Edmond Sumner vs Eli Cain FR (6-6, 201)
Sumner didn't play in the last game against DePaul. He's coming off his worst performance of the season, as he finished with just one-point on 0-for-9 shooting with three assists and two turnovers in 31 minutes against Kris Dunn and Providence. Look for him to bounce back nicely in this one. He provides a perfect matchup on the defensive end for Cain, and should be a nice boost for the Musketeers on the offensive end this time around. He's averaging 10.7 points, 3.3 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 25.3 minutes per game. Cain is a lanky guard that has done a good job of getting into the paint this season. He's averaging 8.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 25.9 minutes per game. He's also been a pretty solid shooter from the outside, knocking down 17-of-40 attempts (42.5%) so far. He had seven points (2-9 FG, 2-5 3PT) and three assists in 29 minutes in the first game against Xavier. He's coming off a 13-point effort in 35 minutes against Butler on Wednesday. Look for him to find the corners and jack threes when the Musketeers go into the 1-3-1 zone.
Slight Edge Xavier
Remy Abell vs Billy Garrett Jr (6-6, 210)
Abell didn't score and was 0-for-5 from the field in the last game against DePaul. He did have five rebounds and two assists with no turnovers, though. Plus, he played great defense on Garrett. He's coming off a 6-point effort on 2-for-4 shooting (2-2 3PT) in the Providence game on Tuesday. For the season, he's averaging 6.4 points, 2.0 assists and 1.6 rebounds in 25.6 minutes per game. Garett is a talented lead guard with great size that creates a lot of the Blue Demons' offense. He's averaging 13.5 points, 3.9 assists, and 3.5 rebounds, while shooting 39.2 percent from the field, including 7-of-24 (29.2%) from 3-point range. A combination of Abell's smothering man-to-man defense and Xavier's 1-3-1 zone held him to just five points on 2-of-7 shooting (1-4 3PT) with four assists and three rebounds in 29 minutes the first time these teams played. He really just hasn't made the jump as a more efficient scorer or playmaker this season, particularly lately. He had just six points (2-7 FG), three rebounds, three assists and three turnovers in 22 minutes against Butler, and he's made only 2-of-18 attempts from 3-point range over the last five games. Garrett is still a player capable of causing problems, but his struggles shooting this year combined with Abell's defense makes this matchup much less of an advantage for DePaul than one might think.
Slight Edge DePaul
Myles Davis vs Aaron Simpson (5-11, 165)
Davis had 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting (3-5 3PT) with seven assists and two rebounds while taking over for Sumner at point guard in the first game against DePaul. For the season, he's averaging 11.0 points, 3.8 assists and 3.4 rebounds in 29.0 minutes per game. Against Providence on Tuesday, he finished with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting with seven assists. Simpson hasn't started for the last five games, but he's still playing starter minutes and always seems to play a lot against Xavier. He had eight points on 3-of-6 shooting, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range, to go with three assists and two rebounds in 21 minutes a few weeks ago against the Musketeers. He hasn't scored in the three games since, though. On the season, he's averaging 7.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 24.0 minutes per game. He's a player to pay close attention to against the 1-3-1 zone, as he does most of his damage on kickout threes where he's nailed 28-of-60 attempts (46.7%) on the year.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Trevon Bluiett vs Myke Henry (6-6, 238)
Bluiett has scored 15 points or more in each of the last six games, including Tuesday night's 15-point effort against Providence on 6-of-10 shooting (2-6 3PT). He's averaging 15.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.1 steals in 30.3 minutes per game. In the first game against DePaul, he finished with a career-high 24 points (7-14 FG, 5-11 3PT) to go with six boards, four assists, two steals and a block. In that game, Bluiett took advantage of the fact that DePaul's frontcourt sags off on ball screens and clogs the driving lanes last game by picking and popping to the top of the key out of Xavier's elbow series for easy 3-point looks. Keep an eye on how that plays out this time around. Henry is the most dangerous player on the court for DePaul in this matchup against Xavier. He has good size, good athleticism, good skill and his coaching staff can play him at the three or the four depending on matchups because of his versatility. He had 16 points (6-11 FG, 1-3 3PT) and eight boards in 29 minutes in the first meeting against the Musketeers, and was aggressive in driving against the 1-3-1. He's scored in double figures in each of the last seven games, and all but three of the Blue Demons' games this season. For the year, he's averaging 14.3 points (54.9% FG, 33.3% 3PT) and 6.3 rebounds in 28.7 minutes per game.
