Edmond Sumner FR (6-6, 183) vs Kris Dunn JR (6-4, 220)
Sumner has scored in double figures in three straight games since returning from his concussion, including the 13 points he had on Saturday in the win over Seton Hall. He's also averaging 4.7 assists in those three games. This is going to be a difficult match-up for Xavier's freshman, particularly on the offensive end when the Friars are in a man-to-man. Dunn is the best point guard in the country and a top five pick in the upcoming NBA draft. He's nearly impossible to keep out of the lane, and his playmaking ability is second to none. He's averaging 17.0 points, 7.1 assists, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.9 steals in 32.3 minutes per game. A big reason the Musketeers started playing the 1-3-1 zone last year was to limit his effectiveness, so look for them to use that a lot in this one. Dunn has a knack for making clutch plays, so X would rather not have this game come down to the final possessions in his own building. On the other end of the court, Dunn does a tremendous job of pressuring other point guards and creating turnovers.
Moderate Edge Providence
Myles Davis JR (6-2, 188) vs Kyron Cartwright SO (6-0, 185)
Davis is averaging 10.9 points, 3.6 assists, and 3.3 rebounds in 28.7 minutes per game. He's coming off an eight-point(3-10 FG), five-assist performance in Saturday's win over Seton Hall. He had 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting at Providence last year, and 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range in the rematch at the Cintas Center. He should be able to take advantage of this matchup on the offensive end. Cartwright is a second point guard on the court for the Friars with strong ballhandling and passing skills. He's done a good job of taking care of the ball and setting up his teammates in conference play. He's averaging 5.1 points and 3.3 assists in 21.0 minutes per game. Almost all of his points come in transition or on spot-up jumpers. He's shooting 45.5 percent from 3-point range on just 22 attempts. A game ago against Butler, he was 3-for-4 from deep, so the Musketeers can't totally disregard him when they're in the zone.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Remy Abell SR (6-4, 197) vs Junior Lomomba JR (6-5, 205)
Abell hasn't been much of a factor on offense since the Butler game. He's averaging 6.4 points, 2.0 assists, and 1.6 rebounds in 25.8 minutes per game, and shooting 34.1 percent from 3-point range. Over the last four games, he's scored just five points total and is 2-for-15 from the field, including 1-for-7 from beyond the arc. He'll probably start out guarding Dunn when the Musketeers are in their man-to-man defense. Lomomba isn't an offensive-minded player, but he has a decent skill-set, meaning he can do a little bit of everything. His handle is enough to get him where he needs to go, he's capable of knocking down an open three, he has some mid-range game, and he's a good athlete. He's just not very aggressive, and he's not a great shooter. He's more of a glue-guy that plays really hard at both ends. He's averaging 6.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 27.6 minutes per game, but he had 12 points (4-10 FG, 2-3 3PT), four boards and three assists in 37 minutes against Villanova. There are definitely some similarities between these two players, only Lomomba seems to be picking up his offensive production lately, while Abell seems to be fading.
Trevon Bluiett SO (6-6, 208) vs Rodney Bullock SO (6-8, 225)
Bluiett has scored 15 or more points in each of the last five games, including posting 15 points (4-9 FG, 3-6 3PT), five rebounds and three assists Saturday against Seton Hall. For the season, he's averaging 15.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 30.4 minutes per game, while shooting 39.7 percent from 3-point range. After missing the first two seasons of his career due to a suspension and an ACL tear, Bullock has made an impact as a scoring combo forward this year for the Friars. He's averaging 12.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 32.2 minutes per game. He is a high IQ player that does a good job of making himself available in open spaces for his teammates to find him. He scores a higher percentage of his points off of teammates finding him on cuts or dump-offs than anything else. He'll also try and stretch the floor with 3-point shots, but he's only shooting 31.3 percent from distance on 48 attempts. In Sunday's win over Villanova, he had eight points (4-9 FG, 0-1 3PT) and five rebounds. He's a pretty good rebounder on both ends too. Against the 1-3-1, the Wildcats will likely use him to work the high post.
