Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchups: Xavier vs DePaul

Before every game Rick provides a position-by-position preview of what to expect. This edition focuses on Tuesday night's home game against DePaul.

Remy Abell SR (6-4, 197) vs Billy Garrett JR (6-6, 210)

After a career-effort against Butler, Abell came back with a rough performance against St. John's. His overall stat line wasn't that bad - 6 points (3-5 FG), one rebound, one assist and two turnovers - but watching the game it was apparent that he never got into the flow. He's hit eight of his last 12 attempts from 3-point range dating back to the Crosstown Shootout, so there's no reason for him to hold back in looking for his shot. On the season, he's averaging 7.8 points, 2.3 assists and 1.5 reounds in 27.5 minutes per game, while shooting 45 percent from the field and 38.2 percent from 3-point range. He's moved up into this spot because he'll likely draw the assignment of guarding Garrett. Garrett is DePaul's leading scorer at 14.7 points per game to go with 3.9 assists and 3.1 rebounds. He's shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 34 percent from beyond the arc. He's a very difficult player to defend with his combination of length, athleticism and craftiness off the bounce, plus he's a good enough shooter off the dribble. A ton of DePaul's offense is generated by him operating off of ball screens. Nearly every possession will start with a drag on one side for him, or a screen at the high point. He's also a very good isolation scorer. 

Moderate Edge DePaul

Myles Davis JR (6-2, 188) vs Aaron Simpson SR (5-11, 165)

Davis stepped up big for the Musketeers in the second half of the St. John's game to help pull them out of a lackluster performance to victory. He finished with 19 points (4-9 FG, 2-5 3PT), four assists and three rebounds. He's 5-for-11 from three over the last two games, and seems to be locked in with his shot right now. For the season, he's averaging 10.9 points, 3.3 assists, and 3.2 rebounds in 28.2 minutes per game. He scored 14 points in the loss at DePaul last year, and had 25 points with eight rebounds in the win over DePaul at Cintas. He shot a combined 19 free throws in those two games, so look for him to be aggressive off the bounce and in transition. Simpson is mostly a spot-up shooter that spaces well and waits for kick outs from Garrett. He's shooting 48.1 percent from deep on 54 attempts, while averaging 7.9 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 25.1 minutes per game. If he gets hot from the outside, he can go for a big night as he showed when he went 5-for-5 from deep and scored 20 points against Florida State, or when he was 4-for-8 from distance with 16 points against Stanford earlier this season. 

Moderate Edge Xavier

JP Macura SO (6-5, 203) vs Eli Cain FR (6-6, 201)

Macura made his fourth career start and first of the season against St. John's, and finished with seven points (3-7 FG, 1-2 3PT), two rebounds and two assists in 19 minutes. He was the only Musketeer other than Makinde London (4 min.) not to commit a turnover in that game. He's averaging 8.7 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 20.1 minutes per game while shooting 45.7 percent from the field and 31 percent from 3-point range. Xavier needs him to play well defensively in this game without Edmond Sumner, or Larry Austin may see more minutes than usual. Cain is a big guard that is most impressive when he's using his length to get into the lane and finish, similar to Garrett. He's averaging 7.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 24.8 minutes per game, and he's also 12-for-26 (46.2%) from beyond the arc. He's not the most efficient offensive player currently, but he's shown a lot of promise as a freshman. He gives the Blue Demons a second athletic guard that can beat defenders off the dribble, which could put some stress on Xavier's man-to-man defense without Sumner. 

Even

Trevon Bluiett SO (6-6, 208) vs Myke Henry SR (6-6, 238)

Bluiett finished with 18 points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals and two turnovers in the win over St. John's. However, for the third straight game he struggled with his jump shot, making just 1-of-5 from distance. He's now 2-for-15 from deep over the last three games. However, he has picked up his playmaking in those games with Sumner out, dishing out eight assists and attempting 22 free throws. He's averaging 14.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 30.9 minutes per game. Last year, he had 19 points in the loss at DePaul, and 21 points in the win over DePaul at Cintas while hitting 8-of-10 shots from the field. This matchup sets up well for him offensively, but he's going to be tested on the defensive end. Henry is the Blue Demons' second-leading scorer at 13.7 points per game to go with 5.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 28.8 minutes of action. Most of his points come on spot-up jumpers and slashing cuts to the basket, but he has a pretty diverse skill-set, which includes the ability to post defenders up or drive them to the basket from the perimeter. He's shooting 55.2 percent from the field, including 9-for-32 (28.1%) from 3-point range. However, he was 31-of-83 (37.3%) from the outside last season, so he is capable of knocking down the perimeter jumper and needs to be accounted for out there. He also particularly likes to attack bad closeouts from the top of the key, driving hard to his left. 