Slight Edge Xavier
James Farr vs Tommy Hamilton JR (6-11, 262)
Farr had one of his worst games of the season the first time around against DePaul, causing Mack to call him out in the postgame press conference, saying "he took the night off." He's coming off an 11-point, eight-rebound effort against Providence on Tuesday in which he knocked down multiple jump-shots, including a corner 3-pointer. He's averaging 10.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 21.2 minutes per game. The coaching staff should have him plenty motivated for this matchup after his struggles last time against the Blue Demons. Hamilton really wanted nothing to do with Xavier's frontcourt in the last game. Despite his size, Xavier will treat him as the four man when he's playing with another forward like Rashaun Stimage, because of his skill and lack of impact in the paint. He's averaging 9.2 points and 6.3 rebounds in 27.4 minutes per game. The face-up big man has hit 17-of-36 (47.2%) attempts from 3-point range on the year, but is shooting just 46.5 percent from the field. He played well at Butler, finishing with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. He's 11-for-18 from distance over the last three games. In the first game against the Musketeers, he had just three points (1-7 FG), five rebounds and five turnovers in 27 minutes of action.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Xavier's Bench vs DePaul Bench
Jalen Reynolds (6-10, 236) had six points and seven rebounds in 19 minutes in the first game against DePaul. He had one of his best games of the season Tuesday at Providence, as he finished with 15 points (7-10 FG) and 11 rebounds in 31 minutes. He's averaging 9.7 points and 6.7 rebounds in 20.2 minutes per game. JP Macura (6-5, 203) had a great game last time around against DePaul with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting to go with four rebounds, three steals and two assists. He's averaging 8.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 20.9 minutes per game. Sean O'Mara (6-10, 247) dominated DePaul's frontcourt on the block for the short stints that he was on the floor last time, finishing with nine points (2-3 FG) and three rebounds in 13 minutes. He's averaging 3.9 points and 2.1 rebounds in 8.5 points per game. For DePaul, senior forward Rashaun Stimage (6-9, 229) actually started last time against Xavier, but only played 15 minutes and wasn't a huge factor with four points (1-2 FG) and six rebounds. He's averaging 5.7 points and 3.9 rebounds in 18.1 minutes per game. Junior big man Peter Ryckbosch (6-10, 235) replaced Stimage in the starting lineup for the last two games. However, he's only averaging 1.1 points and 2.2 rebounds in 8.8 minutes per game so it's pointless to include him in the starting lineups. He had two rebounds, two turnovers and missed his only shot attempt in nine minutes against Butler. Junior guard Darrick Wood (6-5, 178) is an average guard with decent size. He's averaging 5.4 points (34.8% FG, 23.5% 3PT) 2.6 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 16.9 minutes per game. He had a rough outing against Butler, finishing 1-for-9 from the field with two points, four rebounds and three assists in 25 minutes of action. Freshman Erten Gazi (6-4, 200) still can't hit a shot from the outside (1-for-18 on the year), and has seen his playing time dwindle against conference opponents. He's averaging 2.2 points, 1.4 assists, and 1.4 rebounds in 16.4 minutes per game. He played 10 minutes in the last game against Xavier, but failed to register anything other than a turnover and two missed shots in the stat sheet. Junior RJ Curington (6-5, 210) is an aggressive guard that gets extremely inconsistent playing time. He was a factor in the first meeting against X, playing 12 minutes and scoring 11 points with three rebounds. He's averaging 4.3 points and 1.7 rebounds in 11.8 minutes per game.
Moderate Edge Xavier
These next three games are ones the Musketeers have to take care of, and the stretch starts with a road game against a DePaul team that has nothing to lose. The Blue Demons are looking for reasons to get excited to play at this point, and a top 10 team coming into their building should give them a pretty good one. The last thing Xavier can afford to do is let them hang around and gain confidence. If X can jump on top quick, DePaul should lose confidence fast and be overcome with that "here we go again" feeling. On defense, the Musketeers mixed it up and had success with both the 1-3-1 and the packline in the last game against the Blue Demons, holding them to 0.91 points per possession on 39.7 percent shooting. Their lack of ball movement really stagnated their offense against the 1-3-1. When XU was playing man-to-man, Mack stayed with a smaller lineup, at one point even playing Kaiser Gates at the five. That allowed his players to switch all the ball screens being set for Billy Garrett. On the other end of the court, Xavier created a lot of great looks last game within the flow of its offense. Part of that is due to Rick Carter calling out sets at the other end of the court, and part of it is due to DePaul not being very good at chasing shooters and dealing with ball screens. Last time, the Demons started out by sagging off on ball screens and giving up threes. However, after Xavier started 6-for-10 from beyond the arc in the first half, their bigs started pressing up, which then allowed Xavier to find some success slipping screens with its bigs. That ball screen chess match will be an interesting storyline in this game. Also, DePaul fouls way too much. The Demons rank 314th in the country in defensive foul rate, and the Musketeers made 20-of-25 free throw attempts last time the two teams played.
Predicted score: Xavier 80 DePaul 67