Slight Edge Xavier
James Farr SR (6-10, 244) vs Ben Bentil SO (6-9, 235)
Farr is coming off the best performance of his career and the best game turned in by a Xavier player this year as he finished with 26 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, three blocks, and two steals in the win over Seton Hall. He's averaging 10.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 21.4 minutes per game. This is going to be a great challenge for him. Bentil is an energetic and mobile big man with tremendous feet. Because of his footwork, he has a diverse back to the basket game, but he's also skilled enough to face his man up and drive him to the rim from the perimeter. He's more than willing to step out and shoot the three, but he's just 17-for-64 on the year (26.6%) from out there. He was named the Big East Player of the Week this week after leading the Friars to a pair of wins last week, while averaging 25.5 points and 10.0 rebounds. He had a season-high 31 points, including 10 in overtime, and pulled down 13 rebounds in their 82-76 overtime win over Villanova on Sunday. He's the Wildcats' leading scorer and rebounder at 19.8 points and 8.2 boards per game. Farr's size and rebounding ability may slow Bentil down some inside, but the sophomore's mobility and footwork could also be an issue for Farr. Against the zone, expect Bentil to work below the blocks in a finisher position, while also popping out to the corners for occasional jump shots.
Moderate Edge Providence
Xavier Bench vs Providence Bench
Junior big man Jalen Reynolds (6-10, 238) hasn't scored in double figures in the last four games. He had six points and five boards in 20 minutes in the win over Seton Hall on Saturday. He gave the Friars' frontcourt trouble with his size and athleticism last year, scoring 14 points and grabbing 13 boards at Providence, and 19 points with seven rebounds in the rematch the Cintas Center. He's averaging 9.4 points and 6.5 rebounds in 19.6 minutes per game. JP Macura (6-5, 203) is right behind him at sixth on the team in scoring with an average of 8.5 points (45.4% FG, 30.2% 3PT) to go with 2.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 20.8 minutes per game. Sean O'Mara (6-10, 247) is playing with tons of confidence on the offensive end. He had his way with Seton Hall's big men, posting nine points - on a perfect 4-of-4 from the field - with two boards, two blocks and a steal in nine minutes of action. He's averaging 4.0 points and 2.2 rebounds in 8.5 minutes per game. Freshman forward Kaiser Gates (6-8, 217) also played nine minutes against Seton Hall, and while he failed to score, he was very active on the glass and on defense. He had five boards and a steal in his limited time on the floor. He's averaging 3.1 points and 2.7 rebounds in 9.9 minutes per game. For Providence, sophomore Jalen Lindsey (6-7, 210) is an athletic wing that spends a lot of his time spacing on the perimeter looking for threes. He's averaging 6.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in 25.5 minutes per game. He's hit just 22-of-89 (24.7%) 3-point attempts on the season, but he's certainly one of the guys to keep an eye on in the corners when X plays the 1-3-1. Freshman wing/forward Ryan Fazekas (6-8, 205) is a spot-up shooter. he's averaging 5.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 35.8 percent from beyond the arc - 53 of his 69 shot attempts have come from long distance. He doesn't do much else at this point. Freshman guard Drew Edwards (6-3, 185) is a good ballhandler and passer with a fairly strong frame for a young player. He came in with a reputation as a scorer, but he hasn't hit enough shots yet to really find his rhythm. He's averaging 2.9 points and 1.9 rebounds in 12.2 minutes per game.
Moderate Edge Xavier
This game will mark the first ever matchup between two top 10 teams in 750 games at the Dunkin Donuts Center. These teams have split both of their home games each of the first two years that they've been in the Big East together. Providence doesn't play fast in terms of overall tempo and number of possessions, but Xavier will have to do a good job of getting back on defense and stopping the ball in transition, an area where the Friars thrive. They're averaging 16.2 points per game in transition. When they settle into the halfcourt, they'll take their time, and it will then come down to Xavier's ability to keep Dunn out of the lane and Bentil from going nuts inside. They'll run Dunn off of plenty of ball screens, and they'll also try to isolate mismatches in the halfcourt. They're not a very good shooting team. On the defensive end, the Friars have played about 80 percent man-to-man, and 20 percent 2-3 zone to this point. However, they played a lot of zone in their win over Villanova on Sunday, so we may see more of that. If so, the game will basically come down to Xavier's ability to hit shots on the road, because the Musketeers should have no trouble running their stuff and getting open looks against the zone.
Predicted score: Xavier 76 Providence 73