Slight Edge Xavier

James Farr SR (6-10, 244) vs Tommy Hamilton JR (6-11, 262)

Farr was one of the few Musketeers that played well in the first half against St. John's, going 4-for-4 from the field with eight points before intermission. He disappeared in the second half with foul trouble, and finished with eight points, seven boards and two blocks. He's averaging 10.3 points and 8.5 rebounds in 20.7 minutes per game. DePaul isn't a dominant team on the glass by any means, but the Blue Demons are a better offensive rebounding team than St. John's, which just gouged Xavier for 15 offensive boards, so it's important that Farr sets the tone for X on the defensive glass. Hamilton is DePaul's third-leading scorer at 9.3 points per game, and he's the team's leading rebounder at 6.9 per game. He's shooting 46.2 percent from the field, and 10-for-23 (43.5%) from beyond the arc. For a true center with a big body, he's surprisingly agile and skilled. He's been up and down all year, typically following a strong performance with a couple of lackluster ones. Last week, he scored 19 (6-10 FG) points and grabbed nine boards in a hard-fought loss to Butler, but then turned around and finished with four points (2-6 FG) and five boards in an 11-point loss to Georgetown. He's clearly had more success against smaller front courts this season, and those performances against Butler and Georgetown illustrate that. 

Slight Edge Xavier

Xavier Bench vs DePaul Bench

Assuming Chris Mack sticks with the lineup that he used at St. John's, then junior big man Jalen Reynolds (6-10, 238) will be coming off the bench. Although, it's entirely possible he's back in the starting lineup, replacing Macura, with Bluiett sliding up to the three. Reynolds is averaging 10.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and a team-high 1.1 steals in 19.9 minutes per game. He's certainly had his struggles, but he's also scored in double figures in each of the last two games, including a double-double with 10 points and 13 boards against St. John's. It'll be interesting to see if he can start getting on a roll during Big East play as he did last season. Larry Austin (6-2, 179) has seemingly found some confidence to build on over the last few games. He had a career-high six points (2-4 FG) with a rebound, an assist and a turnover in 11 minutes against St. John's. His defense could play a key role in this one against DePaul's athletic guards. Freshman Kaiser Gates (6-8, 217) has benefitted from Sumner being out of the lineup more than anyone. He's played 12 minutes in each of the last three games. He missed both of his shot attempts and had two turnovers with a rebound and a steal in the win over St. John's. For DePaul, Senior Rashaun Stimage (6-9, 229) adds length and athleticism to the frontcourt. He's averaging 5.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 17 minutes per game. On offense, he's mostly just a dump-off guy that does a decent job of making himself available to his teammates in a place where he can finish. He's also a decent offensive rebounder. Junior guard Darrick Wood (6-5, 178) is another ballhandler with some size for the Blue Demons. He too often limits himself to being a jumpshooter, and is actually most effective when he's breaking defenders down in isolation and using his tremendous mid-range game to finish. He's averaging 5.8 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 16.9 minutes per game. He's just 7-for-28 (25.%) from 3-point range. Freshman guard Erten Gazi (6-4, 200) is the only other player in the Blue Demons' rotation receiving double-digit minutes. He's averaging 2.6 points and 1.6 assists in 18.5 minutes per game. He's made just 1-of-17 attempts from the three, but he hasn't exactly been shy about shooting them in his limited action. He's not super involved in the offense when he's on the floor, but he seems to have a pretty high IQ -- knows when to cut back door, attack a bad closeout, find the open man, and crash the offensive glass. 

Slight Edge Xavier

Overall

With this game being at home, it's hard to imagine Xavier losing to DePaul as long as the Musketeers play with proper energy and effort. One of the advantages the Blue Demons may have is their multiple long and athletic guards that can make plays off the bounce, especially with Sumner out for Xavier. If they play to their potential and make it a point to attack XU's guards early, I think we may see a lot of 1-3-1 zone from the Musketeers. DePaul's zone offense has looked erratic against decent zones recently from Georgetown and Butler. The Blue Demons settled for a lot of tough jumpers in those games, and had some bad turnovers. They rank 308th in the country in turnover percentage. On the defensive end, they foul too often and don't do a very good job of rebounding. Xavier ranks 14th in the country in free throw rate, and 15th in offensive rebounding rate. DePaul has played 98 percent man-to-man this year, with bigs hedging and recovering on screens. Expect the Musketeers to have a lot of success executing their actions on offense, and also advance passing the ball up the floor in transition.  

Predicted score: Xavier 85 DePaul 69


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