Xavier
Xavier has done a good job of pushing the ball up the floor and getting good looks in transition recently. Expect that to be a big point of emphasis against a Wake Forest defense that is giving up 15.4 points per game on the break. The Deacons play exclusively man-to-man, and will occasionally stretch it full court. On ball screens, their bigs jump out and hedge and recover, just like Xavier does. Look for the Musketeers to try and exploit that for open 3-point looks. Also, Wake doesn't do a good job of stopping the ball-handler in ball screen situations, so look for guys like Sumner and Davis to find seams off the bounce. Bruce Pearl said a team with size and depth in its frontcourt would have the best chance of giving Xavier trouble. Wake has those two things, and the Deacons are good rebounders on the offensive end. But, they're not so hot on the defensive glass… or just defense in general. So them containing Xavier's offense, including second-chance points, will be a key storyline to follow. On the other end of the court, Wake is not a good shooting team despite having a few capable spot-up shooters in Crawford, Mitoglou, and Wilbekin. The Deacons' best source of offense is getting to the free-throw line. They score 25.5 percent of their points at the charity stripe, which is 16th most in the country. The Musketeers will have to play without fouling and continue to secure defensive rebounds like they've been doing. This is their first game away from the Cintas Center since November 29 when they beat Dayton in Orlando, and only their second actual road game of the year. However, even if they shoot poorly because of that factor, they should still be able to come out on top if they play with the same energy and toughness on defense and the boards that they've been playing with all year.
Score prediction: Xavier 78 Wake Forest 66