Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchups: Xavier vs St. John's

Before every game, Rick takes a position-by-position look at what to expect. This edition focuses on Wednesday night's home game against St. John's.

Edmond Sumner FR (6-6, 183) vs Federico Mussini FR (6-1, 155)

Sumner didn't play in the last game against St. John's due to his concussion, but his length and athleticism may cause problems for the Red Storm's backcourt, possibly forcing them to go to their zone more often in this one. Sumner is averaging 10.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 25.1 minutes per game, while shooting 39.6 percent from the field and 32.7 percent from 3-point range. He went a combined 2-for-15 from the field, including 0-for-6 from three, in two games last week. Mussini is a lead scoring guard that excels as a jump shooter with his feet set. With Sumner out for the game at St. John's, Myles Davis defended Mussini in the first meeting between these teams and was able to keep him from doing much of anything when the Musketeers were playing man-to-man. Mussini did seem to enjoy playing against the 1-3-1 zone, though. He got hot late in that game to finish 5-of-8 from 3-point range. He had 19 points on 5-of-12 shooting overall, with four rebounds and two assists in 34 minutes. For the season, he's averaging 12.5 points, 2.8 assists and 2.8 rebounds in 32.9 minutes per game, while shooting 36.4 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc. He had just three points on 1-for-8 shooting on Sunday in St. John's loss to Villanova, and he's 11-for-37 (29.7%) from 3-point range over the last six games since he faced Xavier the first time. 

Slight Edge Xavier

Remy Abell SR (6-4, 197) vs Felix Balamou SR (6-4, 192)

Abell was 3-for-5 from the field with six points, one rebound, one assist and two turnovers in 32 minutes against St. John's the first time around. He hasn't scored in double figures since. Saturday at DePaul he was 1-for-5 from the field with three points and an assist in 22 minutes. For the season, he's averaging 6.2 points, 1.9 assists, and 1.5 rebounds in 25.4 minutes per game, while shooting 39.4 percent from the field and 35.6 percent from 3-point range. Balamou is an athletic guard with a strong frame, similar to Abell, and he loves to drive. Last time around against the Musketeers, Abell held him to just five points on 2-of-5 shooting with two rebounds in 23 minutes. Against the 1-3-1 zone, he's pretty much worthless. He's averaging 6.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in 23.3 minutes per game. Over the last three games, he shot a combined 3-for-16 from the field, finishing with just two points in each of them. 

Even

Myles Davis JR (6-2, 188) vs Ron Mvouika SR (6-6, 210)

Davis scored 19 points on 4-of-9 shooting, including 2-of-5 from 3-point range, with four assists and three rebounds in 36 minutes at St. John's. On the defensive end, he did a pretty good job of defending Mussini when the Musketeers were in man-to-man, so it will be interesting to see how they set their matchups this time around with Sumner back. Davis is averaging 11.0 points, 3.7 assists, and 3.3 rebounds in 28.9 minutes per game, while shooting 40.6 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from 3-point range. Mvouika is a spot-up shooter with some size, who lacks athleticism. Like Mussini, he too was bombing away from three last time he faced X, though he wasn't as successful, finishing 2-of-8 from beyond the arc. He was 5-of-14 overall from the field with 19 points and five rebounds in 31 minutes of action. He had some good luck last time against the Musketeers - a banked three at the end of the shot clock, and fortunate bounces on the offensive glass where a few rebounds came right to him - but he was also very active in that game.  For the season, he's averaging 8.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 26.6 minutes, while shooting 41.4 percent from the field and 42.5 percent from 3-point range. He's 6-for-11 from 3-point range over the last two games coming into Wednesday night, so the Musketeers have to make sure they know where he is at all times when they go zone. He likes to work the corners and the wings against the 1-3-1. 

Moderate Edge Xavier

Trevon Bluiett SO (6-6, 207) vs Christian Jones JR (6-7, 230)

Bluiett had 18 points on 4-of-11 shooting with four rebounds, three assists and three steals in 32 minutes in the first game against St. John's this season. That performance sparked a streak of seven consecutive games with 15 or more points for the sophomore forward. He had 15 points (6-10 FG, 0-2 3PT), six boards, and two assists in Saturday's win over DePaul. St. John's did a terrible job of finding him when it switched to a 2-3 zone in that first meeting, but he wasn't hitting shots that day like he typically does. He did most of his damage working against Jones one-on-one. Jones is a wide-bodied forward with a limited face-up skill package on offense. He's averaging 7.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 26.3 minutes per game. After not scoring in double figures for seven straight games to start Big East play, he's put up 15 points and 10 points in the last two against Seton Hall and Villanova respectively. Bluiett seemed to be a perfect defensive matchup for him last time. He had trouble getting past XU's more mobile forward, and ended up settling for bad jumpers. He also tried to work the short corner against the 1-3-1 zone, but had little success (aka he air-balled a 15-footer). Later in the game when St. John's went smaller with Jones essentially playing the five, he was able to score on drives past both Reynolds and Farr for his only two baskets of the game. He played 28 minutes and finished with four points (2-6 FG) and four rebounds in that first game against the Musketeers. 

