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The Matchups: Xavier vs Creighton

Before every game, Rick provides a position-by-position look at what to expect. This edition focuses on Tuesday night's Big East tilt at Creighton.

Edmond Sumner FR (6-6, 183) vs Mo Watson JR (5-10, 170)

Sumner was named the Big East Freshman of the Week for the fourth time this season after averaging 15.0 points, 4.5 assists and 2.0 steals in Xavier's wins over St. Johns and Marquette last week. For the year, He's averaging 10.9 points, 3.4 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 25.5 minutes per game, while shooting 41.8 percent from the field and 35.2 percent from 3-point range. Watson is an absolute dynamo in transition. He's a great athlete and super crafty when driving the basketball. Plus, he's a brilliant passer. He's averaging a team-high 14.1 points, a Big East-leading 6.5 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and a steal in 30.6 minutes per game, while shooting 47.8 percent from the field, including 36.1 percent on 36 attempts from 3-point range. He had 12 points (4-7 FG, 0-1 3PT), nine assists, four rebounds and four turnovers on Saturday against DePaul. Xavier has to stop him in transition, and do its best to keep him out of the lane. That's much easier said than done. 

Moderate Edge Creighton

Myles Davis JR (6-2, 188) vs Khyri Thomas (6-3, 200)

Davis came off the bench against Marquette, but he played 31 minutes. Once again, he got off to a slow start in the first half, but came up with clutch shots down the stretch to help the Musketeers pull out the win. He finished with 11 points, six assists and two rebounds. For the season, he's averaging 11.2 points, 3.8 assists, and 3.3 rebounds in 29.1 minutes per game, while shooting 40.8 percent from the field, including 38.1 percent on 113 attempts from long range. Thomas is a big-bodied guard that does most of his damage in transition. He's a good spot-up shooter if left open, and can get to the rim off the bounce, but he hasn't been very involved or aggressive in the halfcourt offense recently. He's averaging 6.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.2 steals in 19.7 minutes per game, while shooting 51.2 percent from the field, including 46.2 percent on 39 attempts from 3-point range. He hasn't scored in double figures since he had 10 points on December 28 against Coppin State. He had two points (1-2 FG), three assists, two rebounds, two steals and two turnovers in 15 minutes on Saturday against DePaul. 

Moderate Edge Xavier

JP Macura SO (6-5, 203) vs Isaiah Zierden JR (6-3, 185)

Macura has averaged 13.5 points over the last four games, including a career-high 20 points against Marquette on Saturday. For the season, he's averaging 9.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 21.7 minutes per game, while shooting 47.3 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from beyond the arc. He got his fourth start of the season on Saturday, and his first since Sumner returned to the lineup from his concussion. Whether he starts or not, it's clear Macura's role is increasing after he played 31 minutes against Marquette. Zierden is a spot-up shooter that needs to be run off the 3-point line. He leads the Big East in 3-pointers made, having hit 59-of-151 attempts (39.1%). He's especially dangerous in transition or when Watson is driving, as he does a great job of spacing to the open areas on the perimeter and setting his feet. For the season, he's averaging 11.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.4 steals in 32.1 minutes per game. He's coming off a 5-point performance (1-4 FG, 1-2 3PT) with five rebounds and three assists in 29 minutes against DePaul on Saturday. The Musketeers have been giving up a lot of good looks from 3-point range over the last few games, so they'll have to make sure they find Zierden, as he's capable of heating up in a hurry. He went 8-for-11 from deep and scored 31 points on January 17 against DePaul. 

Slight Edge Xavier

Trevon Bluiett SO (6-6, 207) vs Toby Hegner SO (6-10, 225)

Bluiett was named to the Big East's Weekly Honor Roll for the fifth time this season after averaging 19.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists last week in wins over St. John's and Marquette. He's averaging 15.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in 30.2 minutes per game, while shooting 42.3 percent from the field and 40.7 percent from 3-point range. Hegner is a skilled face-up forward that spends the majority of his time setting screens and then popping to the 3-point line. He's averaging 6.3 points and 3.9 rebounds in 19.0 minutes per game, while shooting 36.8 percent from the field and 37.8 percent on 90 attempts from 3-point range. He went 1-for-7 from the field (1-6 3PT) with three points, three rebounds and an assist in 18 minutes on Saturday against DePaul. He's not an impact player on the boards. Look for Xavier to switch all screens with him similar to how they did with Henry Ellenson of Marquette. This would seem to be a bad matchup on the defensive end for the Blue Jays, so look for them to get Cole Huff in the game early and often. 

Moderate Edge Xavier

Jalen Reynolds JR (6-10, 237) vs Geoffrey Groselle SR (7-0, 240) 

Reynolds had seven points, nine rebounds and two assists in 30 minutes against Marquette on Saturday. He's averaging 9.5 points and 6.7 rebounds in 20.1 minutes per game. He's definitely going to have an athleticism advantage in this matchup regardless of who Creighton has in the game. If he's locked in, Xavier should be able to let him isolate in face-up situations where he can use his rip-and-go move to get to the rim. Groselle is mostly a screen-setter and rebounder. He's averaging 11.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 20.4 minutes per game, and ranks third nationally in field goal percentage at 69.6 percent. He posted his second double-double of the season on Saturday against DePaul, finishing with 15 points (5-8 FG) and 11 boards in 24 minutes. He does a great job of running the floor and getting great position early in the possession on offense, which often allows him to seal help defenders out of the play when Watson is driving. 

Even

Xavier Bench vs Creighton Bench

Remy Abell (6-4, 195) will likely start still, but at this point it seems like his role may be changing as Macura's role increases. He only played 14 minutes and didn't score on Saturday against Marquette. Senior James Farr (6-10, 244) is averaging 10.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 20.5 minutes per game. He's been hampered by an injury the last two games, and was ineffective against Marquette, playing only 11 minutes and scoring four points on 2-of-4 shooting with no rebounds, one assist and two turnovers. Sophomore Sean O'Mara (6-10, 247) is averaging 3.5 points and 2.0 rebounds in 7.9 minutes per game. He only played two minutes and didn't register any other stats against Marquette. If Farr continues to struggle, look for O'Mara to see a little more time in this one. Freshman Kaiser Gates (6-8, 205) is averaging 2.9 points and 2.4 rebounds in 9.7 minutes per game. He played 11 minutes and had five points (2-3 FG, 1-2 3PT) and two rebounds against Marquette on Saturday. For Creighton, Junior Cole Huff (6-8, 215) blew up for 28 points on 9-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range on Saturday against DePaul. He's averaging 10.3 points and 4.0 rebounds in 20.6 minutes per game, while shooting 42.4 percent from the floor, including 34.6 percent on 107 attempts from beyond the arc. Expect him to play a huge role in this game, as he's really the only matchup the Blue Jays have for Bluiett. Senior James Miliken (6-3, 185) is a gifted offensive player that can create his own offense. He's averaging 8.0 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 22.7 minutes per game, while shooting 38.6 percent from the field, including 35.1 percent on 77 attempts from 3-point range. While he's never really lived up to his potential as a big-time scorer, he still shows flashes at times, like nine days ago when he dropped 21 points against Seton Hall. Junior Zach Hanson (6-9, 250) is Creighton's best back to the basket player. He finds a lot of high percentage shots on duck-ins, offensive rebounds, and dump-offs.  He's averaging 7.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in 15.2 minutes per game. 

Slight Edge Xavier

Overall

Creighton plays fast on offense. Watson's speed and playmaking ability in the open court is a big reason for that, but the whole team does a nice job of making advance passes and pushing the pace. The Blue Jays are averaging 21.3 points per game in transition. They get a lot of good looks from three, and high percentage shots close to the basket in their halfcourt offense. With multiple shooters on the floor at all times, they haven't been zoned much this year, but when zoned they've shot 49.3 percent from the field. It'll be interesting to see if the Musketeers are able to use their 1-3-1 much, if at all. On the other end of the court, Creighton sells out to help stop penetration in its man-to-man defense, even at the cost of leaving jump shooters open. A lot of this game will come down to whether or not Xavier can make open jumpers. The Blue Jays also struggle to defend ball-screens at times, so X could try and get Sumner and Davis going that way if the team is struggling to hit shots on the road. Creighton is ranked 39th in the country in offensive efficiency and 74th in defensive efficiency. If the Jays play anywhere near the way they did at home on Saturday in an 88-66 win over DePaul, this is going to be a tall task for the Musketeers. 

Predicted score: Xavier 85 Creighton 83


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