Moderate Edge Xavier

Jalen Reynolds JR (6-10, 235) vs Kassoum Yakwe FR (6-8, 205)

Reynolds had 10 points and 13 rebounds in 22 minutes against St. John's earlier this season. After falling into a little bit of a funk for most of Big East play, he's played better over the last two games, finishing with 15 points and 11 boards in 31 minutes against Providence last Tuesday, and following it up with 10 points and six boards in 16 minutes against DePaul on Saturday. Going against a depleted and undermanned St. John's frontcourt, this is a game where he could really take advantage and breakout with a monster effort. Yakwe is a long and athletic forward that came in with a reputation as a rim protector and shot blocker. He's started all six games since Yankuba Sima was injured against Xavier, and is actually blocking shots at a higher rate than Sima was, ranking sixth in the country in block percentage. He's averaging 5.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 4.2 blocks in 27.8 minutes per game during that stretch. He had four rebounds, a block and four fouls in 12 minutes after Sima went down in the last game against the Musketeers, but didn't attempt a shot on offense. He had just two points, three rebounds and three turnovers in 24 minutes against Villanova on Sunday. He runs the floor really well, and he's capable of going past a defender with a one- or two-dribble face-up move. However, most of his points come on dump-offs from his teammates or offensive rebounds. 

Moderate Edge Xavier

Xavier Bench vs St. John's Bench

James Farr (6-10, 244) was 4-for-4 from the floor with eight points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes in the first game against St. John's. He had seven points and three boards on Saturday against DePaul, but tweaked one of his legs in the game. He practiced on Tuesday and is expected to play in this one, but his action may be limited if the Musketeers are playing well. After nailing a big shot to help lift Xavier over No. 10 Providence on Tuesday, JP Macura (6-5, 203) followed it up with 12 points, two rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes against DePaul. He started the last game against St. John's with Sumner out, and finished with seven points on 3-of-7 shooting. Sean O'Mara (6-10, 247) could see an increased role in this game if Farr is limited. O'Mara didn't score but had three rebounds and two steals in eight minutes in the game at St. John's. Larry Austin (6-2, 174) is coming off his best performance in a Xavier uniform. He had a career-high 12 points (4-5 FG), five rebounds and four assists Saturday against DePaul. If XU can build a big lead in this one, it'd be nice for him to get some extended playing time and continue to develop his confidence. For St. John's, expect sophomore big man Amar Alibegovic (6-9, 230) to play a more significant part than normal because of Xavier's size. He's averaging 5.2 points and 2.6 rebounds in 16.5 minutes per game, but he played 28 minutes last time around against the Musketeers, finishing with five points and three boards. He likes to face-up and shoot jumpers, but he's shooting just 28.6 percent from three on 56 attempts this season. Senior Durand Johnson (6-6, 210) played a big role in the last game against the Musketeers. He came off the bench and attempted a team-high 17 shots in 24 minutes, finishing 6-of-17 from the field, including 0-for-8 from 3-point range, with 12 points, five rebounds and three assists. He's averaging 12.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 28.8 minutes per game. Freshman guard Malik Ellison (6-6, 175) is averaging 6.4 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 20.1 minutes per game. He had two points on 1-of-5 shooting with one assist and a steal in nine minutes at home against X. 

Moderate Edge Xavier

Overall

St. John's did as well of a job as any team we've seen so far of working the corners and wings of the 1-3-1 zone for open 3-point looks in the first meeting against Xavier. XU played a little over 14 minutes of the zone in that game. Fortunately for the Musketeers, St. John's doesn't have enough shooters to really make those open looks hurt. Though, if XU does go to the zone for extended periods again this time, it will have to make sure it finds Mussini and Myouika. Those two are legitimately dangerous, and Johnson is a potential threat if he gets hot. Xavier really didn't have much of a problem matching up in its man-to-man defense either against the Red Storm, and with Sumner back in the mix that should only help matters. On the other end of the court, Xavier faced mostly man-to-man the last time, but St. John's mixed in a little 2-3 zone, as well as a fullcourt trap. The Musketeers turned the ball over 17 times in that game without Sumner, and finished 4-of-14 from 3-point range, with Bluiett and Davis both missing some really good looks. Expect them to make the Johnnies pay more for those open looks this time around. 

Predicted score: Xavier 84 St. John's 58


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